Ask Ray Rice‘s fantasy owners how they feel about his production this season, but do so at your own risk — you might make someone cry and/or you could get slapped in the face.
Rice has been a stud for the Baltimore Ravens since 2009, his sophomore year in the NFL. He’s been fantasy gold, rushing for over 1000 yards in four straight seasons and catching no less than 61 passes in each of them. He had over 700 receiving yards in two of those campaigns, cementing himself as one of the most dynamic combo-backs in the league. Just last year, he had 1621 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns, beautiful business as usual for him.
However, as his current fantasy owners will tell you while trying to hold back the waterworks, this season has been a horribly different story.
After being taken in the late-first and early-second rounds of drafts this year, Rice has been a major letdown by all accounts. Considering what we’ve come to expect from him, his numbers have been breathtakingly poor: he’s averaging a stinky three yards per carry, the lowest of his career and a rate that’s led him to just 89 rushing yards in three games.
One might make the argument that he’s already faced two of the best rush defenses in the league, but there’s certainly no excuse for averaging 3.4 YPC against the porous Buffalo Bills‘ front seven last week. Also, he’s Ray Rice — I don’t care who he’s playing, he should never have a total dud.
Obviously, his numbers are very disconcerting and they’re not going to get the job done for his owners. The good news, however, is that the madness may just come to an end this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins, typically ferocious against the run, failed miserably in their efforts to contain New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles last week. The speedy little fella lit them up for 142 total yards and two touchdowns as they focused their energy on trying to stop Drew Brees.
Granted, Joe Flacco is not Brees and the Ravens don’t have the same class of weapons as the Saints, so Miami’s defense is likely to turn its attention to Rice and keeping him a non-factor.
Still, the fact that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh stated this week that the team has made a mistake by not involving their star running back enough can’t be ignored. He made it clear that the team will rectify the situation and try to make Rice the focal point of their offense moving forward.
The matchup this week is tough, so vastly-improved numbers can’t be expected immediately. I’ll tell you this, though — Rice won’t be having a dud. He should push for 20-plus touches and be heavily featured in both the run and passing game. There’s an excellent buy-low opportunity here, so if there’s a chance you can swing a deal for him, make it happen. The breakout is around the corner.