Whenever a player exits a perennially dominate offense like the New Orleans Saints, it’s rare for him to land in a situation that actually upgrades his outlook. But that’s the case with Mark Ingram II. While he’ll certainly miss sharing the field with a future Hall-of-Famer at quarterback and a team with Super Bowl makeup, he’ll shed a timeshare and has a good chance to produce career numbers. Here are three reasons why that will happen:
- Greg Roman is an elite offensive coordinator with a history of great rushing attacks.
- Ingram adds a missing dynamic to the run game and should lead the team in touches as a result.
- The Ravens boast a top offensive line and will continue to operate at a league-leading pace.
When in Rome
How poetic would it be if Greg Roman helped another Harbaugh team reach the Super Bowl thanks to a dominant run game that starts with the quarterback? Roman’s play-calling produced top-eight rushing attacks from 2011 to 2015. During his four years with the 49ers, his offense allowed Frank Gore to generate the third-most rushing attempts and yards, and the fifth-most rushing touchdowns of all running backs from 2011 to 2014. The table below displays where his offenses ranked in rushing attempts, yards, points scored, run/pass ratio, as well as his lead back’s total yards, touchdowns, and fantasy finish (Weeks 1-16):
|Year||Team||Rush Att||Rush Yrd||Points||Run/Pass||Running Back
||RB Yards||RB TDs||Non-PPR||PPR|
There’s a clear trend here and last year only reinforced his dominance. The Ravens parlayed the league’s most rushing attempts into the second-most rushing yards and third-most rushing touchdowns. Roman (whose unofficial title was run game coordinator) successfully transitioned the Ravens’ offense into a run-heavy, fast-paced attack after Lamar Jackson took over in Week 11. From that time on, Gus Edwards recorded the fourth-most attempts and rushing yards, and the 11th-most fantasy points in non-PPR formats (RB22 in PPR).
2019 should bring business as usual with Roman officially named offensive coordinator. Expect the Ravens to once again focus on the run with a wide variety of schemes designed to give Jackson quick openings and check-downs. That system along with their pace of play (fifth-fastest pace in neutral situations) is how the Ravens led the league in plays run last year. We should expect more of the same in 2019. They will, however, need to improve their red zone success rate. They ranked sixth in red zone opportunities whereby they elected to run the ball 57.6% of the time (second-highest rate in the league), yet ranked 18th in success rate (drives that ended with a touchdown). Perhaps that's one reason why they were quick to hand Ingram a contract.
A Downhill Battle for Touches
A primal truth of fantasy football is that volume equals points. The more volume we can expect of a player, the more fantasy points he should provide. The Ravens offense will bring a lot of volume. That part is certain. But will Ingram earn a lead role?
Edwards was more a product of his offense than vice versa and rarely handled the backfield all to himself due to his lack of versatility. When active, Kenneth Dixon logged double-digit opportunities as a runner and receiver but has been unable to stay healthy.
Enter Ingram who ranks seventh among all running backs in rushing yards and fifth in rushing touchdowns since he entered the league in 2011 while maintaining a respectable 4.5 yards per carry—the seventh-highest rate among backs with at least 500 attempts during that span. He contributed 71.7 total yards per game as a Saint despite splitting the workload with the likes of Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, and Alvin Kamara. He never earned higher than a 46% share of offensive snaps until 2017, when he claimed a 55% share and logged a career year with nearly 1,500 all-purpose yards, 12 touchdowns, and an RB5 finish in PPR leagues (RB4 in non-PPR).
2018 seems like a disappointment, but Ingram actually returned value based on his RB20 ADP. After missing four games due to a suspension and becoming the afterthought of a Saints’ timeshare, he finished as RB20 in PPR scoring from Week 5 to Week 16 (RB21 in non-PPR). Over that stretch, he ranked 21st in touches among running backs and 18th in red zone opportunities while scoring seven touchdowns. On the season, he finished 20th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA and third in success rate among 47 qualifying running backs.
Those numbers deliver a high-end RB2, and even though a fertile offense made them possible, Ingram landed in a great spot where he’ll have a game-master for an offensive coordinator and one of the top offensive lines in football. There’s a good chance this team commits to a fast pace and leads the league in rushing production once again, which is obviously great for Ingram who has the talent to keep both Edwards and Dixon on the bench.
The unknown to this equation is Justice Hill—a metrics darling who boasts elite speed and draws a Reggie Bush comparable. Depending on how quickly Hill adjusts to the pros and Roman’s complex offense, he could easily surpass Dixon as the main receiving back. But for now, Ingram looks like the clear lead option in this offense and has a great chance of returning 2017-like numbers.
On the other side of 30 years old, Ingram has entered an age where running backs begin to decline. He has only 106 games under his belt thanks to last year’s suspension plus nagging injuries that have followed him since college. Despite three straight healthy seasons, it’s fair to wonder if age and injuries prevent him from ever becoming a true workhorse.
To that end, there’s no guarantee that Roman rides one back with a few change-of-pace options. There’s a big enough pie to go around, but will Edwards steal goal-line work in jumbo sets? Will Dixon and Hill become the default pass-catchers based on down-and-distance? How certain are we that Ingram earns even 50% of offensive snaps?
There’s also plenty of concern regarding the quarterback. Jackson’s limitations as a passer tend to draw lots of defenders to the box, challenging the run game and daring him to throw. That’s why they managed only 90 rushing yards in last season’s Wild Card showdown with the Chargers. If Jackson fails to improve, it’s hard to imagine this offense paving the way for Ingram to make good on his fourth-round ADP.
Thankfully, Roman has a reliable history of creating successful offenses with the exact kind of personnel he’ll field in 2019. He acknowledged that they need to run a more balanced approach and with even a slight improvement from Jackson as a passer, this offense could develop into the type dominant rushing attack we want to hitch our wagons to, with Ingram leading the way.
As of late July, Ingram is being drafted as the 23rd running back off the board and is usually available in the mid-to-late fourth round. That puts him squarely on the value bubble alongside Phillip Lindsay, Sony Michel, Kenyan Drake, and Chris Carson. But given his offense, coaches, competition, and pedigree, fantasy GMs should target Ingram over those players. He’s an RB1 dressed in RB2 clothes, and If a plodding runner like Edwards can find success on this team while offering fantasy-relevant production, imagine what Ingram can do. The Ravens’ front office already imagined it and handed him a three-year contract worth $15 million accordingly. They plan to ride him and if their running game resembles anything like the way it looked in 2018, Ingram has a solid chance at posting career numbers and easily paying off his ADP.
On Fantasy Pros, Kyle August nominated Ingram as one of his four bounce-back running backs:
"While Ingram might not get back to his former top-12 status, if he’s in line for that workload, I think we could be looking at a top-15 RB this year."
For Bleacher Report, Maurice Moton listed Ingram as a player who should thrive in a new role:
"Edwards could spell Ingram in some sequences, and Dixon may catch a decent number of passes out of the backfield if he stays healthy. Ingram can handle both responsibilities. The 29-year-old will likely emerge as Jackson's primary target in the short passing game when the signal-caller is unable to find anything downfield."