Even though Chris Ivory is entering his fourth NFL season, this is the first summer in which his viability as a fantasy option has been considered. This, despite the fact that he has literally exploded into our collective consciousness at times during his career. But his noteworthy performances have been overshadowed by the voluminous amount of games in which he was not even allowed to enter the field. As a result, it was easy for fantasy owners to temporarily acknowledge his impressive runs, then move on to more pertinent topics when Ivory’s lack of playing time rendered him insignificant in fantasy discussions. However, Ivory has been released from that unrelenting purgatory that found him perpetually and deeply entrenched behind three other backs on the Saints’ depth chart.
Not only has he emerged with easily his best opportunity to produce on a consistent basis, but Ivory appears destined to become one of the league's few unquestioned feature backs, devoid of any real competition for touches. His mammoth change in fortune occurred on April 26, when the Jets acquired him from the Saints In exchange for a fourth round pick. That released Ivory him from a difficult situation in which he was embedded behind Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas in New Orleans. The result had been a recurring role as spectator, which Ivory had been forced to endure since Sproles and Ingram joined the Saints during the 2011 offseason.
Ivory seemed to deserve a better fate after leading New Orleans in rushing during the 2010 regular season. And he managed to accomplish this despite being excluded from the 2010 NFL Combine, going undrafted, and beginning the season as a rookie free agent. After witnessing his initial two games as a pro from the sidelines, Ivory began collecting touches. He accumulated 67 yards on only 12 carries in Week 4, then absolutely exploded onto the NFL landscape by bolting for 158 yards on just 15 attempts in Week 6. That was the most yardage generated by a New Orleans rusher since Ricky Williams in 1999, and remains Ivory’s career best output. That also vaulted him into prominence with fantasy owners, as he ultimately manufactured enough yardage to finish as the Saints’ leading rusher for that year. While his 716 yards only placed him 32nd among all RBs that season, that total became more impressive considering that he was only allotted 137 carries, and utilized them to amass a 5.2 YPC. He also scored five TDs, and bolted for 20+ yards on five different occasions. That actually tied him for 21st in that category, despite the low volume of work that he attained.
But the collective arrival of Sproles and Ingram significantly diminished Ivory’s workload. As he only carried 119 times in 2011 and 2012 combined, while accumulating 591 yards and three TDs. A similar situation would likely have occurred this season, if Ivory had remained in New Orleans. But the Jets provided him with an exceptional opportunity to generate sizable yardage. He should also provide fantasy owners with highly coveted numbers, and deliver explosive runs that will populate various highlight reels. Due to his big play ability, and the absence of a legitimate competitor to garner a reasonable number of touches, among the Jets’ otherwise underwhelming collection of running backs.
Lack Of Competition In 2013
When New York’s trade for Ivory originally took place, there was only one teammate who could conceivably prohibit Ivory from garnering an extensive workload. Former Panther and Raider Mike Goodson was signed to a three-year, $6.9 million contract with the Jets in March, and has displayed big play ability during a career that is actually very similar to Ivory’s. Goodson has demonstrated the propensity to be elusive, having amassed 722 rushing yards in 160 attempts during his four-year career (4.5 YPC). And has also proven to be a capable receiver, collecting 59 passes for 524 yards. But his life has imploded off the field, including a May 17 arrest on gun and marijuana charges. That has placed an enormous cloud of uncertainty regarding his situation, and could easily hasten his departure from the team. Plus, it has sent Ivory’s stock soaring even higher. Last year’s leading rusher Shonn Greene has departed for Tennessee, leaving only third-year back Bilal Powell to compete with Ivory. In three years with the Jets, Powell has accumulated just 437 yards on 110 carries, resulting in a YPC of only 4.0. He is not a candidate to generate long runs, and cannot remotely approach Ivory’s explosiveness. Making it unlikely that Ivory will surrender the RB1 role.
So... should you draft Ivory? The answer is a resounding yes. He is not a rusher who merely gains yardage when an opening appears directly in front of him, but instead has proven that he can explode past defenders with an impressive combination of speed and power. Plus, he is one of the rare backs that do not appear destined to share carries on a committee format. In three seasons, he has only attained 256 attempts. Yet, he has managed to accrue 1,307 yards despite the limited workload. If you utilize his career 5.1 YPC average and project him for 200 carries this season, his total would exceed 1,000 yards (1,020). If you project him for 250 attempts, then his total improves to 1,275. In 2012, that would have been the NFL’s seventh highest total.
The Potential For A Great Season
Even if he cannot quite replicate his career YPC average in the feature role, or even if he is slowed by injuries for a game or two, it is easy to see that his yardage total this season could be very favorable. Which makes him a wise investment on draft day. But many fantasy owners have somehow missed his outstanding potential, as his current ADP is an astoundingly low 111. As or this writing, 36 RBs are being selected before Ivory, and that simply should not be happening. If he is available to you in Round 4, and he should be, secure him for your roster.