Kamara expected to see larger workload during first month of 2018 season
Mark Ingram's suspension for violating the league's PED policy means he will miss the Saints' first four games of the 2018 season. New Orleans has a bye in Week 6, so Ingram will be available for his fantasy managers just once in the first six weeks of the season.
Ingram was already a strong candidate for a reduced role in 2018 and this news only figures to allow second-year back Alvin Kamara to take a stranglehold on lead-back duties. Both Ingram and Kamara were top-six fantasy RBs in 2017, but history suggests that is far from repeatable. Kamara was nothing short of elite as a rookie (6.1 yards per carry, 10.2 yards per reception) and saw his playing time increase as the season progressed. Kamara was out-snapped by Ingram 321 to 234 during Weeks 1-10, but, excluding the Week 14 game in which he left early due to injury, Kamara enjoyed a 284-to-241 edge during the remaining eight games. That said, it was always fair to assume Kamara would lead the unit in touches in 2018.
During Ingram's suspension, Kamara surely will take on added work and the likes of 2018 sixth-round pick Boston Scott, Trey Edmunds, Jonathan Williams and Daniel Lasco will compete for a complementary role. Scott is an extremely intriguing prospect out of Louisiana Tech and should be rostered in dynasty leagues. With Ingram entering a contract year, Scott is a sneaky bet for No. 2 duties in 2019.
Needless to say, Kamara will be an elite RB1 option during Weeks 1-4 against Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Atlanta and the New York Giants. Kamara was already being drafted in the mid-to-late first round, so Ingram's suspension only adds slightly to his fantasy appeal. He's still best viewed as the No. 6 running back, behind Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley II, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley.
Ingram, meanwhile, had the looks of a front-end RB2, but missing four games knocks him behind players with similar or more upside. The likes of Joe Mixon, Jerick McKinnon, Rashaad Penny, Kenyan Drake, Derrius Guice and Royce Freeman have a path to feature-back duties and sport RB1 upside. All should be drafted before Ingram and the likes of Jordan Howard, Jay Ajayi, Marshawn Lynch, Ronald Jones II, Alex Collins, Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis and Sony Michel are also in the discussion. Ingram is in a terrific offense and he's a very good player -- his 4.74 yards per carry (YPC) is first and his 2.06 yards after contact (YAC) fourth among all backs with 700-plus carries during the past five seasons -- but adding the missed time to a reduced role leaves him as more of a fringe top-20 back. Consider him in the sixth round.
Should McCaffrey still expect an increase in touches in Year 2?
When Jonathan Stewart signed with the Giants and the Panthers failed to replace him during free agency or the draft, it was fair to wonder if Christian McCaffrey was headed for a significantly larger role in his second season.
We can wonder no more. The Panthers somewhat predictably signed veteran C.J. Anderson to a one-year contract. The former Broncos lead back is averaging 4.40 YPC, including 1.97 after contact, since entering the league. Those marks rank fifth and sixth, respectively, among 28 backs with 600-plus carries during the span. Last season, Anderson ranked ninth in the league in carries (245) and rushing yards (1,007). He averaged a solid 4.1 YPC and his 2.0 YAC ranked 15th.
The 2013 undrafted free agent gem is now 27 years old and offers an upgrade over Stewart, who operated as the early-down/short-yardage complement to McCaffrey last season. That role allowed Stewart 198 carries, 15 targets, seven touchdowns and a 42nd-place finish in fantasy points. Though Anderson is a better receiver than Stewart, he's unlikely to see much work in passing situations with McCaffrey (position-high 110 targets last season) in the fold.
McCaffrey remains a candidate for a slight boost in carries, though it's unlikely to be significant after he averaged just 3.7 YPC on 117 tries last season and now with Anderson on the roster. Of course, most of McCaffrey's value comes in the passing game, so Anderson's signing will have only a small impact on his fantasy production. McCaffrey remains a fringe RB1 and Anderson is only in the flex discussion in non-PPR leagues.
Be sure to check out our projections page for updated numbers on the Saints' and Panthers' backfields, as well as the rest of the NFL.