Readers of my weekly “Who’s Up, Who’s Down” fantasy column know that it’s based around trends-the pattern of a player’s performance over several games. I’m therefore very wary of including players there that have just one spectacular or dismal game, because it is difficult to know whether or not those performances are outliers in a player’s season.
I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t discuss the two breakout stars of Week 10 in my fantasy coverage. Both Tavon Austin and Mark Ingram enjoyed fantastic, breakout games last week that were so far outside of their career norms that they certainly need some consideration. The question is whether Ingram and Austin are poised to become consistent fantasy threats, or if they are just one-hit wonders.
Both are very interesting cases, but I’ll cover Ingram now because Austin has a bye in Week 11 (I’ll discuss the St. Louis wideout in this space next week). The former Alabama star is in the midst of his third season in the NFL and his pro career has been more than a little disappointing. Entering Sunday, his previous career-high for rush yards in a game had been 91, and he had averaged less than four yards per carry in each of his first two seasons in the league.
Against Dallas in Week 10, however, Ingram flashed the rugged, refuse-to-be-brought-down running style that helped him win the Heisman Trophy in 2009. He gashed the Cowboys’ defense for 145 yards on just 14 carries, scoring his first touchdown of the season along the way.
It would be great if Ingram began consistently showing that beast mode ability, especially since it would mean that we would get to see more of the former first round pick’s incredibly demonstrative (and entertaining) post-run antics. Unfortunately, several factors point to this being more of a one-time hurrah than the beginning of something larger.
To begin with, Ingram’s career game came against a Dallas defense that is currently in complete disarray. Monte Kiffin’s troops rank 28th in the league in rush defense and that was before it lost standout linebacker Sean Lee to a hamstring injury midway through the game against New Orleans. Ingram’s impressive line loses a bit of luster considering it came against a unit that isn’t exactly the Doomsday Defense.
Another factor working against Ingram is the makeup of this current Saints team. The squad boasts a pass offense ranked second in the league behind Drew Brees, so they really only run the ball to set up their deadly play-action game. Even when they do keep the ball on the ground, Ingram is no better than the co-starter in New Orleans, as he shares the workload with Pierre Thomas. Thomas had a solid game of his own against Dallas, racking up 111 yards of total offense and finding the end zone twice, so Ingram’s performance didn’t really set him up as the clear starter going forward.
The upcoming schedule isn’t kind to the New Jersey native, either. The Saints face the 49ers, Seahawks and Panthers (twice) in the next six weeks, all of which boast formidable rush defenses. It will be difficult for Ingram to replicate his Week 10 line going forward.
Right now, everything points to Ingram being a sell-high for fantasy players who currently have him in their backfield. He will likely not be more valuable all season than he is right now, so I would see if you could get a meaningful asset back in a trade for him. For those of you in desperate need of a running back upgrade, go ahead and pick him up as a potential lottery ticket. Just know that the stats say that the chances of Ingram leading you to your league’s playoffs are about the same as winning an actual lottery.
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