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What's Going to Happen in the Baltimore Backfield? - Footballguys

The Footballguys staff offers thoughts on the Baltimore running back situation

Baltimore has one of many backfields where the roles are not clearly defined. Since running back is one of the most important positions in fantasy football, it's wise to get as clear a picture as possible on every backfield.

The Ravens were a team many expected to add a running back in the 2018 NFL Draft. Then they didn't, which indicates the team is happy with their backfield. But how does it shake out? Is Alex Collins the unquestioned workhorse on first and second downs? Can Javorius Allen and/or Kenneth Dixon eat into Collins' touches? Who is the primary third-down back?

Daniel Simpkins: Few players who end up on a new team so late in the process can make the most of that change of scenery. Alex Collins certainly is one who converted on his opportunity and figures to be the starter. He is still being dramatically undervalued, and with the potential this team has to improve, I think that's a large oversight by fantasy players.

I still believe in the talent of Kenneth Dixon; I just don't know how the coaching staff feels about him at this point. Injuries and suspensions can put you in the doghouse with coaches, and Dixon has experienced both. He's clearly the number three option behind Alex Collins and Javorius Allen entering training camp. He'll have to earn back the number two role and hope Collins struggles to be fantasy relevant this year.

Ari Ingel: Looking at this backfield as it stands today, Alex Collins should see the bulk of the carries and also 35+ catches and a lot (although not all) of the goal line work. We saw last year Javorius Allen steal a few goal-line carries and catches. Unless...

A lot of passing down work will be handled by Allen. Unless...

The great unless is Kenneth Dixon. He was drafted to be their feature back and I had a high grade on him coming out of college.

Early injuries and suspensions have derailed the early start to his career but counting him out is foolish. He is potentially more talented than Alex Collins as a runner and Allen as a pass catcher. Danny Woodhead trained with him a lot last season and thought very highly of him.

If Dixon lives up to his potential he will make Allen irrelevant to start the season and could take over this backfield by mid-season. Then again, he could disappoint like many high draft running backs and this backfield is really all about Collins. Fortunately for most drafters, we should have a pretty clear picture by the end of August.

Ryan Hester: Of the many backfield-related Campfire chats we've had, this one seems the clearest. Collins will be given the early-down work, pending a surprising camp showing from Dixon. Collins has not shown that he has the game to be a third-down player, leaving those duties up in the air. Presumably, Allen will be given that role, again, pending a surprise from Dixon.

Allen has been known as a good pass-blocker and receiver since his college days, evidenced by two 45-plus catch seasons out of his three in the NFL so far.

While he's not the kind of value who can be drafted as a middling RB2 and provide top-six RB ceiling, he's the kind of value that is predictable and safe. His range of outcomes - on the high end and the low end - is narrow, which can be a necessary asset for a strong fantasy team.

Chad Parsons: We know what Javorius Allen is at this point - a depth NFL option who can step in at a baseline level if needed. However, no team's plan is to funnel touches Allen's way. Kenneth Dixon has 1A potential after his quality 2016 rookie season. A suspension and a knee injury later, however, leaves Dixon as a major projection to gain even the workload he had two years ago (around 10 touches per game). Alex Collins is the unquestioned starter after closing the seasons strong (17 or more touches each of the last seven games) and Baltimore bringing Collins back plus not reinforcing the position in the draft or free agency. Collins fits the criteria of a quality top-12 running back bet for a discount. Typically a back who has the clear projected starting role in the price range of RB20 to RB30 and is younger than 28 years old is a strong combination to emerge as a significant profit investment.

Justin Howe: I do have a ton of interest in this backfield, assuming it unfolds the way I expect: with Alex Collins as the lead dog. This isn't a dynamic offense, but it's a voluminous one - only two teams have snapped more plays over the past three seasons. If Collins, the only featured-back candidate on the depth chart, runs away with the job, he's locked in as a consistent, high-end RB2.

I don't see the appeal to Kenneth Dixon, who's yet to bring anything interesting to the NFL table. Collins, on the other hand, has been an underrated prospect since his draft season. He bombed his combine workout but was a uniformly productive guy over his three years at Arkansas. He's proven himself an underrated receiver, as well, and he looks to have most of this backfield locked down. He's certainly the only candidate who's ever looked special on an NFL field. As it stands now, I'm prioritizing him in early drafts ahead of ADP-mates like Derrius Guice, Jay Ajayi, and Derrick Henry, none of whom project to catch many balls.

Matt Waldman: I don't care if this is a fantasy site, if Marshal Yanda isn't mentioned once in this thread, we're doing a disservice to explain why everyone likes the potential of the Ravens ground game. Yanda is one of the best guards in football. He's an excellent puller and runners can work behind him on power, trap, and counter for chain-moving gains. Without Yanda for much of last year, Alex Collins still managed good fantasy production.

With Yanda, Collins or Kenneth Dixon can become top-12 fantasy backs. Both are skilled runners after contact and possess the decision-making and footwork to become top-15 fantasy runners. Dixon has more athletic ability and a great college resume of tape as a pass receiver. Collins' hands are an example of quality over quantity when it comes to box-score scouting. He rarely caught passes at Arkansas but when he did, he had some great examples on film.

I think the odd-man out will be Javorius Allen. If I had to pick today, Collins will start but Dixon is capable of overtaking Collins in camp. One thing is certain - if Lamar Jackson earns the starting job by mid-season, the efficiency of the ground attack will increase because of the threat of Jackson's legs forcing opponents to stay more disciplined with their lanes, which slows their pursuit to the actual ball carrier.

Andy Hicks: The Baltimore Ravens lack a quality lead runner but have several serviceable options heading into the 2018 season. The clear option to be the best back is Alex Collins, who was a great surprise arriving as a late cut by the Seattle Seahawks. Collins is getting taken as a high RB2 in most drafts, which looks to be a significant risk. One-year wonders abound at the running back position, especially from the unexpectedly successful ones.

The wildcard is, as usual, Kenneth Dixon. Into his third year, Dixon has been beset by suspensions and injury, but finally saw significant action late last year. In the last six games, he had more than 10 carries in four of them and with a full preseason may finally be able to deliver on his promise. Dixon is a significant threat to both Collins and the projected third-down back in Javorius Allen. Allen is good, but clearly not the best at both lead runner and third down back. He is however versatile with over 500 rushing yards and 40 receptions in two of the last three years. If as usual, Dixon disappoints then Collins becomes a borderline RB2, while Allen becomes a viable flex option. If Dixon does deliver, Collins and Allen are almost useless while Dixon overshoots his ADP significantly. For this reason, Dixon is the only back to own, until he isn’t.