Fantasy Face-off: Derrick Ward vs. Ray Rice vs. Reggie Bush

Aug 26, 2009

All three backs are going around the 4th or 5th round in fantasy drafts.  Derrick Ward has an Average Draft Position of 47, while Reggie Bush’s is 49 and Ray Rice’s is 61.  The question, is which back will be the most reliable fantasy option?

Obviously if he can stay healthy, Reggie Bush has the ability to put up some huge numbers in that Saints offense.  1000 receiving yards is not out of the question, with an additional 500-600 on the ground.  He will score his TDs in a variety of ways, but they usually come in bunches.  He is steadier in the passing game than carrying the ball, which gives him a major advantage in PPR leagues.  He was much better at home (93.4 yards per game, 4 TDs) than on the road (75.4, 2 TDs) last year.  His career numbers on the road (86.1 ypg) are actually slightly better than his home numbers (76.6), but he does almost all of his scoring at home (15 TDs compared to 5 road TDs).  The talent is there.  It’s just a matter of staying on the field.  Aside from the injuries, the only thing that worries me is the plethora of weapons at Drew Brees’ disposal.  Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey are good bounceback options.  Lance Moore was steady and reliable last year.  Robert Meachem as big time potential.  Devery Henderson is still in the mix.  Pierre Thomas can catch the ball out of the backfield.  Bush isn’t a lock to catch 80 passes.  If he doesn’t do serious damage in the passing game, he won’t meet his expectations.

Ray Rice has won the starting RB job in Baltimore, but is unlikely he will get the ball at the stripe. Those duties will belong to Le’Ron McClain and/or Willis McGahee.  Rice was productive in a limited capacity last year with 454 yards on 107 carries (4.2 ypc) and 33 receptions for 273 yards.  He failed to score a TD though, which really hurts is fantasy value.  It’s great if you’re going to pile up the yards, but if you don’t get the occasional six point TD bump from Rice, he’s not going to give you the big games you occasionally need from your RBs to win a fantasy matchup.  Even though the Ravens are a run-first team, there just won’t be enough yards for Rice because if he’s healthy McGahee is going to get 8-10 touches per game.  McClain will probably get a couple as well.  He’s a borderline RB2 in PPR leagues, and if he wants to make the leap to RB2 in non-PPR leagues, he’ll have to prove he can cross the goal line. 

Derrick Ward will have to prove that his production was based on his ability, rather than the New York Giants system.  The Giants led the league with 5.0 yards per carry, while Tampa was tied for 18th at 4.1 ypc.  He hasn’t officially won the starting gig with the Bucs, but he should win out over Earnest Graham after signing as a Free Agent in the offseason.  That said, Earnest Graham will get plenty of carries making this a pretty even RBBC.  Graham will likely get the goal line looks while Ward will get the passes out of the backfield.  Clifton Smith and even Cadillac Williams could also work their way into the mix for the Bucs.  It’s hard to predict what Ward will do on a new team with a first-time Head Coach.
Of the three, Ward looks to be in the biggest time share.  Reggie will get fewer carries, but he’ll also catch more passes.  All three should catch 40+ passes this year.  If Rice can get in the end zone, he could be the top scorer of the three.  To me Reggie has the most potential while Rice is the safest play.  Plus, if you can sneak an extra round in and still get him, your fantasy squad will be that much tighter.

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