Fantasy Football 2013: Why Ray Rice Is a Risky First Round Pick
If you have had Ray Rice on your fantasy team during any of the past four years, you have likely been pretty pleased with the results.
He has averaged 1,877 yards and nearly 10 scores per year over that time span. While these numbers have fantasy drafters taking him as one of the first players selected, there are a few reasons why Rice should be avoided in the first round of standard drafts all together.
The first of those reasons is a simple trend-line in his production. For the past three seasons he has gone from 308 carries, to 291, to only 257 carries last year.
His saving grace has surely been the 60+ receptions he has had in each of those three years. After scoring 15 times in 2011, he was reduced to 10 touchdowns last year. In 2012 he racked up “only” 1,621 yards compared to an average of 1,963 yards for the previous three years.
We will see later that the reduction in touches will continue and his yards per carry, which has also steadily dropped, will also be negatively affected in 2013.
Eight in the Box
The second issue Rice is dealing with is the loss of Anquan Boldin in the passing game. Teams will have to defend against the likes of Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, and Jacoby Jones in the passing game. Certainly not the scariest of trios and as a defensive coordinator I think I’d take my chances in single coverage against those three and stack the box to plan for Rice and Pierce.
So Rice will be dealing with more and more 8-man boxes. Teams will contain Rice so that he has fewer big gains when he does get lose. It all spells fewer yards on even fewer carries.
Loss of Leach
Third is the loss of Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach. Leach has been the lead blocker for Rice and has allowed him to have a staggering 4.57 yard per carry average over the last four seasons. Rice will likely see a drop in production without Leach leading the way and will also be privy to harder hits as he gets stuck in the collapse of an eight man box.
Running back by committee?
What I see as the largest kink in Rice’s armor is some guy names Bernard Pierce. Over the last nine weeks of 2012, Pierce averaged 10 touches per week! That is 160 touches over the course of a season for a team that doesn’t run up the score. While this is likely good for the long term health of Ray Rice, it is terrible for his year to year fantasy numbers.
Not only is Pierce getting the touches, but he is doing something with them. Last season he averaged over 4.9 yards per carry, which if you didn’t remember was even better than Rice. He has apparently put on even more muscle after playing last year around 218 pounds. He is the perfect complement to the speedy Rice and will be used often.