2014 Fantasy Football: RB Ray Rice Bound For Bounce-Back Season

Ray Rice

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been said that your first two fantasy football draft picks can’t make your season a success, but they can certainly break your chances at a championship. How true that is.

It seems every year, top drafted players don’t live up to their expectations even after being drafted by every soul. Nothing is worse that when you place your pick and you get only 10th round production out of a first rounder, while your league-mate gets first round production of his 10th round selection. Kind of evens out, doesn’t it? But it’s the worst thing that can happen to you and it certainly happened to every owner of Ray Rice.

Rice was expected to keep producing his top 10 results, but he instead left owners with a sour taste in their mouths. His production dipped by over 100 points from 2012 – ranking 28th among running backs.  That not only left a sore for his owners, but for those that won games because Rice was unable to fulfill projections almost on a weekly basis. In turn, that has led to the Baltimore Ravens running back to go sorely dismissed in this year’s drafts.

But who can blame them, why would people pay top dollar for a player two years removed from a league leading performance?

At the moment, Rice is the 24th running back selected in the average mock draft (5th-6th rounds). That means he’s typically being selected as a FLEX player for most teams. Those that are picking him are getting great value, value that ranks among second round production.

Why am I so confident that he’ll rebound so well?  Two words, Gary Kubiak.

Like Rice, Kubiak had a down season that left the Houston Texans and their fans with a sour taste in their mouths. So much so, that he was fired from his head coaching position during the 2013 season.  However, even though he was let go, he is still a offensive mind that can really help the Ravens and Rice.

A major problem for Rice last season was his yards per attempt. His average dipped from 4.4 YPA to a dismal 3.1 YPA. However, don’t think that this is a matter of his talent receding. Rice’s backup, Bernard Pierce had an impressive stat line (4.9 YPA to 2.9 YPA on less carries) as well. Something smells fishy.

That smell is otherwise known as Jim Caldwell.  Caldwell took over offensive coordinator duties for the Ravens in late 2012 – replacing Cam Cameron whom Rice had great success with.  Rice’s production dipped during the replacement and his dip continued through the 2013 season.

Point being, his scheme worked (as the Ravens won the Super Bowl in the 2012 season), but it just didn’t matchup for the Raven’s running committee. But this isn’t surprising, as Caldwell’s offenses only produced Top 15 rushing production one season (and that was his Cameron adopted Ravens team). Just look at the horrid production Donald Brown and others had for the Indianapolis Colts. Thankfully, though, Kubiak has a proven track record with running backs.

During his three season as offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, Kubiak’s scheme helped Clinton PortisReuben Droughns, and Mike Anderson all to 1,000 yard seasons. In his last season, he almost had two running backs reach that milestone, as Tatum Bell produced 921 yards. This list of success continues once he landed Arian Foster in Houston.

In his three healthy seasons in Houston, Foster ranked within the top-five fantasy backs each season. And much like Rice, Foster is a dual-threat that Kubiak utilized very well in the passing game (unlike Caldwell had with Rice).

Now that Rice has a coordinator whose style matches his and can coach running backs very well, I fully expect Rice to bounce back with over 1,600 yards from scrimmage as well as at the very least, 8 touchdowns. That’d put him back over 200 points this season.

This is not to say that his projections warrant a high-round pick. Just know that if he’s on the board in the fifth round, you should take him before you can’t. His potential is too great to pass on and he is the ultimate low risk/ high reward fantasy option this year.


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