Breaking Down The Saints Backfield: Will Mark Ingram Or Any Back Have Value?

The New Orleans Saints had a crowded backfield in 2010, though there was no one player who was entrenched as a must use option.  Injuries played a role, but a pass happy offense (they were second in pass attempts with 661 behind only the Indianapolis Colts) didn’t do their running backs any favors either. 

Led by rookie Chris Ivory, the numbers were spread out and uninspiring:

  • Chris Ivory – 137 carries for 716 yards and 5 TD
  • Pierre Thomas – 83 carries for 269 yards and 2 TD
  • Julius Jones – 48 carries for 193 yards and 0 TD
  • Ladell Betts – 45 carries for 150 yards and 2 TD
  • Reggie Bush – 36 carries for 150 yards and 0 TD

In other words, from a fantasy perspective, there was little that you trusted from week-to-week.  Unfortunately it’s not a new trend for the team, as Pierre Thomas led them in yards in 2008 & 2009 with 625 & 793 yards, respectively.  In 2007 it was Reggie Bush, who led the team with a meager 581 yards. 

In fact it has been four years since a Saints running back was actually a truly viable fantasy option.  In that season Deuce McAllister led the way with 1,057 yards and 10 TD.  Since then they have been piecing it together and trying to stay healthy.

That has helped lead to significant changes in the Saints’ backfield for 2011.  Gone is Reggie Bush, who was traded to the Dolphins.  In are Darren Sproles, who figures to replace the touches that Bush got, and first round pick Mark Ingram.

Now the question is who exactly is going to get the carries.  While they are returning from injuries, both Thomas and Ivory are both in the mix for carries as well.  That’s four backs and, with an offense still built around the pass, only so many carries to go around.  It doesn’t sound very appealing, does it?

Ivory’s condition may be the most concerning.  According to Jeff Duncan (via Twitter), “Payton said Chris Ivory wil not b e ready to practice initially. Said he had a couple of weeks to go.”  He underwent Lisfransic surgery in the offseason, an injury that can significantly hinder his ability moving forward.  With the other options the team has, he is not likely to be a factor (especially over the first few weeks).

Thomas is coming back from ankle surgery and, at best, you would think that he’s going to be sharing carries.  Sproles, who is going to fill the role Bush once did, is not going to get enough touches to justify using.  A handful of touches (maybe 10) a game?  It’s not going to be close to enough to make him worth considering.

That leaves Ingram, the team’s first round draft pick this season, as the most likely source of value in the Saints backfield.  Of course, that is under the impression that they team will give him enough carries to be a useful option.  We’ve seen it over the past few seasons and, with Thomas likely to steal a few carries a game as well as Sproles, you have to wonder if Ingram will even be able to consistently get 15+ carries.

Does that sound like someone that you want to depend on for the coming season?  The upside is tremendous, but so is the risk.  I’d much rather be drafting him as my RB3, as there is way too great of a chance that he fails to produce. 

He’s currently sporting an ADP of 68.04 according to Mock Draft Central, the 30th running back coming off the board, which sounds about right.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to target him, however.  Its high risk, high reward, but the significant number of options makes him that much riskier.  Daniel Thomas in Miami is starting to look like a significantly better risk among rookie running backs.

What are your thoughts?  Is there a Saints running back you would gamble on?  If so, who?

Make sure to check out Rotoprofessor’s 2011 rankings:

Does Tim Hightower's Trade Bring Clarity To The RB Situations In Ari. & Wash?
Quick Hit: Will Mike Thomas Breakout In Year #3?

One comment

  1. 9ers Fan says:

    I agree… I wouldn’t touch any of them. I like all the top rookie RB options better than M. Ingram (R. Williams, R. Helu, D. Thomas)

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