Welcome to the fifth installment of the Made-Up Mailbag. This week, I get to pitch to myself underhand and take a victory lap because one of my favorite players to draft in fantasy football finally went off.

Q. How do you feel about Saints running back Mark Ingram’s performance on Sunday against the Lions?

A. In a word? Elated. Actually, maybe ecstatic. Exuberant? Any way you slice it, it was awesome. For the average or even devoted fan, it was just another week, but for me, a devoted Mark Ingram truther, it felt like a sea change from the previous five weeks of the season.

I’m not sure there is sufficient context to explain this clear display of over-enthusiasm, but I’ll try. For the past four years, I have owned Mark Ingram on multiple fantasy teams. His role as a pass catching running back provides a safe weekly floor, especially in points per reception leagues. His spot on one of the league’s best offenses ensures he has high upside and that his team will be near the red zone. His efficiency running the football has been near the top of the league which implies he would be successful even outside New Orleans. He’s been relatively steady over this time period and has been a pick well spent every time.

So why has he been so exasperating to own over this period? Because of the giant ‘what if’ that comes with owning him. All of this production, like I said, has been predicated on efficiency. But in fantasy football, volume is king. Ingram has never been allowed a workhorse role in Saints Head Coach Sean Payton’s offense. He has often conceded goal line carries and touchdowns to far inferior players. He concedes passing down work to inferior players. Ingram has a total three down skillset. He is among the league’s best in running, receiving and pass protection, yet he has never been allowed to live up to this potential.

Other players that marry Ingram’s skillset with the massive volume they deserve include Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson and Le’veon Bell. These three single handedly won fantasy championships last year. While Ingram, may not be quite as skilled as these three, he’s closer than people credit him — and the fact that he’s on the prolific Saints makes up the rest of the gap, in my opinion. So Ingram has been tantalizingly close to fantasy greatness, and I’ve greedily, painstakingly waited for him to get there.

He’s not there yet, but his usage on Sunday was a clear step in the right direction, and it came the first week after the Saints traded away future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson. He received 30 touches in the form of 25 carries and five receptions. He even got the coveted goal line work and was able to punch in two touchdowns. Peterson’s signing was emblematic of the rest of the Ingram era — a frustrating and unnecessary addition to muddy up the backfield. That take was validated Sunday by the explosion of all three running backs involved: Peterson, Ingram and Saints rookie Alvin Kamara who had 87 total yards of his own. It was the trade I was waiting for. It was the game I’ve been waiting for for years. I will keep my fingers crossed Payton keeps this up moving forward, but all week I’ll enjoy it and relish in validation. 

Q. Is it me, or is this the worst year ever for injuries in the NFL?

A. I’ve asked myself that same question (funny how this works, eh?). I would guess it’s not. In the off-season, it’s easy to forget how much of a war of attrition the football season is. Everybody saying “football isn’t a contact sport, it’s a collision sport” isn’t wrong. Injury rates across the league have probably stayed relatively constant, with some increase for better diagnosis of concussions, across the league. But, I cannot remember a year where we, as fans, have lost such star power. As NFL Network analyst Matt Harmon pointed out, the league has lost arguably the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive lineman in the league for the season already. While best in the league is arguable for Aaron Rodgers, David Johnson, Odell Beckham Jr. and J.J. Watt respectively, their impact on the game is not. Rodgers is personally my favorite player to watch. He always looks like he’s having blast, and the NFL is worse for him not playing. Injuries suck. They’re unfortunately the reality of a grueling 16-24 game slate of football games. We, as fans, all have to wrestle with that in our own way.

Thanks for making it through another Made-Up Mailbag, and see you next time. Also, if you’d like to make the mailbag slightly less made-up, send me questions at schletna@miamioh.edu or @Nschlete on Twitter.

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