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Mark Ingram’s fantasy outlook following trade to Saints

As the Saints bolster their backfield via trade, how does the addition of Mark Ingram impact the fantasy landscape for Week 8 and beyond?

With the NFL trade deadline less than a week away, the New Orleans Saints went to work, completing a trade to bring RB Mark Ingram back to where he started his career. In addition, he’ll be reunited with former backfield running mate Alvin Kamara. With fantasy football in mind, how does the Saints’ trade for Ingram impact Kamara’s fantasy outlook? Could this end up being a good move in the long term for both running backs?

New Orleans Saints trade for Mark Ingram ahead of the NFL trade deadline

We knew the November 2 trade deadline would have a flurry of activity, and it appears the Saints chose to kick off the festivities. On Wednesday, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported that the Saints have agreed to a trade with the Houston Texans to bring Ingram back to the Big Easy. The trade is still being finalized as of this writing, but it’s expected to involve late-round future picks per Pelissero.

Ingram played the bulk of his career with the Saints (2011-2018) after the team selected him out of Alabama with the 28th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Ingram fills a massive void in the Saints’ offense

Beyond Kamara, the Saints’ backfield is unproven. The player they banked on playing the complementary role to Kamara, Tony Jones Jr., has been on injured reserve since Week 4 after injuring his ankle vs. the Giants. With Latavius Murray gone to Baltimore via free agency, the Saints have used a committee of Ty Montgomery, Alex Armah, Devine Ozigbo, and Taysom Hill. But to call it a committee is even being a bit unfair.

Including Jones, they have combined for 39 carries for 171 yards. Jameis Winston is actually the team’s second-leading rusher with 28 carries for 126 yards and a score. This only further highlights the herculean task placed on Kamara this season to carry the offense without a legitimate RB2 — all while they try to move forward without Drew Brees.

In his six games, Kamara has been one of the busiest backs in the NFL. While playing on a career-high 83% of the offensive snaps (his previous high was 69% in 2019), he has rushed 114 times for 419 yards and a score while also recording 25 receptions on 33 targets for 241 yards and 4 more touchdowns.

As teams are less worried about the Saints’ passing game, they have been able to key on Kamara, which has caused his per-carry average to hit a career-low of 3.7. To further illustrate this, he is facing a stacked box (8+ defenders) on 26.3% of his carries. That is more than double his 2020 rate of 11.76%.

Kamara and Ingram were once the premier RB duo in the NFL

For quite some time, Ingram was “the guy” in New Orleans and truly hit his stride in 2016 when he crossed the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. But even when the Saints drafted Kamara in 2017, both players were integral parts of the Sean Payton offense due to their complementary playstyle.

In their two seasons together, Ingram recorded 2,355 yards and 19 touchdowns on 447 touches. Meanwhile, Kamara exploded on the scene with 3,146 yards and 31 touchdowns on 476 touches.

With Ingram (the ground-and-pound back) and Kamara (the finesse player), the Saints could operate their offense in a myriad of ways to counter whatever a defense could throw at them. Currently, this is not something they can do.

As it seems they have little faith in Winston at the moment, they sit dead-last in dropbacks per game (27.6) and are No. 5 in rushing attempts per game at 31.16. If they are going to keep it up at this pace, Kamara will wear down. Plain and simple. Sitting at 4-2, this is something they cannot afford to do.

At 32, Ingram can be a value to the Saints and fantasy managers

By no means is New Orleans getting vintage Ingram. We know that, and so do the Saints. But even at his age, Ingram has some gas left in the tank. He had been the team leader for the struggling Texans, rushing 92 times for 294 yards with 1 TD while adding 7 receptions on 9 targets for 24 yards.

No one is asking Ingram to tote the rock 14+ times as he already has four times in 2021.  Ingram handling 10 touches a game might diminish Kamara’s volume, but it would also keep him fresher for longer.

Kamara’s always performed better with a reliable No. 2

Whether it was Ingram or Murray, Kamara has been at his best when he has a reliable No. 2 option who can take a pounding and keep the chains moving. Kamara is currently the fantasy RB5 in 0.5 PPR (18.1 ppg) and averaging 19 rushing attempts per contest to just 5.5 targets. Assuming Ingram comes in and gets 8 or so carries, that’s not an insignificant amount. Kamara has traditionally made his money in the passing game.

If Kamara is going to maintain his elite fantasy status with Ingram around (which I believe he can), the Saints need to pepper him with targets as they have in the last two games (19). Adding Ingram into the mix now lets Payton slip Kamara out wide and get him in open space where he is at his deadliest.

The addition of Ingram, while it takes away some carries, could open up better overall touches for Kamara. In the long run for fantasy, that’s what we’ve been asking for in 2021.

As for Ingram, he will likely be in the range of a low-end RB3 to RB4 who relies on touchdowns to move the needle for a fantasy roster in any given week. With that said, should Kamara miss any time, Ingram would instantly be in the RB2 conversation.

Tommy Garrett is a Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here, listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast, and check out his contributions in PFN’s free fantasy newsletter. Give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.

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