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Spotlight: Ray Rice

posted by Chris Smith on Jul 15th


Chris Smith's thoughts

Ray Rice put together his third outstanding season in a row last year, finishing as the top ranked fantasy running back and was a superstar in points per reception fantasy leagues. He is quite similar in stature to former megastar Barry Sanders and is beginning to put up statistics year after year that would make Sanders himself proud. At 5'8 and 199 pounds he is built low to the ground, has incredible lateral movement and yet still has enough pop in his powerful legs to break through arm tackles. Even better is his amazing ability to catch passes and make things happen in the passing game. He is first in both receptions and yardage over the past three years. Rice has been remarkably durable and has not missed a game over the past three seasons.

Check out his statistics from 2009 to 2011:

  • 853 carries (4th)
  • 3926 rushing yards (3rd)
  • 24 rushing touchdowns (6th)
  • 217 receptions (1st - 27 more than number two on the list)
  • 1962 receiving yards (1st - 235 more receiving yards than number two on list)
  • 5 receiving touchdowns (3rd)
  • 766 Fantasy Points (1st)

The above statistics illustrate just how successful Rice has been over this span. Not only does he lead running backs in fantasy points, he also leads in receptions and receiving yardage and is third in rushing yardage. That is an impressive achievement and quietly, he has become the top fantasy draft pick due to his impressive array of talents.

RICE WAS THE TOP FANTASY RUNNING BACK IN 2011. CAN HE REPEAT AS A TOP FANTASY WEAPON IN 2012?

He is in the prime of his NFL career and has been exceptionally durable
At 25-years of age and heading into his 5th professional season, Rice is in the prime of his career. He has not missed a game over the past three seasons and he is powerfully built, including strong legs and a great center of balance. He is rarely hit cleanly and can absorb punishment as well as any running back in the league today.

He has 1070 total touches (carries and receptions over the past three seasons). Will that excessive volume of work catch up to him in 2012?
There is no question that an average of 357 touches per season can have a toll on an NFL running back. However, the all-time best running backs have all finished between 3000 and 5000 total touches in their respective careers. Some of those players include:

  • Emmitt Smith: 4,924 touches
  • Walter Payton: 4,530 touches
  • Curtis Martin: 4,002 touches
  • Jerome Bettis: 3,679 touches
  • LaDainian Tomlinson: 3,896 touches
  • Barry Sanders: 3,414 touches

At this moment, Rice has only compiled 1210 total touches so wear and tear should have little to no impact on his play at this point in his NFL career.

Are there any areas in his play that should be a red flag for a fantasy owner in 2012?
There is one big caveat to be aware of in regards to Ray Rice heading into this season and one minor concern. The minor one is his currently unsettled contract situation. He is working with the team and is expected to reach a deal before training camp but if he gets to August and no deal is in place, it could affect him in a negative manner as he worries about the deal getting completed. As mentioned, the Ravens are expected to reach a deal with him very soon. The bigger concern is Rice's inability to convert touches to touchdowns in three of his first four seasons. He scored no touchdowns as a rookie with 140 touches, and then had Willis McGahee getting the goal line touches in both 2009 and 2010. There was no other running back option to mention last year and as a result, Rice finished with 15 touchdowns, seven better than his previous high. This year the team drafted Bernard Pierce from Temple in the 3rd round and at 218 pounds, he will give the Ravens a bigger, more powerful presence in goal line situations if they choose to go that route. Barry Sanders often was neglected in goal line situations and it is possible a similar thing happens to Rice once again this season.

Positives

  • Excellent blend of rushing and receiving skills
  • In the prime of his professional career
  • Is without question the go-to player in the Ravens offensive attack

Negatives

  • 1070 touches over a three year period is a ton of work for a running back and could have an impact on his longevity
  • Has finished with fewer than 10 touchdowns in three of the four seasons and the team drafted large running back Bernard Pierce from Temple to perhaps vulture the goal line touches
  • The Ravens defense is beginning to get long in the tooth which could lead to more come from behind situations and fewer carries for Rice in 2012. The good news is he still will likely grab some receptions in those situations

Final thoughts

Ray Rice is a special running back in the prime of his career. He has wonderful durability, terrific work ethic and has remarkable receiving skills. He has everything you need in an elite fantasy player. Without question barring injury he will finish with 280+ carries, 60+ receptions and 1800+ yards. For him to finish as a top-three player this season it will all come down to touchdowns and does some of his goal line touches get vulture from rookie Bernard Pierce. I see no reason to project fewer than 10 touchdowns so a return to the top-three is likely.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Jason Wood (Footballguys.com Senior Writer) said:

The Rice hold out is a concern, and I'm really beginning to question what the Ravens are up to. Ozzie Smith is a consummate pro obviously, but to leave both his QB and his RB hanging this offseason could bode ill for a team that already lost its best defender to a major injury and is in a division with two other teams more than capable of winning the division.

mphtrilogy said:

I don't think they replace him on the goal line.


Ray Rice projections

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