Saints Fantasy Football: Draft Mark Ingram or Brandin Cooks?


Yahoo Sports’ latest rankings have Saints WR Brandin Cooks ranked as the 16th overall player and his teammate, RB Mark Ingram, at 18th overall in standard leagues.

With both players going off the board in the second round, it’s highly unlikely fantasy players will be able to snag both of them.

The question becomes: which one of them should you choose?

Late August.

It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year for football fans, especially those of us who play fantasy football.

Fantasy draft season is here, and everybody has certain players they feel will be their “steals in the draft”. Perhaps best of all, no first round draft picks have gone down for the year with injuries yet.

However, it can also be one of the most challenging times of year, as decisions regarding who to draft can make or break your fantasy season.

For Saints fans, one of the toughest fantasy choices is whether you should take Brandin Cooks or Mark Ingram in the second round.

Nov 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson (82) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) and running back Mark Ingram (22) during the second half of a game against the New York Giants at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Giants 52-49. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Unless you reach for one of these players in the first round (which is not recommended) it is extremely unlikely that you will be able to draft both Mark Ingram and Brandin Cooks this season.

This is a shame, as both players look set to have big years statistically, playing in a (usually) explosive Saints offense.

“biggest knock on Ingram from a fantasy perspective. He has NEVER played a full 16 game season.”

It’s a tough choice, even for Yahoo.

The site has Cooks ranked slightly ahead of Ingram as the 16th overall player, with Ingram coming in at 18th overall.

That’s not very much of a difference, especially when the clock is running down and the pressure is on.

By projections, both Cooks and Ingram are in for great seasons. Yahoo is projecting Cooks to eclipse 1,100 yards on the year, and to haul in 7 touchdowns.

On the other hand, Ingram is projected to have over 900 rushing yards for 7 touchdowns, combined with over 400 yards receiving.

Dec 27, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) gestures after a catch in the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

I would say these projections are on the low side for both players. The 7 touchdowns projected for Cooks would actually be under his total of 9 last season.

In his own words, Cooks said he “left a lot of meat on the bone”  last season, and wants to do more — especially when it comes to yards after the catch.

I also fully expect Ingram to eclipse 1,000 yards this season for the first time in his NFL career. His emergence in the fantasy game also gives him a higher floor than other running backs, and should keep his scores relatively stable from week to week.

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Additionally, his performance is trending up, Ingram was on pace to break 1,000 yards last season before he was derailed with the shoulder injury.

This brings us the the biggest knock on Ingram from a fantasy perspective, which is that he has NEVER played a full 16 game season.

Brandin Cooks has an injury history of his own. In his rookie season, he played in only 10 games before being shut down for the year with a broken hand.

However, last season he managed to stay healthy and play in all 16 games.

You can’t predict the future, but given trends and patterns; I would say Cooks is a safer bet this season to play the full slate of games.

The attrition that begins to affect running backs is also a concern, especially given the workload Ingram is expected to receive.

Oct 15, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) runs as Atlanta Falcons strong safety Kemal Ishmael (36) and middle linebacker Paul Worrilow (55) attempt to tackle during the fourth quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Falcons 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

I also think that Brandin Cooks has the most upside of any Saint this season.

While one could argue that the addition of Coby Fleener and Michael Thomas will take away targets from Cooks, I would argue that the new Saints weapons will help his production more than they will hurt him.

Defenses will no longer be able to key in solely on Cooks as they have in the past, and I expect Sean Payton and Drew Brees to find a way to exploit Cooks’ speed in one on one match-ups.

However, because of the abundance of targets in New Orleans, its likely that Cooks production will fluctuate more from week to week than Mark Ingram’s.

As mentioned before, Ingram has one of the higher floors of any fantasy player, making him one of the safest bets.

If you prefer to play on the safe side in fantasy, especially in earlier rounds, I would take Ingram, and handcuff him with likely backup Tim Hightower, to protect against the possibility of injury.

Jan 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Tim Hightower (34) runs against Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Kroy Biermann (71) during the first half at the Georgia Dome. The Saints defeated the Falcons 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimately, I prefer a more aggressive fantasy strategy, so I would take Brandin Cooks over Mark Ingram.

Next: Saints Stock Watch: Which Players Are Up and Down in Preseason?

I think the upside for Cooks outweighs the potential negatives of fluctuating production.

However, both players are SOLID fantasy choices, and fans would do well to take either players in the second round.

Choose wisely…