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  • Despite being in the same backfield, Mark Ingram AND Alvin Kamara are en route to finishing in the top 10 of fantasy football running backs.
By Michael Beller
November 15, 2017

Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are headed for an unprecedented season. The Saints backfield duo has been a terror on defenses this season, particularly since the Saints shipped Adrian Peterson to Arizona. Ingram has 672 rushing yards, 31 receptions, 192 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Kamara, meanwhile, has rushed for 417 yards, hauled in 42 passes for 373 yards, and hit paydirt six times. Ingram is the No. 6 running back in both standard-scoring and PPR formats, while Kamara ranks eighth in standard leagues and seventh in PPR.

Should Ingram and Kamara finish the season among the top-10 fantasy running backs in standard or PPR, let alone both, they will break new ground. According to Fantasy Football Today (FFToday.com), never have two running backs who share a backfield finished in the top 10 in standard or PPR leagues. In fact, teammates have both ended the year as top-15 backs once in both formats. In 2009, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams were the RB11 and RB14, respectively, in standard leagues while teammates with the Panthers. In 2013, Reggie Bush was the seventh-ranked running back in PPR leagues in his first year with the Lions, while teammate Joique Bell scored the 14th most points among running backs. Ingram and Kamara are set to smash the marks set by their forebears in Carolina and Detroit.

If Ingram and Kamara do stay on their trajectory and end the season as the first teammates in modern history to be top-10 fantasy running backs, they won’t just sneak into the group. Chances are at least one of them, most likely Ingram, will be a top-five back, while the other will be safely among the 10 most prolific scorers at the position this season. Both are sure to pass Ezekiel Elliott in PPR leagues, while Ingram is a near lock to climb ahead of him in standard. The backs chasing them in the former style include Carlos Hyde, Christian McCaffrey, Chris Thompson and LeSean McCoy, while Hyde, Thompson, Lamar Miller and Jordan Howard comprise the group immediately behind them in standard leagues. The bet here is they not only stay in front of those foursomes, but increase the gap that already exists between them.

The Saints let the disastrous Peterson experiment drag on for four games, muddying the backfield waters. Both Ingram and Kamara were held back, largely thanks to the staccato usage inherent in forcing a third player into the rotation. The path cleared for both of them when the team admitted signing Peterson was a mistake by trading him to the Cardinals, giving rise to the most dangerous two-headed backfield we’ve seen in the league in a long time, and possibly ever.

The Saints have played five games since trading Peterson. In those five games, Ingram has 502 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 102 carries, with three 100-yard games. Kamara has been more of a dual threat, racking 334 yards on the ground, 226 yards on 22 receptions, and four total touchdowns. Collectively, they’ve ranked first (Ingram) and third (Kamara) among backs in standard-scoring leagues, and first (Ingram) and second (Kamara) in PPR formats.

The 16-game paces the duo has set since the team said goodbye to Peterson are staggering. Ingram’s numbers translate to a 16-game season of 1,606.4 rushing yards and 22.4 touchdowns, while Kamara’s equal 1,068.8 rushing yards, 723.2 receiving yards and 12.8 total trips to the end zone.

We’ve never seen a pair of running back teammates as potent, consistent and consistently potent as Ingram and Kamara have been this year. If they keep it up, they’ll both go down as league-winning players in 2017.

With that, let’s get to the rest of the Week 11 Target and Snap Report. Remember, you can get all the target, snap, touches and red-zone data you need to get an edge on your league from our partners at 4for4.

The new elite tight end in our midst

It’s not hard to identify the top-five fantasy tight ends in the league. You’ve got Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, who entered the season as the two best, and only reliably elite, players at the position. Then you’ve got Zach Ertz, who made it clear before this season he was knocking on the door before bursting through it this year. Jimmy Graham has been at these lofty heights in the past, and used to rub elbows with Gronkowski. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him back among the best in the game now that he’s paired up with an elite quarterback in a pass-friendly.

The final player to join their ranks is an unlikely candidate. He’s a rookie tight end, typically a subset of the position that struggles, on one of the worst teams in the league. Despite that, Evan Engram is the fifth and final tight end who must be started in fantasy leagues every single week.

The Giants bumbled their way to a loss to the previously winless 49ers last week, but Engram scored a touchdown for his fourth straight game. All told, he’s up to 40 receptions for 443 yards and five scores on the season. That puts him on pace for 71.1 receptions, 787.6 yards and 8.9 touchdowns. No rookie tight end has ever hit all three of those thresholds.

What’s remarkable is that Engram has done this on a team that has fallen flat on its face this season. Yes, his statistical bottom line has likely increased thanks to Odell Beckham’s season-ending injury, but this is not simply volume-based happenstance. Engram has turned himself into a key red-zone weapon for Eli Manning. He has four targets inside the 10-yard line, catching all of them for 26 yards and three touchdowns. Despite having fewer targets inside the 10 than 28 players in the league, Engram ranks second in yards on those targets.

As such, Engram has the touchdown upside necessary for any tight end to show up on the fantasy radar, but he combines that with an ability to be a playmaker all over the field. In short, he has already shown the brand of upside that has made Gronkowski, Kelce, Ertz and Graham such dangerous players from both real-life and fantasy perspectives.

The other silver lining for the Giants

This is a lost season for the Giants that could force them to clean house when it’s all said and done. Odell Beckham, one of the few reliably great things about the team, suffered a season-ending ankle injury in their fifth game. They were just on the wrong end of the 49ers first win of the season. Eli Manning looks every bit his age. We’re not even at Thanksgiving, but, in some ways, the season can’t end soon enough.

There is a way to put a positive spin on the Giants season, though. No matter what, this team is going to enter 2018 with a top-flight set of pass-catchers, and it didn’t know that before the season. Sure, Beckham was always going to be here, and he’s a one-man wrecking crew. Now, however, the team can be sure it has two dangerous players to team with him. We just finished talking about one of those players, Evan Engram. The other is Sterling Shepard.

Shepard hurt his ankle, though not nearly as significantly, in the same game that the Giants lost Beckham for the season. He returned four weeks later and has confidently asserted himself as the team’s No. 1 receiver in Beckham’s absence. In the last two games, Shepard has 16 catches on 22 targets for 212 yards. He got a whopping 13 targets last week, pulling down 11 of them for 142 yards.

The performance is great, but the volume is just as encouraging for his fantasy owners. Shepard’s 22 targets the last two weeks ranks fourth in the NFL. His 17.1% target-per-snap rate is 14th among any pass-catcher with double-digit targets in that span, and it’s just 0.2 percentage points behind Engram’s. Eli Manning, meanwhile, has attempted 73 passes over the last two games, and at least 36 in seven of nine games this season.

Let’s put that all together. Since returning from his ankle injury, Shepard has 22 targets, which accounts for 30.1% of Manning’s pass attempts. He has been targeted on 17.1% of his snaps played, and has turned that into 21.2 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues, and 37.2 points in PPR formats. The Giants figure to play from behind more often than not over their final seven games. That all adds up to give Shepard one of the highest fantasy ceilings among all receivers for the rest of the season.

Two under-owned receivers demanding your attention

Step one toward scoring fantasy points is getting on the field. Step two, for a receiver, is getting the ball thrown your way. Most receivers who play a lot of snaps and get a lot of footballs thrown at them by their quarterbacks find their way onto a fantasy team in 100% of leagues. Two such receivers who have only emerged recently have yet to do so. It won’t be long before they join the ranks of the universally owned.

The first is already well on his way. If not for a hamstring injury suffered in training camp, Corey Davis would likely already have that 100% ownership rate. The fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, Davis was expected to immediately become the top receiver on the Titans. The hamstring injury, however, cost him most of training camp and all of the exhibition season, and sent him to the shelf after Week 2. He returned two weeks ago, putting up a modest line of three catches on five targets for 28 yards in the Titans 23-20 win over the Ravens. He took a major step forward last week, though you might not notice it from his surface stats.

Davis had four receptions for 48 yards in the Titans 24-20 win over the Bengals in Week 10. He nearly scored the first touchdown of his career, but he fumbled while reaching the ball for the goal line. More important than any of that, though, was his usage. Davis played 86.7% of the Titans snaps and got 10 targets last week, both of which were career highs. In his first game back from his hamstring injury, he played three-fourths of the snaps and got his aforementioned five targets. What’s more, Eric Decker’s snap rate dropped to 38% in Week 10 from 44% in Week 9. Davis is in the role he was always supposed to have this season.

The second receiver has been healthy all year, but wasn’t able to sniff the field for the first two months of the season. Despite catching 58 passes for 810 yards and four touchdowns last season, he was a healthy scratch for half of his team’s first eight games, and a non-factor in the other half. It took a trade to a receiver-needy team for him to finally get back on the field. When he did, he made the most of his opportunity. It’s safe to say he’ll have that opportunity week in and week out for the rest of the season.

Dontrelle Inman made his Bears debut in Week 10. He instantly asserted himself as the best receiver on the team, catching six of eight targets for 88 yards. He played 57 of the team’s 60 snaps, good for 95%. Only 11 receivers had a higher snap rate than him in Week 10, most of which you know. DeAndre Hopkins. Antonio Brown. A.J. Green. Brandin Cooks. Jordy Nelson. Any receiver who sees the field for 95% of his team’s snaps is going to have a big role in the offense. Inman’s is unquestioned, especially after he turned in the second-best performance by a Bears receiver from a yardage standpoint this season. Remember, too, that the team is desperate to find playmakers for its quarterback of the future, Mitch Trubisky. Inman will be a fixture in the offense not only because he’s the best healthy receiver on the team this year, but also because the team wants to learn if he can be a key piece in the future.

Is there a sixth tight end who deserves a guaranteed weekly starting spot?

Remember the five tight ends we discussed earlier? Gronkowski, Kelce, Ertz, Graham and Engram? They’re the only tight ends in the league averaging at least 7.9 standard-league points per game and 12 PPR points per game. But, in a way, there’s another tight end in their ranks.

Jordan Reed has missed all or most of four games this season because of injury. In those four games, Vernon Davis has 20 catches for 295 yards and a touchdown. That comes out to 8.88 points per game in standard leagues, and 13.88 points per game in PPR formats. For what it’s worth, per-game numbers like that over the full season would have him as the TE4 in both formats, just ahead of Engram.

Just as important as the overall numbers is Davis’s consistency. He has had no fewer than 58 yards in any of those games, and he caught his lone touchdown in that contest. He has had at least 72 yards in the other three games, and at least five catches in two of them. What’s more, in the two games between Reed’s injuries, Davis caught three passes for 65 yards, and four passes for 67 yards. In other words, even with a healthy Reed, he made himself a crucial part of the Washington passing game, taking advantage of the void created out wide by the team’s lackluster receiving corps.

In short, Davis needs to be in fantasy lineups when Reed is out, and he can be a decent low-end TE1 play even when Reed returns. 

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