Jun 25

Ray Rice draft outlook affected; Ravens RB likely to cede carries to Bernard Pierce in 2013

Second year RB Bernard Pierce projects to carve out a role in the Ravens backfield to the detriment of Ray Rice owners (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times).

Second year RB Bernard Pierce projects to carve out a role in the Ravens backfield to the detriment of Ray Rice owners (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times).

Ray Rice doesn’t mind that he’ll be splitting more carries with Bernard Pierce,  but do you?

Fantasy football has many generally accepted rules that tend to go out the window when draft day comes… targeted players start to disappear; positional runs begin; and we forget everything we’ve told ourselves about not drafting Ryan Mathews and his balky, well, everything. That happens, and in general it’s feasible to overcome draft day mistakes, but, the axiom that I try to hold myself to involves ceilings vs. floors in the early rounds.

When selecting in the first and second round, I’m looking for a player with upside to be certain, but, I tend to concern myself largely with floor. I like to ask myself “What are the odds that this pick does not deliver a top 5-10 season at his position?” If the odds are too high on the wrong side of the ledger, then it makes sense to look elsewhere for a safer floor.

Ray Rice has been a back of great consistency, never falling below six total touchdowns and 1600 total yards in any season since 2009 (while leading the league in total yardage during that span) and he remains absolutely worthy of first round consideration. However, once the consensus top two backs are off the board (Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster, who we’ve been pumping up as a lock at the two spot already) is Rice really worthy of that third selection?

As of date of publication Fantasypros.com has Ray Rice seeded as the 7th best back with a high rank of three and an average of 6.7. Clearly prognosticators are expecting another strong campaign from Rice, but there is reason that his stock is dipping in early draft preparation season. Largely the concern relates to his workload rather than any signs of diminished skills or any lingering disdain over his case of playoff fumblitis.

Bernard Pierce delivered an impressive showing in his rookie campaign with Baltimore, notching a 4.9 YPC average including more than 200 yards on the ground in the team’s last two regular season games and another 202 yards on just 39 carries in the post season. Heading into this second campaign Pierce almost certainly projects to take on a bigger role.

Over the weekend Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com posted an article suggesting that the team would look to involve Pierce more in the ground game in an effort to mix in opposing styles and help keep both players fresh. Ray Rice finished last season with almost 2.5:1 carry ratio over Pierce, however, during seven of the final eight games of the 2012 regular season (Rice rested in week 17 with just three carries) and the four games of the postseason (which included a massive 30 tote effort for Rice in the divisional round) the distribution was 2.20/2.15:1 respectively. While Rice will continue to see the lion’s share of the backfield receptions, expect that trend to continue into the 2013 campaign.

For his part, Ray Rice is acknowledging the likelihood of Pierce carving out a bigger piece of the pie. He told NFL AM that sharing doesn’t bother him. While that makes him a good teammate and a great school yard chum, it does nothing to help his fantasy value.

The impact seems fairly clear… while Ray Rice still projects as a 300 touch back team context may no longer leave him as a lock for a top five running back ranking. Pierce, meanwhile, is an intriguing ‘handcuff plus’ candidate. Certainly, if Rice goes down with any type of injury Pierce is worth having on the roster as he’s shown he can carry the load, plus, with a modest estimate of 10-13 touches per week seemingly coming his way he could be worthy of flex starter consideration in deeper leagues.

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