Owning the starting running back for the Ravens doesn’t seem very appealing on the surface, but I’d say their starter will carry significant late-round value. One reason is due to the fact that the Ravens possesses one of the better run blocking units (11th ranked run blocking grade from Pro Football Focus). That unit should also improve with the addition of tackle Ronnie Stanley from Notre Dame who the Ravens took #7 overall in this year’s draft. They have a crowded backfield but luckily the entire situation doesn’t appear very cloudy.
Breaking news: Marc Trestman loves throwing to his running backs
Last year Marc Trestman handed out 113 targets to his running backs. Trestman gave Matt Forte 130 targets in 2014 and 95 targets in 2013 when he was the offensive coordinator in Chicago. This is just your yearly reminder that any starting running back under Marc Trestman will be loaded with touches.
Justin Forsett, the favorite to start.
Justin Forsett had a disappointing 2015 season compared to his 2014 season. After averaging 5.4 yards per carry in 2014, Forsett’s yards per carry mark dropped to 4.2. One of the factors to keep in mind is that Forsett will turn 31 in October of this year. He hasn’t shown drastic signs of decline but was very average last year.
Forsett has the best chance to open training camp as the starter as he begins his ninth NFL season. The Ravens have expressed confidence in him through his involvement as a runner and receiver in 2014 and 2015. He recorded 235 carries and 59 targets in 2014 which gave him 294 touches total that year. He had 151 carries and 41 targets in 2015 which would extrapolated to a 307-touch pace.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh thinks Forsett looks like his old self, which would be great news for his owners.
“He looks to me like he did two years ago,” Harbaugh said to baltimoreravens.com. “I see the same running back we had two years ago, in terms of his speed, his explosiveness, his vision. He looks really good. I know there’s a lot of talk about the other guys, but he’s playing really well.”
Forsett is firmly in the driver’s seat to be the starting running back week 1 for Baltimore.
Determining Forsett’s handcuff is an impossible task. This is what you’ll have to monitor.
Kenneth Dixon won’t be given the keys to the starting gig out of training camp but he’s a strong backup candidate. He joins a litany of runners in Baltimore that will inevitably make things frustrating for fantasy owners seeking a clear handcuff to Forsett.
Kenneth Dixon fits the bill as a Marc Trestman running back. Dixon is a running back that can tote the rock and also give you problems trying to cover him in the passing game. In his senior season at Louisiana Tech, Kenneth Dixon amassed 1,073 rushing yards on 198 attempts which gave him a gaudy 5.4 yards per carry average. To go along with that Dixon managed to score 19 touchdowns rushing the ball. Dixon recorded 464 receiving yards and 7 receiving touchdowns on just 33 receptions. That is 14.06 yards per reception as a running back. Another very impressive fact about Dixon is that he managed to be the FBS all-time leader in touchdowns (87). This was for a few days until Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds surpassed him.
Due to his size, Kenneth Dixon is a surprisingly tough runner. At 5’10” and 208 lbs. Dixon managed to average 3.3 yards after contact. He’s known for being a quick and decisive runner that can explode out of the hole. Due to his decisiveness, he should mesh well with Baltimore’s zone blocking scheme. I would bet on Dixon being the next man up because of how comfortable he is catching the ball and his impressive physical profile.Dixon’s combine numbers suggest he won’t be frequently burning people down the sidelines but is shifty and explosive.
Javorius Allen, also known as the guy you get to partially blame for making this whole thing confusing.
Javorius Allen took the job after Justin Forsett got hurt in week 10 from a broken arm. Allen wasn’t exactly turning heads in 2015 when he got his chance. From week 10 to week 16 Allen handled 95 carries and recorded 332 rushing yards with those opportunities. That’s 3.60 yards per carry which isn’t anything to write home about. Marc Trestman stayed true to his offensive philosophy and gave Allen a staggering 49 targets in these 6 games (8.16 targets per game). Allen could find himself on the bottom of the totem pole in his second year in Baltimore. His somewhat lukewarm performance in 2015 and Baltimore’s decision to draft a running back in the fourth round don’t bode well for his status on the depth chart.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse Terrance West decided to show up
Terrance West sports a career 3.9 yard per carry average, yet here we are. Reports out of training camp have been singing his praises. Trestman has praised West as he is now “much improved in terms of pass protection.” Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun has said West is the “most explosive” player out of training camp. Coach Harbaugh echoed these sentiments by saying West “has done a great job of improving this spring.” This will be an interesting storyline to follow into the pre-season. It appears that West has at least earned a spot on the roster.
Prediction and draft advice
Justin Forsett will most likely receive the veteran treatment and be the starting running back coming out of training camp. Forsett’s average draft position makes him a value in PPR leagues as he is being drafted at 112 overall.
I’d avoid trying to handcuff Justin Forsett. It’d be a fool’s errand to play fortune teller today and determine which runner out of Kenneth Dixon, Javorius Allen, and Terrance West will ultimately be Forsett’s backup. If you’re the kind of person that feels they need some type of insurance then I’d bank on Kenneth Dixon if you have to draft before pre-season. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled during pre-season for who the Ravens start to tout as the second stringer to Forsett.