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Can Ray Rice be “Ole Reliable” again in 2013?


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Ray Rice has arguably been the most consistent running back in fantasy football since 2009 when he posted 254 attempts, 1,339 rushing yards, 702 receiving yards, eight total touchdowns, and, for all you points-per-reception players, 78 receptions. Those don’t sound like huge fantasy numbers, but his numbers have climbed since then reaching a climax in 2011 with 2,000-plus total yards and 15 total touchdowns. Not only have his stats remained consistent, but the man hasn’t missed a start since 2009. Not even Adrian Peterson can say that!

So it brings up the question, can Ray Rice be reliable once again in 2013?

Pushing his stats aside, last season Rice lost carries because of the emergence of Bernard Pierce. Pierce regularly played full series in place of Rice. The lost snaps for Rice never seemed to affect his rushing attempt totals by the end of the season, but I expect his attempts per game to drop from last season as the Ravens will try to prolong the career of their starting back by using Pierce more.

For the regular watchers of Ravens games, we all saw Rice fail to break out a 30-plus yard rushing attempt. He came close with the miraculous 4th-and-29 yard run against the San Diego Chargers that ultimately allowed the Ravens to tie the game with a field goal then win the game with another in overtime. In previous seasons, Rice had multiple breakout runs and his legs didn’t appear as tired as they did last season. Are we already seeing his gradual decline in explosiveness and elusiveness?

It’s no secret every running back in the league would benefit from a fullback like Vonta Leach, but with the release of the Pro Bowler this offseason will it affect Rice’s ability to burst through holes in the defensive line? I have watched tape on the Ravens’ offensive line and I was very impressed. Their offensive line only allowed the defense to stuff a rushing attempt 16 percent of the time and helped Ravens running backs to average 4.53 yards per carry. Therefore, I can confidently say if Rice’s rushing attempts begin to fail it will be because of his legs not his offensive line, but then again, his legs have put him into star status as one of the league's best running backs, so I don’t expect his legs to fail, either.

At the age of only 26, Ray Rice should be entering the final years of his prime. The 2013 season will be a very good or a very bad one. Where should you draft Ray Rice?

I have Rice sixth among running backs this season behind Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, Doug Martin and Trent Richardson. I have his projections set at 260 attempts, 1,200 rushing yards, 700 receiving yards, nine total touchdowns, and 60 receptions. Rice should be a late first- or early second- round pick this season with medium upside.

When considering Rice this season, remember what I have pointed out and make the decision: Is Ray Rice still reliable?