The New Orleans Saints are planning on signing Adrian Peterson. This, of course, is a blow to Mark Ingram's fantasy upside, but the real questions are: How much does Peterson has left in the tank, and how much will he cut into Ingram's fantasy upside?
Peterson just turned 32, which is an ominous number for most running backs, but we have seen Peterson do some amazing things after quick recovery periods. But last season, he was out for most of the year with a torn meniscus, and when he tried to return late in the season, he ended up aggravating his knee and groin. His last real work came in 2015 when he played all 16 games and put up good numbers, leading the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. So, can we hope for the 2015 Peterson or will we get the 2016 Peterson who started slow and then got hurt? I would expect somewhere in between, but he will have a reduced workload in New Orleans, which is quite a departure from his days as the bell-cow back for the Vikings.
The Saints are giving Peterson less money than Mark Ingram, and the word is that Ingram will remain the starter. Of course, anyone can start and then see their touches cut in half, so how will the Saints use Peterson with Ingram, as both are similar in style, but Ingram does have better pass-catching skills?
Let's take a look at the workload for New Orleans' running backs last season. First off, you'll see that Tim Hightower was a big part of this offense, as he had 133 carries and 26 targets, while Ingram had 205 carries and 57 targets. Ingram played well, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, and rushed for six touchdowns, plus caught four more. Hightower averaged a yard less per carry than Ingram and rushed for four touchdowns and caught one. That's a lot of work there for both backs, so we can start to feel somewhat better about Peterson's possible workload, but will he just take over Hightower's role? I think that's actually a pretty good assessment of what might happen.
Sean Payton doesn't want to give Ingram 250-plus carries. There seems to be something about Ingram that Payton just doesn't want to go all-in on. This is why we saw so much of Hightower despite him being just another player compared to Ingram. You can really see it when we look at the goal-line work. Ingram was given nine carries inside the opponent's five-yard-line to 12 for Hightower last season. Hightower did end up rushing for four touchdowns there to Ingram's two, but Ingram was much more versatile at the goal line as he saw five targets and caught all five, with three going in for touchdowns. That versatility should keep Ingram in the fantasy picture, but Peterson has been a strong goal-line threat his whole career, as he has 113 rushing attempts inside the opponent's five-yard-line and has scored a touchdown on 50 of those, while Ingram has found pay dirt 15 times on 49 rushing attempts in his career from the same field position. That makes a 44 percent touchdown rate for Peterson compared to Ingram with 31 percent. Peterson will likely be more effective than Hightower was around the goal line and could see an even bigger percentage of short-yardage plays than Hightower saw last year.
So, Ingram will again lose carries near the goal line, but should see similar targets and receptions to last season, which kept him as a top fantasy play most of the season. Both will be worth drafting in fantasy, but we will need to see where their average draft positions shake out before feeling too confident on if either could be a value pick. My hope is that Peterson will severely hurt Ingram's ADP, which would make it easier to acquire him at value. At that point, we would have a good running back at a good price, while Peterson will have to prove that he still can perform at a high level and for 16 games. If he cannot, you could have an even greater value in drafting Ingram.