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2011 NFL Combine Profiles: RB Mark Ingram

After profiling Ryan Kerrigan on Monday, I decided to go with an offensive player prospect today. Some posted that they can't decide if Kerrigan or Ingram would be a better choice in the first round. I'm kinda in the same boat. The Saints seriously need an upgrade of talent in the defensive front seven, so I'm thinking the best available DE or OLB would be the wiser choice in the first round. But, I'm a Bama homer and am very impressed with Mark Ingram. He has the potential to be a franchise RB. For those of us who've kinda given up on Reggie Bush, don't think Pierre Thomas will remain a Saint, and think Chris Ivory is far too fragile to survive even half a NFL season, Ingram seems like a no-brainer, if he's still available when the Saints pick.

Ingram is currently projected to go in the mid to late 1st round, so it is possible at least that Payton will be able to grab him at no. 24. The question is should he? The team's needs on defense seem greater and Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton have had pretty good success with finding diamonds in the rough (i.e. Pierre Thomas, Marques Colston). Would Ingram be their "best player available" if he's still there when they pick?

How these players perform at the NFL Combine starting today may influence where they are ultimately drafted. It was reported last week, that Ingram was in Metairie fine tuning his body for the Combine with a local trainer:

Ingram has spent the past 5 1/2 weeks working with local trainer Wyatt Harris at the Sonic Boom speed, conditioning and strength academy in Jefferson. The facility, tucked beyond the railroad tracks off Central Avenue, regularly hosts a range of top athletes from area high schools and colleges, as well as pro players such as the Saints' Tracy Porter, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson.

Ingram has shed about 10 pounds, and said he feels primed for next week's NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. But his training with Harris won't end there. Ingram rented a condo and plans to spend the entire summer in his "home away from home" before heading off to his first training camp.

This news got many Saints fans' (myself included) mouths watering. He's already here working with a local trainer, so why not try to keep him here? This may greatly depend on what the teams picking before the Saints do.

Shutdown Corner gives this scouting report:

We continue our series with Alabama running back Mark Ingram. By far the most complete and pro-ready back in this draft class, and there are some who believe that in 2011 at the running back position, the draft is comprised of ‘Mark Ingram and everybody else.' While we're a long way away from being able to make such value judgments, Ingram's production against elite competition - and when he was frequently a point of focus of enemy defenses - was impressive enough to insure his status as a sure top-of-the-first-round draft pick.

In 38 games for the Crimson Tide, Ingram ran 560 times for 3,202 yards and 40 touchdowns. In all those carries, he rushed for just 62 negative yards, and under 10 negative yards in a game just once in his entire career. 2009 was his banner year, when he won the Heisman Trophy and Alabama won the national championship. Ingram rushed 271 times for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns. 2010 was a disappointment from a productivity standpoint, he gained just 816 rushing yards on 146 carries after missing the first two games recovering from knee surgery.

Conclusion: Perhaps Ingram's primary appeal is that while he does a few things exceptionally well and he does have a high ceiling, he also has an impressively high floor - there just aren't too many things he doesn't do well. He can provide just about any kind of running you want, understands blocking and ball security (just two fumbles at Alabama), he's a good receiver, and he's a team leader. Alabama coach Nick Saban, who isn't known to be impressed by much, has spoken as well of Ingram as just about any player he's ever coached. It's often seen as slightly pejorative to call a player a safe pick - the thought being that the player in question isn't impressive in a flashy sense. Ingram has as much flash to his style as you'd like, but his main asset as a pro prospect is that he has such a well-defined skill set.

Here's another scouting report

At times dominant in the college game, Ingram also projects well to the next level. He is a load to bring down at 5'10' and 215 pounds. His speed for that kind of frame is impressive, as he has been clocked as fast as 4.42 in the 40-yard dash. Ingram has decent hands for catching passes out of the backfield, although he should improve both his catching and his speed if he wants to have the same kind of success on Sundays. Block and getting to the outside edge are areas on which he will work.

Scout's Inc. currently has Ingram rated at no. 20 in their top 32, but that may change after the Combine. If he does well there, and the training at Sonic Boom may help him do just that, his stock may rise so high that he moves way outside of the Saints' grasp and thereby make any wishful thinking on our part a moot point.