The New Orleans Saints traded into the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft to select Mark Ingram with the 28th overall pick. He was brought in to play the kind of role for the Saints that Emmitt Smith played for the Dallas Cowboys during their dynasty in the 1990’s. Ingram and Smith are built with a similar size and skill set, so hopes were high both in New Orleans and across fantasy draft boards for the last two years.
His rookie year was a bizarre mix of pedestrian stat lines and injuries that cost him production. When he was on the field, he was slow to hit the hole and lacked the ability to move the pile. Last year, the wheels came off the entire Saint’s organization when so many coaches were handed long suspensions, but none was worse than the season-long suspension of head coach and offensive guru Sean Payton.
Payton is back, however, and he’s hungry and looking to make a statement. While we’re all used to seeing the Saint’s offense shred a team apart through the air, I think this year we will see more of a running game than we might expect. Payton and Mickey Loomis sunk draft picks and first round money into Ingram, so they want to see what they’ve got.
There are a lot of excuses you can use to explain Ingram’s poor performance coming into this year. I think Payton wants to know, one way or another, if he’s got a factor back or first round bust in his backfield. I think Payton will run the wheels off Ingram in the first half of the season in order to find out.
Ingram is the kind of back on a high powered passing offense where you might not see a lot of numbers behind his name for the first three quarters. What I think you can expect, is a guy who will be called on in the fourth quarter to control the clock and preserve a lead.
The game this week against the Atlanta Falcons should be an offensive shoot out. Look for the Saints to be up by a single score and try to put the game away on Ingram’s legs. I’d put him in as a low end No. 2 running back tor a sharp flex play this week.
Eric Beuning is a Fantasy Football writer for RantSports.com.