2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Updating the Saints Fantasy rankings with Jonathan Williams replacing Mark Ingram for the first month of the season

Mark Ingram has been one of the most underrated running backs in Fantasy over the past four years. You might think the fact that he's going to be suspended for the first four games would change that.

I'm not so sure.

People generally overrate suspensions, looking at a full season projection and the fact that Ingram just lost a quarter of that season. It's even worse in Fantasy, they'll tell you, because you're losing more than a third of the Fantasy regular season. That's absolutely true, but it can also be overstated. 

Looking at the chart below you'll see Ingram plummeted from my No. 11 running back to No. 25. The suspension will cost him 50 Fantasy points by my estimations. But it won't cost you that much, because you'll have a replacement-level back in his place. Assuming Ingram produces like the No. 11 back from Week 5 on, he'll be worth far more to you than the true No. 2 running back. And you can take advantage of that on draft day.

In the mean time, it sure looks like Jonathan Williams is going to share the load with Kamara the first four weeks of the season. Williams only has 27 career carries and wasn't very successful on those carries, but we all know how important situation is for running back success. He won't rank well in season-long projections, but for the first four weeks of the season he'll be a cheap, adequate replacement for Ingram in Fantasy.

I also expect this helps Drew Brees and Michael Thomas just a little bit early in the year. Unless Sean Payton feels more comfortable than I expect with his other running back options, I'd expect more passes than we would have gotten had Ingram been there unless Terrance West really proves something in camp.

*Rankings expressed below are in terms of expected Fantasy points. This is a part of our actual Fantasy Football rankings but not a direct correlation to my rankings. Things like injury risk, upside, etc. factor into rankings but they're not being talked about here. This is simply an expectation as the team is currently constructed.

PLAYER

EXPECTED FP

POS. RANK

EXPECTED PPR FP

POS. RANK

Michael Thomas

180

#8

288

#5

Alvin Kamara

208

#11

286

#5

Mark Ingram

146

#25

183

#25

Drew Brees

334

#4

334

#4

Ted Ginn

112

#47

168

#52

Ben Watson

80

#19

128

#20

Breaking down the touches

Sean Payton and Pete Carmichael have been running the Saints offense with Drew Brees at the helm for almost a decade now. You might think that would lead to more predictability, but if you'd thought that heading into last year you would have been wrong. Brees threw fewer passes in 2017 than he had in any year since the trio's first together in 2009. And this wasn't a small decline: Brees' lowest attempt total from 2010-2016 was 627; last year he only threw 536 passes. 

Part of that is the Saints ran almost 10 percent fewer plays in 2017 than they had in the recent past. The other part is the wild efficiency of Ingram and Kamara in the running game. And of course, the fact that the Saints had an above average defense contributed as well. But what does that mean for 2018?

I expect a small bounce back from his 2017 attempt numbers, but I still expect Brees will end up below 600 attempts for only the second time since 2009. One other change from last year that may stick is the lack of targets for tight ends. Only 11 percent of Brees' targets went to the tight end, which is way below the historical norm in New Orleans. Part of that can be explained by Kamara but it's also an indictment of the team's talent at the position.

Saints touches
Player RuSHARE RuATT ReSHARE TGT REC TD
Mark Ingram 39% 169 8% 46 37 7
Alvin Kamara 39% 169 17% 98 78 10
Jonathan Williams 18% 78 5% 29 21 4
Michael Thomas 0% 0 26% 150 108 8
Ted Ginn 0% 0 14% 81 57 5
Cameron Meredith 0% 0 12% 69 48 4
Ben Watson 0% 0 12% 69 48 4

Of note: 

  • Ingram's 39 percent share of the carries is over a full season. Once he's back I would expect he'll see right around 50 percent, if not slightly higher.
  • 108 catches for Michael Thomas is the fourth-highest expectation for any receiver in the NFL next year. That's because of a small increase in pass attempts, Thomas' huge target share from 2017 (28 percent) and the remarkable efficiency he and Brees have shown. Since Thomas entered the league he has the highest catch rate of any receiver with at least 200 targets.

The Leftovers

Third-round pick Tre'Quan Smith, a standout at UCF, has the most upside of the other receivers, but he has a long way to go to earn Brees' trust. His best fit early on would be in a burner role, but that would not be a reliable role in year one. I like Smith fine as a deep Dynasty stash and could even see taking a flier on him in a deep best ball league. Boston Scott could also be intriguing but he's clearly behind Williams right now.

What is currently most likely is that Thomas, Ingram and Kamara dominate touches to the point that everyone else is a bye-week replacement at best.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Heath Cummings is a Senior Fantasy Writer that covers Daily Fantasy Sports of all types. Before coming to CBS Sports he was a staff writer for Footballguys and the host of The Fantasy Football Show on... Full Bio

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