You see the name Chris Ivory in the topic line of a fantasy worthiness article and I'm betting the answer comes to mind pretty quickly, not a chance. He is number four on the Saints depth chart; the Saints love to pass the ball; he'll be lucky to even make the team; so thanks, but no thanks. However, with the news that Mark Ingram underwent a second surgery on his worrisome knee last week and is expected to be on the mend anywhere from four to six weeks, I am beginning to worry about his longevity in fantasy football (as well as the actual NFL). For the record, add in the toe surgery that Ingram had earlier this off-season and that makes a total of three surgeries for the kid since August of 2010. Suddenly, taking a look at just where Chris Ivory sits on the fantasy landscape doesn't sound so crazy. Especially when you throw in the fact that some teams had removed Ingram from their draft boards altogether prior to the 2011 draft because of what some people have termed as chronic knee issues. Besides, let's face it folks, if I trot out an article on the fantasy worthiness of someone like Jeremy Maclin or Peyton Hillis, they would be very quick and easy calls. The point here is to dig deeper and examine some players who are really on the fantasy fringe and may need to have some things break in their favor to find themselves on fantasy draft boards. Right now, Chris Ivory is just such a player.
After three injury plagued seasons at Washington State (in which he would amass 534 yards and 4 touchdowns), Ivory found himself sliding down the depth chart with a new coaching regime taking over the Cougars. He would be dismissed from the team for violating team rules in August of 2009 then transfer to division II Tiffin University to finish his college career. Making matters worse, he would play in only 5 games his senior season before injuring a knee and missing the rest of the season; not exactly on the fast track to the NFL. Ivory would still catch the eye of the New Orleans scouting staff and sign as an undrafted free agent with the Saints in May of 2010. Ivory would see extensive playing time in the 2010 preseason for New Orleans, carrying the ball 41 times for 146 yards and a touchdown. The high point of his preseason efforts would be a swing pass reception that he would take to the house for a 76- yard touchdown. Ivory would suffer a knee injury in the preseason finale against Tennessee and miss the first two games of the 2010 season for the Saints.
New Orleans would see their running back position decimated by injuries in 2010, as Reggie Bush would suffer a broken fibula in week two and Pierre Thomas would severely sprain his ankle the following week. Ivory would get the opportunity to see extended playing time in a backfield consisting of retreads Ladell Betts and Julius Jones (who would join the team in week six after being released by the Seattle Seahawks). In his first three games Ivory would put up a mediocre 119 rushing yards on 29 carries before announcing himself on to the fantasy landscape with a 15 carry, 158 rushing yards and 1 reception for 17 yards effort against Tampa Bay in week six. The Saints would utilize Ivory as their first and second down running back, pounding the ball between the tackles, while mixing in Betts and Jones on passing downs. From weeks seven through fourteen, Ivory would spearhead the New Orleans rushing attack, amassing 406 yards on 86 carries and scoring 5 touchdowns. The Saints' running back woes would continue as Ivory would be forced sit out weeks fifteen and sixteen with a hamstring injury. He would run for 33 yards in the season finale against Tampa Bay before suffering a lisfranc injury and being placed on the injured reserve list. For his rookie campaign, Ivory would finish the season as a top 40 fantasy running back, averaging over 5 yards a carry on his way to a total of 716 rushing yards, 17 receiving yards and 5 total touchdowns.
The clock would strike twelve on the Cinderella story of Chris Ivory as the 2011 season approached. He would undergo two surgeries in the off-season -- one to repair the lisfranc injury, as well as sports hernia surgery just prior to training camp. Complicating things even more for Ivory would be the Saints selecting former Heisman Trophy winning running back Mark Ingram with the 28th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Ivory would begin the 2011 season on the PUP list while recovering from his injuries and not be activated to the roster until late October, prior to a week eight game against St Louis. As Mark Ingram sat out weeks eight and nine with a heel injury, Ivory would see his first game action and account for 85 yards on 21 carries in the two games. Ingram would return to the line up in week ten and Ivory would be inactive from weeks ten through thirteen until a turf toe injury would sideline Ingram for the season. Ivory would replace the injured rookie for the remainder of the regular season for the Saints and amass 289 yards rushing on 58 attempts with one touchdown. In the playoffs Ivory would lead the New Orleans backfield in carries with 22, totaling 70 yards in the two games and fail to reach the end zone. For the 2011 regular season, Ivory would play in a total of six games and finish with 374 yards on 79 carries for an average of 4.7 yards per rush attempt and score one touchdown.
Determining the fantasy value of Chris Ivory for 2012 boils down to a precious few factors. The health and availability of Mark Ingram moving forward, the style of offense the Saints employ and his own ability to stay healthy. Obviously, a trade to another team would be the ideal circumstance for Ivory to get an opportunity to shine, as he has shown the skill and determination to be an effective fantasy running back -- averaging 5 yards a carry in his two seasons. However, with Ingram and his balky knee remaining a question mark, odds are good that New Orleans will hold on to Ivory as a reliable insurance option should Ingram miss playing time. As long as Ingram is available to play for the Saints, Ivory will sit fourth on the running back depth chart in New Orleans. The Saints threw the ball 472 times in 2011, with 211 of those targets intended for running backs -- Darren Sproles leading the way with 131 targets. Chris Ivory was thrown to only one time last season and finished the regular season and playoffs without a reception. In an offense that loves to throw the ball, Ivory has a single reception for 17 yards in his two seasons of regular season action for the Saints. He is pure and simple a between the tackles, straight ahead, power running option in the offense. While he is effective in that role, it also limits his overall opportunities. Finally, while he did finish the 2011 season leading the Saints in carries during the playoffs, he has missed 14 regular season games with foot, hamstring and groin injuries. Ivory has carved out a nice fantasy resume to date while with the Saints and has the potential to continue to be a viable fantasy option if he can stay healthy and get the touches. With their injury histories, there is always the chance that he will be called upon to step in for an injured Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles or Mark Ingram and he excels in that role. However, as things currently stand in New Orleans he is NOT WORTHY of being drafted in 12 team fantasy leagues in 2012.