Ray Rice: Fantasy Draft Value, Red Flags and Predictions for Ravens RB
When it comes to Ray Rice, the question isn't whether he'll be one of the top running backs in fantasy football this season—for the past three years, that's been the case—but rather whether he'll be the top fantasy back and first overall pick in your draft.
Is he more valuable than Arian Foster or LeSean McCoy? Should you take a top quarterback like Aaron Rodgers before drafting Rice? Are there any reasons to suggest he might regress this year?
There's only one way to find out, my fellow fantasy fiends. Let's break down the talented runner for the Baltimore Ravens.
Rice hasn't missed a game in three seasons. In two of the last three seasons, he's eclipsed 2,000 yards from scrimmage (and he wasn't far off in 2010 with 1,776 yards). He finally eradicated his biggest fantasy weakness last season—he scored just 14 total touchdowns between 2009 and 2010—by scoring 15 last season.
And truthfully, there isn't really another back in Baltimore that seems a threat to lessen his workload. He's had at least 63 catches the past three seasons and should stay on the field in the red zone, so his fantasy value isn't really threatened by anyone in Baltimore.
It gets better. Upon an even closer examination, you find that the Ravens are a drastically better team when Rice carries the load on the ground.
In Baltimore's four regular-season losses last year, Rice carried the ball just 32 times for 193 yards (48.2 yards per game) and no rushing scores. In the team's 12 wins, he had 259 carries for 1,171 yards (97.6 yards per game) and 12 rushing scores.
Contrast that to Joe Flacco, who averaged 39 passing attempts in Baltimore losses and 32.2 passing attempts in Baltimore wins. In games in which Flacco had 32 passing attempts or more, the Ravens were 4-4.
In other words, Baltimore was far better as a football team when they relied on Rice rather than Flacco. So expect Rice to once again be the focal point of Baltimore's offense, and expect him to put up huge fantasy numbers in the process.
I guess you could note the fact that Rice had 370 touches in 2010 and 367 touches last year, and with that sort of workload, he could be at risk for an injury. If you like, you can focus on the fact that the offensive line has some questions heading into this season.
But in general, Rice is as safe as they come at the running back position.
Draft Day Value
Who would you take with the top-overall pick?
So Foster versus Rice—who will it be?
Rice is probably the slightly safer pick seeing as Foster dealt with some injuries last season, but Foster has the greater upside. In the past two seasons, Foster has had 4,061 yards from scrimmage and 30 touchdowns in 29 games. That trumps the 3,844 yards from scrimmage and 21 touchdowns in 32 games for Rice in that same time span.
Thus, I have to give the nod to Foster. But if Rice is available and Foster is off the board, snatch him up and be thankful you nailed your first-round pick.
Tweet That Says It All
Jamison Hensley from ESPN very briefly summarizes what I've been saying all along:
Ray Rice named most irreplaceable back es.pn/PbxBQ8— Jamison Hensley (@espnafc_north) August 21, 2012
That designation was put together by Football Insiders, and they noted that "Rice is the focal point for the entire Baltimore offense, in particular because he's so good as both a runner and a receiver."
Of course, if you read my fantasy strengths above you already knew that. But I wanted to reemphasize the point.
|Games||Rush Yards||Rush TD||Receiving Yards||Receiving TD|
With the exception of perhaps Rodgers, there isn't a safer fantasy option than Rice. There really isn't much more to add beyond that.
Anything can happen in fantasy football, so Rice isn't guaranteed to propel you to a championship. But if you look at the traditional critiques of running backs when making projections—injury history, limited workload, a touchdown-vulture in short-yardage situations on the roster, inconsistency, a poor supporting cast—none apply to Rice.
Draft him with confidence, and enjoy your good fortune that he was available.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets are cracking like a Ronda Rousey armbar.
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