Sleeper Spotlight: Can Chris Ivory Emerge As A Must Use Running Back

by Ray Kuhn

Yes, I know it is weird. It almost sounds like I have it backwards. Chris Ivory’s fantasy stock is rising for this season and a large reason why is because he was traded from the Saints to the Jets this offseason.

Ivory is now entering his fourth season in the league, and until now has only shown flashes of production. Part of the reason why he struggled was due to his health issues, but inconsistent playing time was a bigger problem for the talented running back. Whether it was Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles or Mark Ingram ahead of him on the depth chart, Ivory very rarely got to carry the load for the Saints aside from a game or two. The Saints also do have Drew Brees, so the emphasis was not always on running the ball and controlling the clock.

The Jets certainly do not have Brees behind center, and instead some combination of Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith will be quarterbacking in 2013. What that means is that despite the fact that Ivory is downgrading in surrounding talent, his opportunity is certainly increasing. With that comes a likely increase in production.

For the last three years, whenever it seemed that Ivory would have an opportunity to start a game he was a popular sleeper. So far in his three year career he only has 1,307 yards, but they came on 256 carries. What gives me optimism for this season is that he averaged 5.12 yards per carry and included in that total are three 100+ yards games.

Ivory played in 12 games last season and gained 716 yards and scored five touchdowns. For a part time player those are pretty good numbers. Now, thanks to both the Jets lack of offensive talent and the legal woes of Mike Goodson, Ivory projects to be the starter this season.

Another factor to consider is new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s system. Mornhinweg runs a west coast offense that is predicated on spacing and speed. On paper, Ivory fits the new Jets offense perfectly. He has size, speed, power and agility.

While there is not a legitimate and lengthy track record to draw upon, Ivory has had success in the past. When looking for a sleeper he fits the criteria. The opportunity is there, as is the talent. However, that does not mean you should draft Ivory as if he is already a RB1. It is still important to remember that for as good as Ivory looks on paper, he still has yet to prove that he can stay healthy.

There is a lot of reward with Ivory, but also a lot of risk. Draft him in the middle rounds and think of him to start the season as flex option depending on the matchups. However do not be surprised if he becomes an every week starter at running back, but also be prepared for the possibility that Ivory cannot stay healthy and gets dragged down by the Jets offensive woes.

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