As many fantasy owners who selected Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice know by now, the explosive back hasn't been very, well, explosive.
Many who took him in the first round of their 2010 fantasy football league draft likely selected him within the top five picks and had dreams of him going up and beyond the already gaudy production he served the fantasy realm in 2009.
While it wasn't exactly reasonable (or realistic) to expect or demand a 5'7" running back to improve on impressive numbers of 1,300-plus rushing yards, 700-plus receiving yards and seven total touchdowns, we all crossed our fingers that the little guy could best his previous season's production.
Nine games into the 2010 fantasy football season, most Rice owners are at the end of their rope, as the explosive superstar isn't even on pace to match his rushing yardage, receiving yardage or touchdown total from 2009.
While it's perfectly understandable to be disappointed that your prized first-round pick isn't carrying your team, a quick glance at Rice's brief NFL career suggests that you, the fantasy owner, are more to blame than Rice is.
By all accounts, Rice is still having a pretty decent season. He has two touchdowns and over 900 total yards on the season, which puts him on pace to at least get close to 2,000 total yards and somewhere near five touchdowns. As stated, if you look back at his first two seasons, that's exactly what you should have anticipated.
Can Rice live up to his high fantasy draft pick?
To figure out what Rice will put up the rest of the way, at least realistically, it takes one good, hard look at (again) what we all already know.
Rice Is Not a Touchdown Machine
Willis McGahee steals his goal-line carries, and as long as he's in town and the Ravens run a balanced offense, this won't change. But beyond that, Rice had a decent rookie campaign without any scores, and despite a very successful second season, he still scored just seven total touchdowns, which is not regarded as an elite number for a first-round pick or really even a RB1 in fantasy football.
His Division Isn't a Cakewalk
Unlike some of the other premier fantasy backs, Rice doesn't have an easy schedule, and it all starts with bruising matchups with the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as having to face a much-improved Cleveland Browns run defense.
The numbers don't lie. When Rice went off against Pittsburgh in his breakout season, even then he was held scoreless. Even against a weak Cleveland defense last year, he had just one touchdown.
It's not that Rice can't get it done against elite competition, but when going up against stronger run defenses, the Ravens wisely choose to use McGahee in short-yardage situations.
What's Missing in 2010?
The real issue has been Rice's inability to stay 100 percent healthy this year, while also not being able to break the long runs he was accustomed to in 2009. Rice had three runs of 50-plus yards in 2009, as opposed to zero so far in 2010. In fact, his longest run on this still fairly young season is just 24 yards.
So, quite literally, his biggest asset as a fantasy performer just isn't there right now.
There's Light at the End of the Tunnel
The good news, as I'm sure you've been waiting to hear, is that there are still enough games to be played for Rice to pick up his play and gain momentum. His yardage is already decent. He just needs to break more long runs and score some touchdowns.
True, easier said than done, but Rice could benefit from an easier second half of the schedule. Down the stretch of the season, Rice faces just two arguably "tough" run defenses in his final games, and one of those is actually the Cleveland Browns, a defense against which he still has the potential and ability to light it up. The other, you guessed it, is the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ultimately, you knew Rice wasn't a touchdown machine, and due to his small stature and the presence of McGahee, that likely will never be the case. But with tasty matchups against five teams that aren't elite run defenses, Rice could easily turn things around as the season carries on.
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