The looming suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has created a golden opportunity for rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro. A fourth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina, Taliaferro offers an all-around skill set, but specializes in tough running between the tackles.
As a rookie, he’ll immediately compete for carries with Bernard Pierce given Rice’s expected absence for as many as six games. And even when Rice returns to the lineup, there’s no reason why Taliaferro can’t remain a key contributor.
Seemingly on the decline, Rice was held to an atrocious 3.1 yards per carry last season, producing the fewest yardage and touchdowns since his rookie year. The shortcomings of Baltimore’s shoddy offensive line didn’t do him any favors, but it also appeared as though Rice had lost a step.
Taliaferro’s competition for that early starting role, Pierce, fared even worse than Rice last fall, averaging a shockingly unproductive 2.9 yards per carry. As a rookie, however, Pierce impressed with a 4.9 yards-per-attempt average. Still, experience alone shouldn’t give Pierce the nod over Taliaferro.
Running back is arguably the easiest position to make an effortless jump from college to the pros at, and Taliaferro does enough things well to suggest he’s capable of opening the year as the Ravens’ No. 1. Although his competition was nothing to write home about at Coastal Carolina, Taliaferro displayed adeptness as a runner, with a good blend of size, vision and toughness.
He’s not a home-run threat, nor is he a particularly gifted route runner, but he consistently falls forward upon contact, which could make him the most equipped to produce behind Baltimore’s leaky front.
Taliaferro’s rookie training camp will be crucial to his chances of surpassing Pierce and challenging Rice. The coaching staff knows what it has in both veterans, so Taliaferro must showcase some consistency to shoot up the depth chart.
Cody Strahm is an NFL Senior Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter.