The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
At Ohio State, RB J.K. Dobbins was awesome. He spent three years in Columbus and all three years he topped 1,000 rushing yards and in 2019, he topped 2,000 yards. It wasn’t hard to see a back that had a future on Sundays.
Fast forward to April, the Ravens selected Dobbins in the 2nd round. The Ravens signed 30-year old Mark Ingram to a free agent contract prior to the 2019 season and watched him top 1,000 yards. The idea is that Dobbins is the future. But what to make of Ingram for 2020?
Career Snap Percentages
Ingram has been in a timeshare throughout his career. He didn’t have his first 200-touch season until his fourth year in the league. From Pro Football Reference (snaps began being tracked in 2012), Ingram didn’t have a game where he played more than 39% of the snaps (Week 10 of 2012) in 2012 or 2013. In 2014, only seven of his 13 games played were between 50% and 80%. From 2015-2017, Ingram never exceeded 88% in a given week and had 14 of 44 games under 50%. A four-game suspension wrecked his 2018 (RB32 finish). Last year with the Ravens, Ingram was under 50% in eight of 15 games, never exceeding 66% of the snaps in any game.
When people talk about the definition of a workhorse, I don’t think Ingram fits the bill. But in five of his last six seasons, Ingram had 216 or more touches and averaged more than 15.2 touches per game. In four of those years, he topped 200 carries. In three of those years, he topped 58 targets. And in five of the six years, he finished as a top 11 RB. Running backs that exemplify efficiency are just as great as those that touch the ball 300+ times and average less than five yards per touch.
A Crowded Backfield
The addition of Dobbins will test Ingram’s efficiency. As my buddy Ryan Weisse pointed out in his What To Watch For piece, last year’s RB2 in Baltimore, Gus Edwards, finished 2nd in the NFL in yards per carry among RBs with at least 100 rushing attempts. That means three different players on the Ravens topped 100 attempts last year, including QB Lamar Jackson and Ingram. And now they’re adding a 2nd round rookie running back to the mix. How is the pie being sliced now?
It’s fair to assume that Jackson’s rushing numbers will decrease. For a QB to have 176 rushing attempts, you’d think every player was hurt or missed time. I mean, Jackson was one of only two QBs to lead their respective teams in rushing, and they’re on exact opposite ends of the spectrum. The other? Miami’s Ryan Fitzpatrick! So yeah, that 176 is coming down. That throws some rushes to Dobbins’ way. Another historical aspect working against Jackson? Of the QBs to currently hold a position on the leaderboard of top 10 rushing outputs in a season, NOT A SINGLE ONE has topped 600 rushing yards the following season. If we use 600 yards as a barometer and decrease Jackson’s yards per attempt to a more reasonable 5.0, that would drop him down to 120 rushing attempts. That makes 56 rushing attempts available, hypothetically speaking.
Edwards was an undrafted free agent, so despite his 5.3 yards per carry average a year ago, it’s fair to assume some of his carries will go to the rookie with higher draft capital to his name. If he loses 40 and we add the 56 from Jackson, that would push Dobbins to almost 100 himself. If Ingram does lose some rushing attempts — not out of the question given his age and the calf injury he suffered towards the end of last season — we could conceivably be looking at a team with four players topping 100 carries. FOUR.
Red Zone Touches
We see every year how touchdowns can swing someone’s value in fantasy football. Of the running backs who finished with 10 or more total touchdowns in 2019, only Raheem Mostert (RB26) and Todd Gurley (RB14) didn’t finish in the top 12 in PPR scoring. Seven running backs scored ten or more rushing touchdowns inside the 20 last year. All but Gurley were top 12 running backs in PPR scoring. Of the running backs to score six or more touchdowns inside the 5, only Gurley and Melvin Gordon (RB23) didn’t finish in the top 12.
This is where Ingram has done damage throughout his career. Just last year in Baltimore, the Ravens as a team had 104 rushing attempts inside the 20 as opposed to 65 passing attempts. Ingram was responsible for 40 of those attempts, so just shy of 40%. Those 40 attempts led to 10 touchdowns. Ingram scored 8 of those 10 touchdowns inside the 5-yard line. By comparison, only Jackson scored any touchdowns on the ground inside the 5 (3 touchdowns). Taking it a step further, when Ingram assumed the “lead back” role in New Orleans in 2014, he scored 34 out of 39 rushing touchdowns in the red zone. Inside the 5? 24. 24 touchdowns within 5 yards of the goal line. I think that’s the definition of having a nose for the end zone.
In most years, the threat of Dobbins would be real. With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on sports across the world, continuity and familiarity will likely be something to fall back on. Dobbins is quite the talent, but Ingram knows the offense and more to the point, has succeeded in the offense. Ingram’s current ADP of RB27 is a direct result of Dobbins being drafted this year. There aren’t many running backs you can select in the 6th/7th round with the potential for 200+ touches and 10 touchdowns. Players with that upside should not be forgotten.