Mark Ingram Fantasy 2019
Mark Ingram has been one of the most consistent impact players in fantasy football since 2014; his first season getting significant work with the New Orleans Saints. Since 2014, Ingram has finished as an RB1 in PPR formats 3 times, has averaged at least 4.6 yards/carry 4 times, has rushed for more than 1,000 yards twice, and has rushed for at least 6 touchdowns 5 times. Additionally, Ingram has averaged 41 receptions and 291 receiving yards per season since 2014.
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Despite a successful 8 seasons in New Orleans, Ingram never received more than $4.5 million/season from the Saints. Ingram, 29, chose to ensure he could cash in with what is likely to be his last major contract and moved on from Sean Peyton’s potent offense. Ingram chose to sign with the Baltimore Ravens, where he will make $6 million in 2019. Ingram’s total contract is worth $15 million over 3 seasons, with $6.5 million guaranteed.
2018 Recap: a PEDestrian Year
Ingram’s 2018 season and fantasy football production were clouded by a 4 game suspension he received for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. Despite missing a quarter of the season, Ingram still managed to finish as RB32 in PPR formats and RB28 in standard formats. He had 7 games with at least 50 rushing yards, 2 games with 100+ rushing yards, and 2 multi-touchdown games. Ingram ran the ball just 138 times, his lowest workload since becoming a full-time starter in the NFL; a reflection of both missing 4 games and the outstanding play of Alvin Kamara. Ingram performed well in his limited work, he averaged 4.7 yards/carry and finished with 6 touchdowns; the same as he totaled in both 2015 and 2016. According to PFF, Ingram had the most efficient season of his career and finished with the 16th highest rushing grade overall in 2018. Despite his efficiency, his fantasy football value the lowest we have seen in a while, because of his low finish in 2018.
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Previewing 2019: Chairman of the Committee
Baltimore fully committed to the run in 2018, previewing where they are heading as a team in the Lamar Jackson era. As a team, they ran the ball 547 times in 2018. Lamar Jackson led them in attempts (147) than Gus Edwards (137), Alex Collins (114), Kenneth Dixon (60), Javorius “Buck” Allen (41), and Ty Montgomery (15). The Ravens have moved on from Collins, Allen, and Montgomery; which leaves 171 vacated carries. Collins, Allen, and Montgomery combined for 11 rushing touchdowns last season, which accounts for 73% of the rushing touchdowns scored by Baltimore running backs and 55% of all rushing touchdowns for the Ravens.
The Ravens’ offensive transformation was inspired by Greg Roman, who has a proven track record of success in run-heavy offenses. Following Roman’s success with Lamar Jackson on the field (6-1 record to finish the 2018 season), he was promoted to offensive coordinator. Roman was the offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2014, where he constructed the offensive that allowed Colin Kaepernick to lead the 49ers to a 12-4 record in 2013. In 2013, the 49ers ran the ball 505 times (3rd most in the league) and compiled 2,201 total rushing yards (2nd most in the NFL).
It’s reasonable, then, to assume that Ingram will receive a workload that is equal to, if not larger, than the 171 vacated carries in the Ravens run-focused offense. If that is the case, Ingram has the potential to once again finish as an RB1-having accomplished that feat while running the ball 166 times in 2015, a season where PFF graded him 15 points lower than his 2018 season. Ingram currently has the 11th largest cap hit on the Ravens’ roster and will make more than triple what Edwards and Dixon will earn combined.
A Powerful Supporting Cast
The Ravens have been building from the inside out to ensure that Roman and the run-focused offense have the tools they need to dominate the ground game. The Ravens finished the 2018 regular season with the 10th best offensive line, according to PFF. That ranking is just 2 spots lower than the Saints offensive line, that finished with the 8th best grade. Baltimore is returning Ronnie Stanley at left tackle, the 17th best offensive tackle in 2018 and a consistent stronghold on their offensive line. At right tackle, they will bring back Orlando Brown who had an impressive rookie campaign protecting Jackson and Joe Flacco. Baltimore’s offensive line will be held together by their veteran leader Marshal Yanda, PFF’s 4th best guard in 2018. I expect the Ravens to fortify their interior with one of their Day 2 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft (86th or 103rd overall).
Baltimore spent two high picks in the 2018 NFL draft on tight ends; Hayden Hurst (25th overall) and Mark Andrews (86th overall). In addition to investing draft picks in the tight end position, the Ravens also invested in a new contract for tight end Nick Boyle. Boyle will make $18 million over 3 years, with $10 million guaranteed; making him the 12th highest paid player on their roster-just below Ingram.
The Ravens, however, have not invested in the wide receiver position. They choose to let both John Brown and Michael Crabtree walk during free agency. Brown led the team in receiving yards and touchdowns in 2018. Crabtree led the team in targets in 2018. Combined, the loss of Brown and Crabtree vacates 197 targets-44% of all targets last season. Unless Baltimore spends a draft pick on wideout their receiving corps. will be led by Snead (211 career receptions), Chris Moore (45 career receptions), and a pair of sophomore receivers in Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott, both of whom did not make impacts in their rookie seasons.
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Conclusion: Buy Now, or Pay Up Later
Now is the time to draft Mark Ingram. Many still believe that the Ravens will spend their 1st round draft pick (22nd overall) on a wide receiver. Since head coach John Harbough took over reins of the franchise in 2008, however, the Ravens have only drafted 1 wide receiver in the 1st round-a pick they have come to regret in Breshad Perriman (26th overall in 2015). Since 2008, the Ravens have only drafted 2 wide receivers in the first 3 rounds on the NFL Draft. Instead, I expect Baltimore to invest their Day 1 and Day 2 picks to address their needs at interior offensive line, linebacker, and EDGE.
That gives Ingram a lot of upside. He has proven the ability to finish as an RB1, both as a workhorse back and in committee roles. He is coming into an ideal situation; an offensive coordinator who has made a career on run-heavy schemes and a large amount of vacated carries and rushing touchdowns. He has a top 10 offensive line to run behind, one that could get even better through free agency. Ingram is coming off the most efficient season of his career and has fairly fresh legs to bring to Baltimore. He also will be running in an offense that has shown little to no interest in improving their passing game.
Ingram has every opportunity to succeed in Baltimore, yet his fantasy football value remains low. With the Ravens, Ingram has a floor of RB2 and the ceiling of an RB1 for me. He is currently getting moved in dynasty leagues for much cheaper, though, and savvy fantasy football players would be smart to put out feelers to the Ingram owner in their league. He’s well worth a late first round pick or a WR2/3.
Ingram will be an impact player in 2019, and he could very well go down as the best value of the 2019 fantasy football season. Get him now, or run the risk of paying up once he explodes.
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