There are a couple reasons why I really, really like Rice this year.
First, the Ravens cut Willis McGahee. McGahee is a decent running back, but over the last few years in Baltimore he has developed into nothing more than a touchdown vulture. He was never good enough to own in 10 team leagues, but he always stole goal-line carries from Rice. Now, McGahee is out of the way, and Rice is likely to get a chance to get those goal-line touches.
While the signing of Ricky Williams may cut into his touches and yards a little bit, I don't think it will be a huge issue. Rice wasn't built to carry the ball 350 times anyway.
The important things to know are that Williams probably won't take all that many goal line carries from Rice, and Rice is a far better third-down back. Williams may get a couple plays here and there, but I think essentially trading McGahee for Williams helps Rice's value.
Next, the Ravens signed Vonta Leach. Leach is probably the best blocking fullback in the league. Last year he blocked for none other than Arian Foster, the league's leading rusher.
I'm not saying that Leach is going to come in and allow Rice to rush for 2,000 yards, but obtaining a great blocking fullback can't be a bad thing. With Leach leading the way, maybe Rice can get into the end zone in those goal-line situations a little bit easier.
Finally, Rice is entering his contract year. It's no secret that the contract year provides some extra motivation. This year, he's going to be fighting for his first big pay day. Enough said.
Rice is considered by most to be a top-six player. Where he fits in that top six varies. I wouldn't necessarily take him at No. 3, but I think I would probably rank him there with what I know now.
Other than Arian Foster and AP, I think Rice is the best fantasy option this year. Between his skills as a runner and pass-catcher, his durability and the offensive scheme he plays in, I wouldn't be surprised if Rice has a huge year.
If you want Rice in an auction draft, you're going to have to pay a pretty big sum of money to get him. Right now his value is hovering around $50. While I don't usually like targeting top level players, if you can get Rice for a shade over $50, I say you might as well go for it if it fits into your draft strategy. If I'm going after any top-10 player, it's definitely going to be Rice.
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