Mark Ingram's Schedule Makes Him a Desiriable Fantasy Football Asset
Mark Ingram has flown under the fantasy radar this offseason, failing to generate much buzz. On a scale from Hot Taek to Debatable, Ingram has been clocking in at Meh.
But I happen to think there’s a lot more to Ingram than Meh. Specifically, I think Ingram can have a massive impact for you in the first three weeks of the season, putting your squad in a fantastic position to make the playoffs by helping your fake team get off to a good start.
But why? How does a 29-year-old running back with a 44th-percentile speed score, per PlayerProfiler.com, catapult you to early trash talking rights? It's all about matchups.
Let's get to it.
A Soft Early-Season Schedule
As Warren Sharp says in his 2019 Football Preview, “Strength of Schedule Matters." And if you look at the Baltimore Ravens' first three games of the 2019 season, it doesn’t get any sweeter from a rushing standpoint than what they have lined up.
The Ravens start out on the road against the Miami Dumpsterfires, who currently boast the longest Super Bowl odds at +15000, per FanDuel Sportsbook. And even though game script isn't always easy to predict, it’s really challenging to see one for this game that doesn’t involve Ryan Fitzpatrick/Josh Rosen struggling against a Baltimore defense that our models project to be the third-best overall D and the second-best pass defense.
We all know the DFS dream of a sieve that was the Arizona Cardinals' run defense last year, and that's who the Ravens get at home in Week 2. That particular sweet spot doesn’t look to change much in 2019, with our numbers putting Arizona's run D dead last for this season.
Batlimore wraps up their opening three-game stretch with a road date versus the Kansas City Chiefs, a matchup where you could potentially project some game flow issues. But in last year's contest at Arrowhead between the two squads, the non-Lamar Jackson rushing stats in the game for the two Ravens' running backs splitting time totaled 24 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown, which would make for a perfectly acceptable fantasy performance for a guy currently going in the early part of the fourth round (4.04) in half-PPR formats, per Fantasy Football Calculator.
It Doesn't Get Too Much Tougher
While Baltimore's schedule does get tougher as the season goes on, Sharp has the Ravens facing the second-easiest schedule in rushing efficiency, first-easiest in explosive rush defense and fifth-easiest in running back pass defense.
All of this lines up well for Ingram, who has big-play ability, notching a yearly long run of at least 70 yards in each of the last three seasons. He’s a sneaky-good pass catcher, too, logging yearly reception tallies of 50, 46, and 58, respectively, from 2016 to 2018, though Baltimore won't be passing nearly as often as New Orleans did in previous campaigns.
Circling back to Sharp’s rankings, in the first 11 weeks of the season, the Ravens face only two defenses projected to be among the 10 toughest (Pittsburgh and Houston). The nine opponents outside of those two stout defenses own a projected rush efficiency average of 25th. Again -- to really hammer the point home: that’s the average.
Let it wash over you.
There are other positives aside from the schedule, including the Ravens' quality offensive line. Per offensive line rankings from our own Jim Sannes, the Ravens come in with the 10th-best front five. And volume should be plentiful in what's likely to be a very run-heavy offense.
All in all, Ingram profiles as a really sound pick at his current cost. He's got both a nice floor as well as an enticing ceiling.
Ingram is a proven NFL running back, under 30, in an offense that ran the ball for a league leading 5.4 yards per carry after Week 11 in 2018 -- doing so with the likes of Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon openerating behind a top-10 offensive line. Now it'll be Ingram filling that role. The former Saint checks a lot of boxes, and even if he had a merely average schedule, he'd be appealing. But given his great matchups, he's a smashing pick right now.