Ray Rice is a Top-Five Fantasy Pick in 2010

Leslie CarlsonContributor IJune 15, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - JANUARY 16:  Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the ball against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Lucas Oli Stadium on January 16, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice has two years of experience under his belt and close to 200 pounds of power behind him. In 2009, he led all running backs with 78 receptions for 702 yards. He also ran 1,339 yards on the ground, scored seven touchdowns, and averaged 5.3 yards per carry.

His sophomore season saw great improvements to his overall game. Although you will rarely see him in the highlight reels on ESPN, his presence on the field is felt. Rice had 100 yard games and/or scored a touchdown in 14 of the first 16 weeks of the 2009 season.

His quarterback, Joe Flacco, was still learning the ropes last year, but with improvements to his game and solid additions to the Ravens’ passing attack, Rice is poised to have another big year in fantasy football .

To prove that Rice will be a force to be reckoned with in 2010, we look at something coach John Harbaugh had to say about him at the end of May, “You couldn’t have a better off-season that what Ray Rice is having.” His conditioning is still impeccable as he now sits at a chiseled 210 pounds.

Rice will be valuable to any fantasy team for several reasons. He has proven himself to be an elite fantasy running back, competing with the likes of Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, and Maurice Jones-Drew for a first round fantasy draft pick.

Last season, he had four games where he surpassed 100 rushing yards. He’s extremely versatile, as he also has a game in the books where he had over 100 receiving yards. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes him an explosive option.

However, don’t let the few games where Rice’s rushing yards were limited fool you. He did not always score a rushing touchdown, but he had four games where he brought in at least four receptions. His projected 2010 numbers should come close to what he did in 2009, and it’s reasonable to expect him to put up stats like these: 1,255 rushing yards, 864 receiving yards, and 10 TDs.

His rushing yards may drop a little, but as Flacco comes to his full potential, Rice will be used as a receiver option more often, and the other offensive talent will help take the defense’s focus off of Rice..this could inevitably lead to more touchdowns.

There are some predictions that not only will Rice be a Top-five pick, but could take over as the leading No. 1 pick. So why choose Rice over Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson? Johnson rushed for over 2,000 yards last season and no running back has been able to repeat such success. Peterson could be looked over in favor of Rice due to his fumble issues.

As for Rice, he now has Anquan Boldin demanding the respect of opposing teams and he'll get even more daylight to run through than he did last year. Boldin will be double-teamed at times and defenses will finally have to respect the Baltimore passing game.