Of all the crowded, insufferably frustrating running back situations, what’s currently unfolding in Baltimore probably tops the list.
The Ravens coveted Terrance West coming out of college, were beat to the punch by Cleveland, but eventually got their man. The problem is, they have three additional RBs in camp, all with a good chance of making the final 53-man roster. As the preseason hype machine keeps revving up around West, should you make him a part of your draft plan this season?
Fear Of The One-Dimensional
Justin Forsett and Javorius Allen, despite their relatively underwhelming performances last season, are suited to play in the passing game, making them capable of playing in all types of game situations. A quick comparison shows that West is unlikely to be a candidate to fill that three-down role:
And while this may hinder any chance West has of being the main guy in the Baltimore backfield, it may indicate that instead of fighting Forsett and Allen for snaps, perhaps West assumes the goal-line role instead.
West scored twice on three attempts from inside the five yard line against Carolina in the Ravens first preseason game. Here’s how West has fared on carries inside the opponent’s five yard line compared to his current counterparts:
West was poor last season in this measure, but of the three players, he is the only one to post a positive efficiency season.
Does It Matter?
As an athlete, West is nothing special. In fact, his best comparable according to Player Profiler is downright depressing. If West is just a goal-line back, it’s difficult for that type of RB to be consistently relevant for fantasy purposes. Sure, touchdowns are crucial, but so are yards and catches.
If we assume the Ravens keep four RBs, West being one of them, we can use 2015 results to show how often Baltimore ran the ball inside the five, to try and predict what West’s opportunity might be.
Despite passing on 62.4 percent of their plays last season, inside the opponent’s five yard line, the Ravens became much more balanced, running the ball 48.5 percent of the time. Joe Flacco scored three of the team’s five rushing touchdowns. While it’s possible the Ravens RBs see more opportunity inside the five in 2016, there’s not much to indicate a sea change, with little turnover in both skill-position personnel and coaching staff.
A Gamble, Just Like The Rest
It’s clear that the Ravens’ front office likes West and has every intention of him making the final 53-man roster. While the healthy Ravens’ RBs split carries evenly in the first preseason game, it’s likely they envision West as the goal-line finisher among the bunch.
While fact-based analysis can ultimately be bucked by the will of those in charge, West hasn’t shown the pass-catching ability likely necessary to be a legitimate fantasy asset.
My personal plan this offseason has been to draft the cheapest option of the bunch if I’m deciding to invest in the Baltimore backfield. Up until now, that’s technically been West:
West’s upswing in ADP over the last three weeks is bringing him close to Kenneth Dixon, who was one of the best pass-catching RBs in this year’s draft, and Allen who has already shown strong receiving ability at the NFL level last season.
I won’t fault anyone for drafting West. Late in drafts, there’s little to truly be confident in. But as for me, I’ll lean towards late-round RBs that have a pass-catching trump card in their back pocket – Allen and Dixon – should injuries thrust them into relevance.