The Baltimore Ravens selected Bernard Pierce in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft. The young talent out of Temple University not only complemented starter Ray Rice throughout the season, but was leaned on during the Ravens Championship run to the Super Bowl. Pierce played a large role against the Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card round where he racked up a respectable 103 yards on 13 carries for the victory.
As it seems, timing is everything in the NFL. Some NFL athletes play their entire career without getting a chance to step onto the field in a Super Bowl. Yet, Bernard Pierce not only contributed in Super Bowl XLVII, but earned himself a ring in his very first season.
The reigning champs are prepping for the 2013 season and many believe Bernard Pierce’s role should see a significant increase after such a strong rookie campaign. The Ravens’ official website believes a “strong showing” from Bernard Pierce this summer could balance out the distribution of carries between he and Ray Rice. Coaching staffs could care less about fantasy football, and the reality of keeping superstar Ray Rice fresh throughout the NFL season does give the Ravens the best chance for success.
Last year, it seemed the first round of many fantasy football drafts were filled with question marks pertaining to workloads, injury statuses and overall trust. There was much uncertainty as the makeup of the top 10 running backs of the 2002 season included names like Ryan Matthews, Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden. The tried tested and true ability of players like Ray Rice allowed fantasy owners a sense of reassurance that they had a full-time starter on their fantasy team.
Ray Rice Career Statistics
Bernard Pierce Career Statistics
Ray Rice is only 26 years old and clearly an elite fantasy football option for 2013. Yet, there are some concerns that he will receive less carries this season in comparison to his normal workload in the past. After the 2010 season, the Ravens seemed to ease off Rice’s carries silently. The all-round fantasy stud saw 50 less carries than he did in 2010. Although stats can be misleading as Rice only had three carries the final game of the season last year against the Cincinnati Bengals, as the team rested their starter for the playoffs. Nevertheless, Ray Rice averaged 16 carries per game last season, which included four regular-season games where he reached the hundred yard mark.
Arguably 16 to 20 touches seems to be a realistic projection for 2013 season. Second year Pierce will not see the field on third down, but will handle most short yardage carries this season as he is a bigger back. There is always a fear of losing goal line carries to a bigger backup running back, yet Ray Rice is too versatile to keep out of goal line packages and should remain on the field in all keys scoring situations.
Ray Rice has slipped slightly in comparison to his average draft position from a season ago. Fantasy owners in PPR leagues should keep Ray Rice locked in as a top five option. Rice has always been an explosive receiving threat, with at least 60 receptions the last four seasons, including a minimum of 80 targets the last four years.
Despite the loss of veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin, the Baltimore Ravens offense shouldn’t change much entering the 2013 season. That old expression “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” will very much come into play on how the team attacks opponents through the air and on the ground.
Will 23-year-old Bernard Pierce steal enough carries to the point where you should downgrade Ray Rice’s 2013 fantasy value? No, but that day is coming where Pierce becomes more fantasy relevant and Ray Rice is thought as a viable RB2 option in PPR leagues and your second pick in a fantasy draft. Dynasty league owners should be heavily targeting Bernard Pierce this summer.