It was announced that Ray Rice will be suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season. Both games will be home games, against division foes in the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. With this information owners can now plan on what they should do when it comes to both Bernard Pierce and Ray Rice for the 2014 season. A few questions come to my mind immediately in regards to the Ravens backfield.
What should owners expect from Ray Rice in 2014?
Ray Rice was a disappointment in 2013. I was very high on him coming into the 2013 season. I expected traditional Ray Rice performance. Especially when the Ravens brought fullback Vonta Leach back to block for him. I try to not let one bad season influence me severely when planning for the upcoming season. Before last season, Rice had a four-year stretch as a dynamic running back.
During that four-year period, Rice was used early and often. Running backs tend to decline after such use, especially as they approach age 30. I still believe in Ray Rice, who is 27 and will be willing to draft and wait for him while he is suspended.
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Gary Kubiak is taking over as the offensive coordinator in Baltimore this season. Not only does Kubiak have a strong belief in the running game, but his play calling has produced tremendous fantasy value in previous seasons.
The offensive line was atrocious in Baltimore last season. Jeremy Zuttah was brought in to help upgrade the center position. Last year, center Gino Gradkowski was the worst center in the league per Pro Football Focus. Kubiak uses a power run scheme, strengthening the middle of the offensive line was a must. The Ravens also let Michael Oher leave free agency. Some feel this is addition by subtraction. They also added a few rookie free agents that may be able to step in and help.
An improved offensive line combined with Kubiak addition should mean good things for the Ravens rush attack this season.
What should owners expect from Bernard Pierce?
Bernard Pierce has always been highly thought of among fantasy football players. Pierce is typically one of the first handcuffs taken and when he has had opportunities in Baltimore he tended to produce. He will enter 2014 as the starting running back for the Baltimore Ravens.
Bernard Pierce should provide value as long as he remains the starter. An upgrade offensive line combined with Gary Kubiak’s run scheme should help Peirce be effective this season. Facing the Bengals and Steelers are exactly the easiest of opponents but opportunities for Peirce to succeed should be available.
What will the Ravens do when Rice is done with his suspension?
I don’t believe Rice will immediately get the starting role. It will likely be a time share that will fluctuate based upon performance. I believe Rice is still the more talented runner and will regain his role as the teams featured back. That said I’ve seen too many backs prove ineffective around this point in their career.
At this point per myfantasyleagues.com Ray Rice is the 27 running back off the board and 76th player taken. Bernard Pierce is 36 running back and 113th player overall. After today’s news, I expect the two to be much closer. I think you will be able to grab both back to back in rounds 8/9 and get great production. It may be frustrating when Ray Rice rejoins the team in relation to who should start. Owners who draft the duo will see their patience pay off as the season goes along.
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