What do we really know about Christopher Lee Ivory? Well, first off, did you know his middle name is Lee? Does that make you want to draft him more or less than before? The answer shouldn’t really matter, because Ivory is one of the hottest and most highly debated names in the fantasy football community right now.
For years, we kept wondering what would happen if Ivory was given a chance to be the lead back for a team. He’s been stuck on a New Orleans depth chart behind the likes of Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, and Mark Ingram. And New Orleans never seemed to treat him right. Now, our wishes have come true. The Saints traded Ivory to the Jets for a fourth round draft pick, and it’s changed the fantasy football landscape.
The small glimpses we’ve seen of Ivory have made us salivate at his potential. Just take a look at this 2012 Chris Ivory highlight reel for some insight.
Did you watch it? Good. Now watch it again.
Aren’t you a little mesmerized by his running style? I liken Ivory to, quite obviously, Marshawn Lynch. He’s got a vicious nasty streak in his running style, similar to Lynch, but really, he also has some finesse. And he’s fast, too. Maybe not breakaway Chris Johnson fast, but he’s certainly fast. It’s pretty amazing considering his 220-plus pound frame. I couldn’t help but stare in wonderment as to how quickly he was blowing by, as well as bowling over, defenders.
There’s no doubt that Ivory passes the eye test. But unfortunately, that’s not all we care about with fantasy football.
As much as we want to find the next big thing in the fake sport – and Ivory sure is shaping up to fill that void this year – we don’t really have much to go on with Ivory. Since signing with the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2010, Ivory has appeared in just 24 games, with 8 starts to his name.
In those 24 games, Ivory accumulated 1,307 yards rushing and 8 rushing touchdowns with a 5.1 yards per carry average. He caught just 3 passes for 32 yards.
It’s a pretty small sample size, but it does show promise, which is sometimes enough for some fantasy football owners. But is it enough for a high fantasy draft pick?
With any newly acquired football player, be it through free agency, a trade, or the draft, we also have to account for opportunity and situation. With Ivory headed to the Jets, both seem to be ideal.
When we look at the Jets’ running back depth chart, the first thing to notice is that Shonn Greene’s name isn’t on it; he left for Tennessee earlier in the off-season. The Jets signed former Panther turned Raider Mike Goodson earlier in the off-season to be the team’s new starter, many assumed, with Bilal Powell as their only other option at the position. The Ivory trade clearly changes that though, as he’s the obvious best back on team entering the 2013 season.
Now, taking a look at Greene’s career as a New York Jet can shed some light on Ivory. When the name Shonn Greene is tossed around in fantasy football circles, the word “plodder” or “slow” are often brought up. Many would probably coin him overrated, too.
But do you know what else we can say about Greene? That he’s been fantasy football dependable. No, really, he has been! Last season in fantasy football, Greene was the 15th highest scoring fantasy running back in standard scoring leagues. And the year before he was the 18th ranked one. That’s two back-to-back RB2 seasons as the Jets’ starting running back. Oh, and Greene outproduced his pre-season ADP both years, as his 2012 ADP was 70.16 (RB24) and 47.30 (RB20) in 2011.
Does that have to do more with volume than talent? Maybe. Last season Greene carried the ball 276 times, which was the 10th most attempts for a running back in the NFL. He had 253 carries in 2011, which was the 12th most at the running back position. So, yeah, Greene can qualify as a volume runner, but what’s wrong with a volume runner in fantasy football? As long as he produces, it can be a fine thing. Not every productive fantasy football player has to be sexy.
Can part of Greene’s success be attributed to the Jets’ offensive line? Probably. Pro Football Focus ranked the Jets’ 2012 O-line as the third best offensive line overall last year, with the the run blocking unit also being ranked third overall. Stalwarts D’Brickashaw Ferguson (7th highest rated Offensive Tackle by PFF) and Nick Mangold (6th highest rated Center by PFF) are still blocking for the Jets. However, they did lose both of their starting guards from a year ago, one of which was Brandon Moore, who graded out as PFF’s 4th best Offensive Guard in 2012.
Ivory’s injury history also leaves a bit to be desired, which might have played a small part in why the Saints traded him. It seems that every year he’s has been in the league, he’s nicked up. In his rookie season (2010), Ivory was ruled out for two games due to a knee injury. And he also suffered a concussion that season, to go along with shoulder, hamstring and foot issues. Ivory was eventually put on the IR with a left foot injury at the end of the season. He then started the 2011 season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, and in 2012, he missed the Saints’ 2012 Week 15 contest because of hamstring issues.
Three seasons in the NFL, and Ivory hasn’t been able to shake off the injury bug, which should have us a bit concerned.
I wanted to take a look at Ivory using RotoViz’s custom RB similarity scores app, but that can’t really shed much insight into his future, as there are only six 2012 games to look at. For fun, I used his Week 9 and Week 10 performances, as those were his two best box scores. The results that came back were kind of eery.
Out of all the comparable players, only seven of the players played a full 16-game season: 2006 and 2007 Marion Barber, 2008 DeAngelo Williams, 2008 LenDale White, 2009 Jonathan Stewart, 2010 BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and 2010 Tim Hightower. But that’s not even the eery part though.
What was really interesting was that only two of those players, 2006’s Barber and 2010’s Green-Ellis played a full 16-game season the following year. Is RotoViz trying to tell us that Ivory has a future as an injury-riddled running back? I hope not, but given his history, it makes sense. There is a silver lining though. Barber’s 2007 saw him finish the season as RB7 in standard scoring leagues, and Green-Ellis ranked as RB23 in 2011. Even though we only have two players to predict Ivory’s 2013 potential, they both finished their following season as RB2’s.
Even though he has a not-so-pretty injury history, and we don’t have a large sample size on him, I love Ivory as a fantasy football option in 2013. His current early May ADP of 167.48 (RB58) is surely to rise, but I still think he’s going to have, at least, excellent flex value this season. Being a high-end RB2 at season’s end isn’t even close to out of the question.
If a plodder like Greene can amass back-to-back fantasy RB2 campaigns, why can’t the explosive Ivory, at minimum, do the same?