New Orleans Saints’ running back Mark Ingram is having a renaissance season in the “Big Easy”. Consider that he’s 7th in the NFL in highest yards per carry among all active NFL running backs (minimum of 75 carries) at 4.9 ypc. He’s 3rd in touchdowns for running backs with 6 already on the season, only behind DeMarco Murray and Arian Foster, who each have 7 touchdowns (i.e. elite running back company).
It took the better part of 4 NFL seasons, but it looks like the highly acclaimed first round pick and 2009 Heisman Trophy winner out of the University of Alabama has finally arrived for the Saints.
Can Colts’ fans eventually hope the same for Trent Richardson?
Hear me out…
Injured Alabama running back Mark Ingram (22) congratulates running back Trent Richardson (3) after Richardson scored a first-quarter touchdown in a 48-3 victory over San Jose State on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Image Mandatory Credit: The Birmingham News / Mark Almond)
Both Ingram and Richardson went to the University of Alabama (having both shared carries during 2009 and 2010 as Crimson Tide running back teammates).
Both rushed for over 3,000+ rushing yards and 35+ touchdowns individually in 3 collegiate seasons of SEC play with Alabama.
Both were BCS National Champions.
Both were 1st round draft picks in the NFL Draft (Ingram was 28th overall by the New Orleans Saints in 2011; Richardson was 3rd overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2012).
Both seemingly have (had in Ingram’s case) “underperformed” in their first few NFL seasons as former highly regarded first round draft picks.
However, does the comparison simply stop there?
Ingram is a bit smaller in stature at listed 5’9″, 215 pounds, with Richardson having some extra bulk at 5’9″, 225 pounds. Coming out of their respective NFL combines, in 2011, Ingram ran a 4.62 forty yard dash and benched 21 reps of 225 lbs. Whereas, a year later in 2012, Richardson ran a 4.48 forty yard dash and benched 25 reps of 225 lbs. It’s unclear whether lingering knee issues have currently sapped Richardson of some of his prior burst, as he is now averaging a paltry 3.5 ypc, but at an earlier point in time, he at least had it.
As far as a breakdown of how their respective NFL careers have played out for the former Alabama Crimson Tide running back teammates, see below:
Richardson had a pretty good rookie season with the Cleveland Browns in 2012, when he rushed for close to 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also has a clear edge in the receiving game, where Ingram has been routinely replaced by former teammate Darren Sproles and current Saints’ running back Pierre Thomas on passing downs during his brief New Orleans’ tenure.
Oct 26, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) runs against the Green Bay Packers during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Ingram has been one of the NFL’s best running backs in 2014, shedding his previous “draft bust” label as a former underperforming first round pick. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
However, even Ingram’s career season low average yards per carry of 3.9 ypc, is still higher than Richardson’s career high of 3.6 ypc that was set in 2012. Ingram had the luxury of having a less strenuous workload with less carries in his 1st 3 NFL seasons, but he’s also done more with his limited carries than Richardson has with the bulk of his.
Richardson could very well show an improvement in time, and to be fair, he’s looked better this season as a Colt than he did in 2013.
That being said, Ingram already rushed for +1.0 avg. yards per carry from his 1st NFL season to 3rd NFL season (3.9 to 4.9 from 2011 to 2013), whereas so far, Richardson has gotten slightly worse (3.6 to 3.5 from 2012 to 2014). Ingram has shown considerable improvement, while Richardson has slightly regressed statistically speaking.
Still, it’s impossible to completely rule out a similar fortunate resurgence for Richardson as his former Crimson Tide counterpart, yet the numbers certainly aren’t trending in his favor at this current juncture. Roll Tide, Roll.
Oct 5, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson (34) walks off the field after the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis defeats Baltimore 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports