When it comes to running backs, Baltimore's Ray Rice is one of three stud backs with much lower risk than those in the next tier of running backs. The other two backs in that top tier are Houston's Arian Foster and Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy.
Since becoming a starter in 2009, Rice has been a model of consistency and the focal point of the Ravens' offense. To illustrate, he posted three-year lows back in 2010 with 1,220 rushing yards, 63 receptions and 1,776 yards from scrimmage.
In other words, his floor is really high.
Since 2009, there have been four seasons where a player has had at least 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Foster and Tennessee's Chris Johnson both have one; Rice has two.
Over the past three seasons, Rice has the third-most rushing yards (3,923), most receptions (217) and most receiving yards (1,962) among all running backs.
Not only has he been highly productive, but he has been extremely durable as well.
In the past three seasons, there are only four running backs with at least 2,000 rushing yards that have played in all 48 regular-season games during that span. Half of those four running backs are now retired: Thomas Jones and Ricky Williams. The other half are Chris Johnson and Rice.
When Willis McGahee was in town, Rice was ultra-productive but not necessarily at the goal line. In 2009 and 2010, McGahee rushed for a combined 19 touchdowns to Rice's 12. Last year, however, Rice rushed for a career-high 12 touchdowns with McGahee in the Mile High City.
Last year, Rice set multiple career highs including rushing yards (1,364), receiving yards (704) and total touchdowns (15).
Rice is a do-it-all back that is going to get a workhorse's workload and be highly productive on a per-snap, per-touch basis as well as with his overall numbers. It doesn't get much safer or better than Rice.
Strength of Schedule
Based on the cumulative fantasy points allowed to running backs last year by all of the Ravens' opponents this year, Rice and the Ravens' RBs have the 17th-most favorable schedule from a fantasy perspective. So, in other words, it's a middle of the road schedule. They have the 15th-easiest schedule in the fantasy postseason (Weeks 14-16) when the face the Redskins, Broncos and Giants.
For me, when it comes to the first overall pick in fantasy leagues this year, it comes down to Rice or Foster, and it's really a win-win decision. I have Foster ranked first overall in standard-scoring leagues, but I have Rice ranked first overall in point-per-reception (PPR) leagues.
With Foster, however, the concerns are the presence of a very capable backup in Ben Tate, and he's more of an injury risk than Rice. Rice is rock solid when it comes to durability and workload.
Rice is only 25 years old with three monster seasons under his belt. After signing a five-year extension this offseason with the Ravens, we should expect more of the same for the next several years, at least. In a dynasty format, I would take Rice No.1 overall in PPR formats and second overall in standard-scoring leagues.
Projection: (Rushing) 1,375 Yards, 10 TDs; (Receiving) 75 Receptions, 675 Yards, 2 TDs
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