RB Ray Rice has been everything and more for the city of Baltimore since joining the NFL back in 2008.
The Baltimore Ravens running back has demonstrated consistency carrying the rock, as he has rushed for over 1,000 yards in his last four seasons.
He has been extremely durable, despite an average of 277.25 rushing attempts per season, and has amazingly only missed three games in his five-year career (all of which came in his rookie year). Yes, that’s four straight seasons without missing a game, which is a rarity among running backs in this day of age.
Through all his success, he has elevated himself as the clear feature back in the Ravens’ backfield, never having a true No. 2 to threaten his workload. Through 2008-10, Rice’s backup was current Denver Bronco RB Willis McGahee, who at the time was reaching the wrong end of age 30 and appeared to be on his way out of the NFL, before reviving his career in Denver. Then in 2011, the Ravens took a flier on the talented-yet-troubled Ricky Williams, who was also near the end of his playing career.
Both backups, McGahee and Williams, served as more of a compliment to Rice as opposed to a one-two punch. However, both backups had at least 100 carries and 400+ yards (while active for a full season). So to say that they were just a couple of old farts to a young stallion would be an understatement.
But in 2012, the Ravens decided against bringing in another savvy veteran to replace Williams and opted to go younger, as they drafted 22-year-old Bernard Pierce in the third round of the NFL draft. Much like McGahee and Williams, Pierce carried the ball 108 times for 532 yards (4.9 YPC) and one touchdown in his first professional season. The only difference is that Rice saw his carries drop from 291 in 2011 to 257 in 2012.
Pierce has seen an expanded role over the last three weeks with his snap count jumping to an average of 30.7 after averaging just 11.1 through the first 14 games. As Pierce is the younger of the two, he is only expected to get better and become more of a threat to Rice’s touches going forward.
Rice has been a top-5 running back in fantasy football circles in the last few seasons, but that streak may end in 2013. Rice will still ne a hot commodity in points-per-reception leagues, though fantasy owners may be better off looking elsewhere in the first round.