The fantasy sports world was set ablaze last week as Mark Ingram was benched after losing a fumble last week and the Saints turned the bulk of the remaining carries over to Tim Hightower. After the game, Head Coach Sean Payton said the word that sends shivers up fantasy football owners’ collective spines, “committee.” As the Saints travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers, both backs are worth starting, depending on the position you are in and your other options.
First, Mark Ingram. Ingram hasn’t been a great back this season on a yard per carry basis, but excepting last game where he was benched after just three carries, he is averaging 86 scrimmage yards a game, which is solid RB2 territory while chipping in three touchdowns on the season. Nothing outstanding, but solid overall numbers that keep him out of the bust category. There were exceptionally high expectations for Ingram going into the season given his breakout campaign last year, but he can’t be considered a bust or a wasted pick, given what has happened to all the other running backs this season. The perception of Mark Ingram in fantasy football is likely far worse than reality, and last week did not help matters. Still, he has been a solid back this year.
As for Tim Hightower, he was the savior of many fantasy football teams down the stretch last year when he took over in earnest for Mark Ingram. After Ingram had gone down with injury, Hightower went for 114 yards and a touchdown per game down the stretch, including 122 yards and two touchdowns in the fantasy football finals (week sixteen). This year, it appears he will get the shot at doing the same thing through Ingram’s ineffectiveness. Last week after Ingram was benched, he toted the rock 26 times for 102 yards against an incredible Seahawks defense, and the team he and Ingram take on this week might be the opposite of the Seahawks.
The 49ers are the worst in the NFL against running backs, and it’s gotten far worse since NaVorro Bowman went down. In the three games since the 49ers lost Bowman, they have given up at least twelve fantasy points to five running backs, and this includes 16 to Jacquizz Rodgers and 14 to Payton Barber last week, two backs who are technically third and fourth on the Buccaneers depth chart. They’re terrible and are even giving up massive fantasy games to committee backs.
It’s worth seeing how the Ingram/Hightower backfield shakes out, and they won’t be worth starting some weeks. This week, however, the 49ers defense will provide both Hightower and Ingram with plenty of opportunities. Ingram continues to be an RB2, with touchdown upside, and Hightower is going to be flex-worthy. It wouldn’t be surprising at all, however, to see Hightower outscore Ingram. Given the 49ers’ have given up at least twelve fantasy points to two backs in two of three games, they’re both worth getting into your lineups this week.