Fantasy Football - Camp Battles 2015

Camp Battles - New Orleans - Mark Ingram vs C.J. Spiller

Is Mark Ingram for real (like, really for real) or will C.J. Spiller come marching in?

Would it surprise you to learn Deuce McAllister holds the Saints’ club record for all-time rushing yards with 6,096? The fact that no back has led the team three straight years in rushing since McAllister (2002-04) tells you just how wishy-washy this club’s rushing attack has been. Since then it’s been a mix of mediocrity: Reggie Bush didn’t live up to lofty expectations; Pierre Thomas was never an every-down type; Chris Ivory offered glimpses of greatness, but never for long.

Once again New Orleans enters a season with multiple options. Mark Ingram has been the top back in two of the past three seasons and came on strong (finally) last year, but New Orleans also has former Bills speed back C.J. Spiller to fuel the competition. Only one – if one – will have much value to fantasy owners.

Why Ingram is your best bet: The team’s 2011 first round pick was well on his way to being written off as a B-U-S-T. He averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in each of his first two seasons, then missed five games in his third year. In 2014 Ingram finally found his stride. He set career bests in carries (226), yards (964) and rushing yards (nine) – all respectable fantasy totals. Plus, Ingram caught 29 passes – more than he’d caught in his first three years combined. He logged three straight 100-yard games in the middle of the year and pounded Pittsburgh for 122 yards the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Ingram is finally starting to look like the every-down back he was advertised to be coming out of Alabama.

Why it’s Spiller: Like Ingram, Spiller’s career also got off to a cold start, but 2012 (1,244 yards) and 2013 (933) were encouraging. When healthy he’s been a 30-catch back, and his breakaway speed makes him a threat on every touch. Spiller had to fend off Fred Jackson (often unsuccessfully) and now must do the same with Ingram. But when he is on his game he is special (who could forget his 194-yard 2012 debut against the Jets?). If Spiller can assume the pass-catching roles out of the backfield (ala Darren Sproles, who caught 232 passes in 2011-13 in this offense) he’ll make a strong case for fantasy preference.

Don’t forget about: Khiry Robinson
Robinson has averaged 4.5 yards per carry in two seasons (130 carries) and last year found the end zone three times. He’s not being given serious consideration, according to early reports, but could if Ingram and Spiller fail to stay healthy.

Who fantasy owners should pull for: Spiller
Spiller missed seven games last year, but he’s been the healthier back of the two (hard as that is to accept). If he enters the season healthy there’s reason to believe he is the better fit for this offense. If he can rack up 180 carries and serve the Sproles role he’ll have No. 2 fantasy value.

Follow Mike Beacom on Twitter @mikebeacom
By Mike Beacom