After last year’s RB11 finish, Mark Ingram’s forecast for this year is far from clear. Let’s parse through his pros and cons for the 2020 season to find out if he is shaping up to be overvalued, undervalued, or somewhere in between.
To establish a baseline for Ingram’s value, we must talk about his average draft position. Using Rotoviz’s best ball tool, we can see that Ingram is currently with the 10th pick of the 4th round (4.10) as the RB24.
Why Ingram Could Be Overvalued
In 2019, Ingram was largely touchdown-dependent. We cannot discount his rushing production (10 TDs, 1,018 yards) as he is playing with a dual-threat MVP quarterback on a top-scoring offense – something that is unlikely to change. However, his receiving production is worrisome and due for a major regression.
Ingram somehow finished second in receiving touchdowns among RBs with five, despite having a mere 29 targets (46th among RBs). That’s a touchdown every 5.8 targets! To put that in perspective, Christian McCaffrey would have had over 24 receiving touchdowns at that pace. This is a very fluky and unsustainable rate, to put it mildly.
Speaking of receiving, Ingram’s prospects for 2020 volume are just as bleak as his 2019 season. According to Sharp Football Stats, the Ravens target their running backs on a mere 15% of pass plays – good for 29th in the NFL. Considering the Ravens passed the least in the NFL in 2019, there isn’t much receiving meat on the bone for their running backs to feast on in the first place.
His competition is also stronger than last year’s. Gus Edwards is back, Justice Hill is now a sophomore, and the team drafted J.K. Dobbins. Dobbins was some analysts’ top running back in the draft and one the Ravens had a first-round grade on.
This is unsurprising, considering Ingram’s age: he turned 30 in December, and our own Mike Braude has shown convincingly that this can be a death knell for RB production.
To summarize the arguments against Mark Ingram, he is an old running back with competition who had fluky receiving production on a team that doesn’t pass to their running backs (if they are passing at all). To secure him in drafts, the opportunity cost is significant: you would have to take him instead of guys like Courtland Sutton, Zach Ertz, Calvin Ridley, and Robert Woods. As it is vitally important in leagues to win the flex position, this is not an ideal scenario.
Why Mark Ingram Could Be Undervalued
Although plenty of arguments for the contrary exist, Ingram could very well prove to be a bargain at his ADP.
Despite the drafting of Dobbins, Ingram is still the 1A back on the highest-scoring offense in the league – an offense that rushed for the most yards in NFL history (206 yards per game) and has a running quarterback (something that is proven to be beneficial to RBs).
Ingram is currently being drafted as the RB24 after finishing last year as the RB11, and 2019 owners got a major value drafting Ingram as the RB21 at 4.04 – not too dissimilar from this year’s ADP.
Since value is all relative, let’s quickly discuss the questions surrounding the two running backs on both sides of his average draft position (ADP):
- D’Andre Swift (RB22 at 4.03) is an exciting rookie but is also likely to share a backfield with Kerryon Johnson. The Lions passed to their running backs only on 11% of their pass attempts (least in the NFL), which limits his receiving upside.
- James Conner (RB23 at 4.09) has yet to prove he can stay healthy and has new competition from rookie Anthony McFarland Jr. and plenty of receiving competition. Beat writers also think his carries are going to be cut back during his contract year.
- David Johnson (RB25 at 5.04) was benched last year for Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds and looked far from the fantasy MVP of days past. He will also turn 29 during the season on an offense that will not be as good without all-world WR DeAndre Hopkins.
- J.K. Dobbins (RB26 at 5.06) has all the same issues as his teammate Ingram, except he doesn’t even have the starting job.
Per ADP, the next few running backs consist of Cam Akers, David Montgomery, Raheem Mostert, and Marlon Mack. None of whom look likely to have major receiving roles, and all who have competition from two other RBs (besides Montgomery).
Basically, all running backs with ADPs after the second round have their warts, but you are going to have to draft and start RBs almost regardless of your league’s format. Ingram has the scoring upside to be one of the diamonds in the rough, and even if he drops 13 spots in RB scoring, he still meets his ADP.
How do we work these arguments into our drafting strategy? Well, the best things to do are to plan ahead as you are drafting in the first few rounds and factor in opportunity cost.
For example: if you start the first 3 or 4 rounds with wideouts and/or a tight end (or quarterback, if that’s your flavor), you are going to have to pounce on an RB in Ingram’s tier unless you want Kareem Hunt or Damien Williams as your RB1. Not exactly an ideal scenario, even for Zero RBers. In this scenario, you’ll have to forgo D.J. Chark, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel, and Michael Gallup to one of those 5th/6th round RBs (according to ADP).
Besides the first two rounds, the wide receivers always look “sexier” than the running backs, so this just might be the year to take one of those elite RBs early. If you can stomach that, it will allow you to take Calvin Ridley, Adam Thielen, or Courtland Sutton instead of a guy like Ingram. This will allow you to win the flex with one of the “super sophomore” wide receivers with the next pick or two while ensuring your RB1 spot is in top shape. But if your draft doesn’t present that opportunity, Mark Ingram could make a pretty good RB1 consolation prize as arguably the best “middle-ground” running back.