Pretty much everything is different in the world of Mark Ingram in 2019. His eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints have come to an end, leaving behind the only NFL offensive system he has ever known.
The Baltimore Ravens added Ingram in the offseason and about the only similarity to his days in the Big Easy will be a shared backfield. Ingram will enter a much less dynamic offense, playing behind a far inferior quarterback than Drew Brees. While Lamar Jackson may one day develop into an NFL-caliber passer, he’s nowhere near the level of Brees in any sense. Jackson does bring crazy athleticism to the table, unlikely Brees, and this will in some ways work against Ingram.
In New Orleans, Ingram didn’t have to worry all that much about Brees stealing touchdowns. Last year, Taysom Hill was injected into the plans around the goal line, and Ingram’s touchdown efficiency went from a score every 19.2 carries to once every 23 handles. The difference wasn’t huge, especially since Hill scored just twice, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless. According to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, the plan is for Jackson to run less — and there is some truth to it. As a rookie, he took off the moment the first or second read broke down. In Year 2, an overall slowing of the game will play a positive factor. Furthermore, Baltimore has done its part to improve the talent behind him, at least on paper.
In the fourth round of the NFL draft, running back Justice Hill was added to the mix. He’s an electric back capable of handling passing chores and creating chunk plays however he touches the rock by way of 4.4 speed. Kenneth Dixon remains on the roster, and he should compete in camp with Hill for the primary change-up and third-down chores. Gus Edwards was an unsung hero of sorts for Baltimore in 2018 and appears to be the direct backup to Ingram at this time.
The Ravens sport a quality offensive line, and it has made strides in the becoming more explosive. In addition to the selection of Hill, Baltimore’s first-round pick was used on Oklahoma burner Marquise Brown. The young wide receiver is capable of taking the top off of a secondary and can force defenders to spend just enough time questioning play-action passing to give Ingram extra room to work. And that’s not even accounting for fewer 8-man fronts.
None of this matters if Jackson doesn’t make strides as a passer. Defenses need to be sold on the idea he is capable of putting the ball into Brown’s hands down the field, and this is far from a certainty at present time.
Ingram also has a history of injuries and last year’s four-game suspension weighing in on the potential for further missed action. At 29 years old — 30 in December — he is on the downward swing of an inconsistent career. That is not to say he doesn’t have one more fantasy-relevant effort in the tank, but there is more downside than potential for a strong campaign.
Fantasy football takeaway
Ingram’s average draft position is as the 23rd running back chosen in PPR, coming off of the board in Round 4 (42nd overall). He sneaks into the final spot of Round 3 in standard scoring, jumping three spots to RB20. His value should be greater in standard than PPR, as appropriately reflected by his ADP data.
Being drafted as a No. 2 running back is an acceptable billing. A safer placement would be as a flex, so it comes down to roster composition. If he’s going in Round 3 or 4, there isn’t much wiggle room to make him anything but a No. 2 back. The risk-reward ratio definitely favors the former, so be aware of what you’re getting out of the 2019 version of Ingram. It’s arguably best to avoid him entirely in PPR formats.