He’s so sudden and powerful in tight areas that he consistently has the wiggle to make a defender miss in a phone booth and accelerate into the open field. But at the same time, he’s also very patient and showcases a real feel setting up blocks and exploding into daylight. He’s a two-stepper in every sense of the word, getting up to top-end speed instantly out of his breaks.
Now, he is more quick than fast, in my opinion, and lacks an elite second gear to his game. But, he still possesses good enough game speed and will be able to create his fair share of long runs at the next level because of his ability to side step/break tackles in the open field.
Now, he’s still maturing as a pass blocker inside and isn’t the most natural of receivers in the pass game. But, he has a game that is NFL ready.
Impression: He’s one of the most natural runners I have ever scouted and looks like an impact-caliber guy ready to carry the load at the next level from day one. A real blue-chip prospect."
Pros: The Heisman Trophy winner is the true definition of a workhorse. He rushed the pigskin 271 times as a sophomore, including seven games with at least 22 carries. Playing in Nick Saban’s pro-style, smash-mouth offense Ingram proved last year that he can indeed be the focal point of a championship offense. Including both the SEC Championship Game and BCS Championship Game Ingram turned in nine 100-yard games (he rushed for 99 versus Tennessee) and rushed for 140-plus yards in six of those contests. The Alabama product is built solidly and runs with a very low center of gravity with exceptional balance. It is very difficult to knock Ingram off balance, which makes it nearly impossible to knock him out of his running lane or bring him down unassisted. While he’s not a thoroughbred, Ingram has exceptional burst, which allows him to both hit the hole at the line of scrimmage and get on top of the secondary with decent quickness. What truly stands out about the Crimson Tide running back are his instincts and desire—he understands the game of football and will do whatever it takes to win. Ingram is blessed with vision, patience and toughness. Not many backs are as adept at seeing the field, anticipating holes and making use of their blockers. He is also a fearless runner—the all-SEC performer hits holes and defenders with equal authority thanks to his powerful legs. His leg drive is well above average, evidenced by his ability to push a pile and effectively fight for extra yardage. Because of his anticipation Ingram is difficult to get a big hit on, which allows him to handle a large workload while remaining durable. The Michigan native is also an incredibly underrated threat coming out of the backfield as a receiver (32 receptions for 334 yards,10.4 yards per reception in 2009), where his instincts and natural hands make him a mismatch against any linebacker. Ingram has excellent versatility; he can play in any offensive or blocking scheme and run in-between-the-tackles or attack the edges. The national champ also shows excellent blocking ability which, when combined with his pass-catching skills, give Ingram the look of a true, three-down running back. His father, also named Mark Ingram, played 10 seasons as a wide receiver in the NFL.
Cons: Despite the accolades and pedigree, Ingram is not an elite athlete. He is not going to wow anyone at the NFL Scouting Combine in terms of his measurables and will not remind anyone of Adrian Peterson, who is considered by many to be the standard for NFL running backs. His frame appears to be maxed out so he probably won’t get much bigger even as he matures. Moreover, don’t expect Ingram to be much of a home run threat on the NFL level as he lacks elite, long speed. This Crimson Tide runner did wear down some as the season went on and was not nearly as effective in his final two pre-BCS Bowl contests as he was during most of his award-winning season. Ingram ran for a season-low 30 yards (1.9 yards per carry) in Alabama’s regular season finale at Auburn and was limited to just 4.0 yards per carry (28 carries, 113 yards) against Florida in the SEC Championship game. This came after he averaged 5.5 yards per carry or better in 10 of the Tide’s first 11 games of the 2009 campaign.
Our View: While the Flint native was devalued by some coming out of high school because he wasn’t the biggest or fastest schoolboy runner, Coach Saban saw something in Ingram and was rewarded for it. Last year, as a true sophomore, Ingram became the first player in Crimson Tide history to win the Heisman Trophy…and he did it on the way to winning a National Championship. He may not stand out physically or grab the attention of onlookers the way Reggie Bush did as a collegian, but the man is an elite football player. Much like another #22, Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, Ingram combines decent overall physical ability with truly top-notch instincts, desire and recognition abilities. It also has to be noted that the Alabama man is not substandard in any way as his size, speed and strength are all NFL caliber. Ingram is as dependable and consistent as they come—a true workhorse. In an NFL where that breed of running back is an endangered species, Ingram’s value—despite his lack of off-the-charts athletic talent—will be very high in next year’s draft should he forgo his final season in Tuscaloosa. It will be interesting to see how Ingram handles the bulls-eye on his chest that comes with being a returning Heisman Trophy winner—recently Jason White, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford all failed to repeat. In addition, Ingram may have to share more carries as a junior with true-sophomore Trent Richardson, who averaged 15 carries in Alabama’s final three games (he averaged nine carries through 11 games)."
Negatives: Not an elite athlete, just has marginal top-end speed, is not the guy you will draft if you're looking for a home run threat... Needs to work on pass-protection, has the frame to be a good blocker, but takes bad angles and misses a lot of his assignments... Suffered a small hip injury against Auburn in 2009, but bounced back well from it... Numbers could drop a little bit this year due to splitting carries with Trent Richardson, whom some believe is actually a better NFL prospect... Will not contribute at all on special teams... Doesn't have much for open field moves, absorbs a lot of hits... Will come out of college with a lot of tread on his tires... Has just limited upside due to his average athleticism."
A minor concern is the knee injury that sidelined Ingram for the first two games of this season and he has not been the same since. He returned for huge games against Duke and Arkansas, but those are two terrible defenses. In the next three SEC games, Ingram gained no more than 60 yards against either Florida, South Carolina, or Mississippi. Still, Ingram could be the best running back on the board and if he gets it back in gear, he could garner a Top 10 selection in the 2011 draft."
He is highly competitive, well-built and has been the catalyst of a national-championship offense. He is sound in pass protection and has the tools to become an every-down back in the pros. He is expected to declare for the NFL draft and projects as a mid- to late-first-round talent."
The Great Wes Bunting describes him as "more quick than fast" as if that were a bad thing, a rare divergence in perspective between that venerable Analyst and me: For me, that makes Ingram all the MORE alluring a Talent, because it's the constant 5 and 10 yard Gashes ~ not the occasional High Light Reel 80 Yard Blast ~ that forges Championships.
I do NOT countenance drafting Running Backs in the 2nd Round, much less the 1st...But if you absolutely had your heart set on it...you could do one hell of a lot worse.
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