Fantasy Football Information: Ravens’ Running Back Committee
In 2008 the Ravens went to the AFC championship game with a rookie quarterback. While Joe Flacco did start from week one of the season, he did not carry this team to the championship game alone. With a strong defense and Ray Lewis, any young quarterback has a great opportunity to shine.
Beyond a stellar defense, they also have a strong offensive line to give him time to find his receivers. With a group of pass catchers like Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton and Todd Heap (when healthy) you can understand why Flacco had success in ’08.
Ravens are a run first offense
While Flacco is set up to grow as a quarterback with talented skill players, the Ravens offense still has a run first mentality. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has long shown he can make runners in his offense, very fantasy friendly.
In 2006 Cameron was the offensive coordinator for the Chargers when LaDanion Tomlinson made his run for 30 touchdowns. The next season Cam was the head coach for the Dolphins, when Ronnie Brown became a fantasy stud, before his injury.
Last season Cameron came to the Ravens and I thought for sure that Willis McGahee was set up for a great fantasy season. But before that year even started Willis was already having health issues and struggled most of the season. In my appraisal of Baltimores running game last year, I thought if McGahee was unable to play then surly rookie Ray Rice would pay off for fantasy teams.
That thinking may have held true if not for Le’Ron McClain making a splash onto the scene. McClain proved to have not raw power but he also has quick feet, that remind some of Jerome Bettis.
Like Bettis, McClain is more then just a guy that can smash over the goal line for a touchdown, he also can break long runs. Just go onto you tube and watch his 82 yard TD against the Cowboys and you can see this big man, moves well in the open field.
Fantasy Projections for the Ravens Running Backs
Le’Ron McClain’s Value
McClain had 11 touchdowns in 2008 and was the true go to man as the season progressed. Some are concerned about the Ravens letting full back Lerenzo Neal go, for fear that Le’Ron will be used as just a full back in ’09. If that were the case then the Ravens would use McGahee and Rice as the main runners on the team.
“You know, I’ve read that everybody thinks we’ve moved him back to fullback and I’m not sure where that came from. He’s a running back.” - Camron’s comments about Le’Ron McClain
Look for Le’Ron to receive at least twelve carries a game in this offense every week. Beyond that he will receive just about every touchdown opportunity inside the five yard line, as he is the true goal line back on this team.
Given the fact that he is the touchdown maker, this makes him the most valuable runner for fantasy leagues on this team. At this time I would suggest drafting McClain as a third running back for your team. He should have no problems posting another double digit scoring season in 2009.
Willis McGahee’s Value
Willis McGahee has had two more knee surgeries this off-season. While Cam Cameron has come out and denied rumors of Willis running with the second team (behind Rice), these continuing knee problems are very concerning.
If Willis some how makes it through spring healthy, I believe he will go down with an injury some time in the first month of the season.
McGahee will probably not engage in a lot of heavy contact drills as the Ravens let him heel his knee. But when the season comes and he has to shed off 330 pound tacklers, that knee will not hold up. In my opinion Willis’s career is over, because once you have knee problems that are not getting better, you usually never recover (Terrell Davis anyone).
As far as his fantasy relevance you should stay away from Willis this season. If his knee some how recovers, he might be worth something next year.
Ray Rice’s Value
This year you should be able to get Rice very cheep at your fantasy draft. He has the tools to be a very solid fantasy runner and on this team he could be a star. Look to draft Rice as a backup and hold onto him, until McGahee goes down with another ailment. If McGahee does in fact go down in the first month then you will have Rice for your bye weeks and you can use him then.
Written By- Sean E. Douglas: fantasy-info.com
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