Fantasy Fodder: Why Rice is still a top-five back

Grumpy Ravens coach John Harbaugh on Monday had to answer a few questions about the use of Ray Rice in Sunday's 22-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Based on the line of questioning from reporters, I'm guessing at least one of those guys has Rice, who had 27 rushing yards on a season-low five carries, on their fantasy team.

Sunday was the fourth time this season that Rice got fewer than 15 carries (uncoincidentally, the Ravens are 1-3 in those games). He got eight carries against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and afterward, Harbaugh vowed to get him more. But on Monday, he was defensive of Rice's touches, insisting the Ravens had to throw the ball.


This, of course, is frustrating to most Ravens fans. It also perturbs fantasy football players who own Rice.

I wouldn't panic, though. Even if Harbaugh and the Ravens go all pass-happy down the stretch, Rice still has top-five value at the running back position. With 46 receptions in nine games, Rice is on pace to set career highs in receptions (82) and receiving yards (836). And he is the primary option at the goal line. His six rushing touchdowns are why Rice has scored more fantasy points than Matt Forte, the league-leader in yards from scrimmage.


With the trade deadline looming in most leagues, now is a good time to try to swing a deal for Rice. The person who owns him might be even grumpier than Harbaugh was Monday.

Down goes Matt Schaub: The Texans quarterback is reportedly out for the season with a broken foot, which means Matt Leinart is now the starter in Houston. Yikes. Leinart won't match the production of Schaub, and he limits the value of Andre Johnson (Johnson will still be a top-20 wide receiver when he returns from injury). Arian Foster will face a lot of eight-man fronts with Leinart under center, but I wouldn't worry if you own him. He'll still produce.

Waiver pickup of the year?: Cowboys back DeMarco Murray had another 100-yard game last weekend, and he has now rushed for 601 yards over the past four games. Only 13 running backs have more than 600 yards on the entire season. Murray has gone from third-string rookie to fantasy stud in a month, and he should have top-10 production from here on out. If you claimed this guy off waivers, it should pay off in the fantasy postseason.

Fantasy penthouse: Aaron Rodgers threw for 250 passing yards and four TDs. Arian Foster did his thing with 186 total yards and two touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald had seven catches for 146 yards and two scores. Rob Gronkowski had eight grabs for 113 yards and two TDs. And props to the Bears D/ST for scoring three times.

Fantasy doghouse: Jay Cutler threw for just 123 yards and lost a fumble in a win over the Lions. Frank Gore had zero rushing yards on six carries. Reggie Wayne had three catches for 13 yards. Marcedes Lewis had one catch for negative-one yard.

The wire: 1. Grab Kendall Hunter in case Frank Gore remains sidelined. I stashed him on my bench all season. … 2. Denarius Moore has clicked with Carson Palmer. … 3. Laurent Robinson is a solid fill-in with Miles Austin sidelined, but his long-term value is limited. … 4. Injuries to Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty make Chris Ogbonnaya worth a play if you are desperate. … 5. Somehow, Marshawn Lynch is available in some leagues.

Five guys I really like this week: 1. Michael Bush should have another productive week against the Vikings. … 2. LeSean McCoy had 128 rushing yards and a touchdown the last time the Eagles played the Giants. … 3. Ryan Fitzpatrick should get back on track against the Dolphins. … 4. Jordy Nelson has become a must-start at wide receiver. … 5. Back from injury, Earl Bennett has been Jay Culter's favorite target the past two weekends.

Reader question: None this week. So I'll ask you one: What's the one fantasy player you refuse to draft?


Extra point: The Brandon Lloyd trade has worked out well for the Rams and for Lloyd (and I guess the Broncos are doing OK, too). But perhaps the biggest beneficiary has been Steven Jackson. Jackson might be the most underrated back in the NFL because he carries the load for a lousy team. But since Lloyd arrived in St. Louis, Jackson has 487 rushing yards and three TDs in four games. If you own him, your patience has been rewarded.

Matt Vensel is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun who uses this column to tinker with his fantasy football team on the clock. Send your questions and comments to or @mattvensel on Twitter.