The New Orleans Saints backfield is going to look a whole lot different in 2014. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday that the team will release Darren Sproles, and there's also been talk that Pierre Thomas is on the trading block. Regardless of what happens with Thomas, it looks like the Saints are going to create more opportunities for Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson in the near future.
Ingram, a first-round pick in 2011, has been a statistical bust for all intents and purposes. He's failed to run for even 700 yards in a single season, and his highest ranking based on fantasy points has been 33rd (2012), when he recorded a modest 602 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Some fantasy owners might look back at his 145-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Dallas Cowboys last season and see hope for the future, but that defense was historically bad.
In fact, Saints runners combined to score 63.90 fantasy points in that game. That's 12.5 more points than Ingram scored all season!
So while it's a positive that Ingram's role could expand (and he's in a contract year), I just don't trust him to suddenly become a viable fantasy starter. If it happens in the Bayou, it's probably going to be Robinson who takes on that status. The relative unknown out of West Texas A&M is going to be on the sleeper radar next season.
There's also been talk that the Saints want to use a more ball-control offense in 2014. That doesn't mean this team is going to turn into the 2006 Kansas City Chiefs, especially not with a star quarterback like Drew Brees at the helm, but the numbers at the end of last season point toward this transition. In the first 14 weeks of the 2013 campaign, coach Sean Payton's offense averaged just over 23 carries. That total grew to 30.5 in the final four weeks (including the playoffs).
If all goes as expected and both Sproles and Thomas are removed from this backfield, I'm going with Robinson over Ingram in fantasy football drafts.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!