After Le’Veon Bell signed last night, you had to figure someone was going to snag Mark Ingram in free agency before the running back market dried up and the Ravens have stepped up to the plate. Ingram and the Ravens have agreed on a three-year deal worth $15 million.
While with the Saints, Ingram posted top-15 numbers in four straight seasons from 2014-2017, something that should’ve been expected given the high-scoring nature of the offense. The Saints have been a top-10 scoring offense in each of those years, including top-six in each of the last four years. Surprisingly, he’s never carried the ball more than 230 times in a single season and has eclipsed 964 rushing yards just twice in his eight-year career.
BIG VOLUME ON THE GROUND
Switching over to the Ravens offense, there’s going to be plenty of opportunity for him to carry the ball more than 230 times if he can stay healthy. With Lamar Jackson under center for the final seven games, the Ravens ran the ball 312 times. Granted, 119 of those rushing attempts were Jackson himself, but that still left 27.6 carries per game for the running backs alone. Over a full 16-game season, that would amount to 441 carries, which would have been No. 2 in the NFL behind only the Seahawks, who ran the ball 451 times. The only two teams whose running backs totaled more than 387 carries were the Seahawks and the Patriots.
Volume is not going to be an issue for Ingram, at least when it comes to carries. He’s a downhill runner who’ll get what’s blocked and he’ll also break some tackles. The Saints offensive line hasn’t always been as good as it is now, but Ingram has managed to tally at least 4.3 yards per carry in each of the last six seasons. We watched the duo of Gus Edwards, Kenneth Dixon, and Ty Montgomery combine for 5.43 yards per carry with Jackson under center, which isn’t all that surprising because mobile quarterbacks will essentially remove a defender out of the box due to them (usually a safety or linebacker) being a QB spy.
While in New Orleans, Ingram scored a touchdown every 26.4 carries. That’s the type of production you get when your team is consistently scoring 30-plus points per game. The NFL average for running backs over the last three years is one every 33.6 carries. While Ingram may be an above-average running back, the Saints running backs combined to score one every 20.8 carries over the last three years. Now, despite all the carries and yardage for the Ravens running backs with Jackson, they combined to score just four touchdowns on 193 carries in those seven games, or one every 48.3 carries. You have to take the good with the bad when you have a mobile quarterback like Jackson, as he should help you get a bit more yardage, but he’s going to drain you where it counts – the goal line.
TARGETS HARD TO COME BY
With the Saints, Ingram wasn’t the primary pass-catching back, but he was most definitely involved, averaging 3.65 targets per game over the last five years. He didn’t score on them very often, but it was extra stability to his workload and fantasy output. Now with Jackson and the Ravens, it’s going to be much harder to come by. Not only did the Ravens average just 22.6 pass attempts per game with Jackson under center, but just 3.43 of those targets were directed at running backs, which included former wide receiver Ty Montgomery (who accounted for 17 of 24 targets to running backs). That amounts to a 15.2 percent target share for the running backs in what was already a small pie to begin with. Still, that target share would’ve been the fourth-lowest in the league. To put it on a bigger scale, if the portions remained the same, that would amount to just 55 running back targets over a whole season. There were 19 running backs who reached that number by themselves in 2018. Ingram would be lucky to snag two receptions per game with those numbers.
In the end, going from a team who averaged 30.4 points per game, to one who averaged 24.1 points per game (with Jackson under center) is going to hurt. There’s going to be more volume on the ground, but less scoring chances. There’s going to be much less opportunity through the air, which will lower his fantasy floor and weekly stability. If you play in a standard scoring league, Ingram will probably be able to deliver low-end RB2 numbers, though he’s not going to be particularly exciting week-in and week-out. If you play in a PPR league, Ingram is best viewed as a high-end RB3 who’s going to be very touchdown-reliant. Think about him the way you did about Jordan Howard this past season. He’s likely going to finish as a top-20 running back, but you probably won’t like how he got there. My early 2019 projection: 245 carries, 1,101 rushing yards, 6 rushing touchdowns, 38 targets, 28 receptions, 198 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown