When the news broke Tuesday afternoon that Mark Ingram had tested positive for PEDs and would be suspended 4 games, there were instant reactions across Fantasy Football Twitter:
So after Mark Ingram suspension, is Alvin Kamara now the #1 pick in fantasy?
— Jason Smith (@howaboutafresca) May 8, 2018
This is pretty big news. A suspension raises very different questions than say, a major injury. He will come back fully healthy, it’s just a matter of how much the Saints want to use Ingram when he does return.
Obviously, this move has ramifications for several fantasy players around Mark Ingram. Most notably Alvin Kamara, but also Drew Brees, 6th round rookie RB Boston Scott and backup RBs Jonathon Williams and Trey Edmunds.
To state the obvious, being suspended for four games is obviously going to hurt Ingram’s value. But let’s dive into some of the other factors, beyond simply missing 4 games, that could impact Ingram’s season.
Before the announcement of the suspension, Mark Ingram was being drafted as high as the mid-second round of redraft leagues, and in the mid-4th round of dynasty startups. Ingram was definitely being considered as an RB1 by the majority of fantasy players. So how far does he fall with this suspension?
Stay or Go?
First things first. How willing are the Saints to keep Mark Ingram? I don’t think a trade is out of the question at all. Ian Rapoport recently discussed the fact that the Saints wanted to feature Kamara anyway, and that they want to explore trade options.
I think if the Saints are hoping to trade Ingram, they would be wise to hold onto him, watch for a top-end RB injury early in the season, and trade him to that RB-needy team. If there are no takers, then the Saints will make their decisions at that point.
Let’s not forget that regardless of whether he stays or goes, Ingram is a quality Running Back. That can hardly be denied. He ranks 7th in DVOA (Efficiency) according to footballoutsiders.com, he is coming off a Pro Bowl Season and is a Red Zone technician, converting 12 TDs on the ground, and getting 13 carries from the 5-yard line or less (compared to Kamara’s 4). Ingram has averaged 5 YPC over his last two seasons. He also contributes in the passing game, averaging over 50 receptions in his past 3 seasons.
Those are the numbers of a feature back, and he’s not even a feature back. So moving to another team that needs him would be great for his fantasy value.
How Much of a Threat are Kamara and Boston Scott?
It’s plausible that Kamara does Yeoman’s work over those first 4 weeks without Ingram. Which means Ingram could step back into a reduced role. The Saints apparently have wanted to use Kamara in even more of a feature role. Kamara did take a bite out of Ingram’s snap count over the last 8 weeks and playoffs. But let’s not forget, Ingram plays a different style of RB than Kamara. Despite Sean Payton’s supposed dislike of Ingram, it would be surprising for him to deviate from the 1A/1B setup.
There are also those out there that feel like rookie Boston Scott could step into a significant role in Ingram’s absence.
— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) May 8, 2018
The sixth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech may not be a household name for now. That’s mostly due to being in a timeshare for most of his college career. But he has a decent shot at contributing early on as the Saints work their 2-RB style.
As far as Scott’s shot at keeping that role if Ingram returns, though? I’d have to put that at slim-to-none.
Boston Scott might be a talented player and a fantasy sleeper, but he’s built like Darren Sproles and not Ingram. He’s got some great measurables and advanced statistics to back up that belief. It’s definitely not impossible for a sixth-round RB to contribute in his rookie season (See: Alfred Morris). But since he’s a smaller, speedy back, he’d be a whole lot more interesting to me had it been Kamara that got suspended.
As far as the remaining backup RBs? Well, Trey Edmunds has some fantasy appeal, as he did well in his only game of 2017. He managed to gain 48 yards on just 9 carries and he also found the end zone. Jonathon Williams offers virtually no threat to anyone on this squad barring a surprising leap in his game. His only action was in 2016, and he managed 3.5 yards per carry as a backup for the Bills.
Overall, Ingram has the potential to still be a fantasy factor this year, especially if he is traded. If he DOES return to the Saints, I do expect him to assume a role that is smaller than what he had last year as the Saints feature Kamara more. With perhaps 4-5 touches going to Kamara and elsewhere, plus a slight regression to his game overall. I expect he’d handle about 10 carries at 4.7 YPC and 3 receptions per game with the Saints, and I’ll put him at a 0.5 TD/G rate. That should put him somewhere around 11 FPPG in PPR, which is RB2 production. Considering his 4 missed games, losing touches to Kamara and perhaps Scott and his potential to be traded, I’d slide him in at around my RB17 for now.
I’d definitely consider taking Ingram if he slides into that RB15-20 range. I would beware of overpaying for him though. There’s a good chance that his 2018 season doesn’t have the positive outcomes I outlined. But if he falls behind guys like Ajayi and Carlos, then I’d say you’re getting value for him as your RB2.