Perhaps no team in football has been as tortuous as the New Orleans Saints to figure out their stable of running backs. Pierre Thomas has had the highest prime value for the Saints. He went from a high carry back to an inordinate amount of carries. Last year his fantasy worthiness almost came exclusively out of the backfield.
The Saints have used a platoon of running backs intermittently that drives fantasy owners nuts. With Darren Sproles departed to the Eagles, it leaves the same backfield of players. Is the Saints backfield being overlooked from a fantasy standpoint because of this? Likely so.
It seems odd to think about, but Darren Sproles has been a main key to Brees career. Out in San Diego, Sproles played the lightning bolt to LT. When he became a free agent the Saints went after Sproles to replace Reggie Bush’s role. He filled it admirably.
Now who will Brees have to be his Reggie Bush or Darren Sproles?
Both guys were fantasy havens for PPR leagues and combined yards of rushing and receiving. It was a toss up between Sproles and Pierre Thomas for more effective fantasy running back. Neither lit the fantasy scoreboard on a weekly basis, but did just enough to be fantasy running back three or four.
Who is going to catch the out of the backfield receptions for the Saints? Sproles had over 70 catches for the Saints each of the last three seasons.
Based on the Saints current roster, you’d have to believe the Saints are planning on reducing Pierre Thomas’s carries some more. They dwindled quite a bit last year as he boosted his performance out of the backfield. Last year he caught 77 passes for over 500 yards. Before that career season he had over 40 catches just once in his eight year career. His yards per carry dipped to a career low of just 3.7 yards last season. This should be clear evidence that the Saints want to use Thomas as their Sproles/Bush 100 percent.
That leaves the big void of whom will be the Saints main tail back for rushing the football. Mark Ingram has been nothing short of a disappointment in his stint as a Saint. The former Heisman Trophy winner has struggled with injuries and consistency. One bright sign from Ingram was his finish to the 2013 season. He had two games in which he came close to 100 yards, including in a playoff victory over the Eagles. In the divisional round he did have a costly fumble against the Seahawks though.
The Saints other two running backs are Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet. Robinson had spots a year ago where he looked like he would overtake the main running back duties. It just never materialized and left fantasy owners regretful on taking a flyer on him.
Maybe that was a move warranted for this upcoming season. Robinson will likely have a fair amount of carries with Ingram. For now it’d be hard to rank one higher than the other. You’d expect the Saints to give Ingram every chance to gain the upper hand on the time split, but Ingram’s proven to drop the ball when given opportunities.
I’d still downgrade Ingram and have an asterisk on Cadet stealing some thunder from both. New Orleans has too many receptions and carries available to have fantasy eyes drifting. If you’re anti-Ingram take your shot in later rounds on Cadet or Robinson.