The Baltimore Ravens are cursed. In the course of a few weeks, running backs J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill have all suffered season-ending injuries. This unbelievable string of bad luck has left Ty’Son Williams atop the Ravens depth chart, with Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman on the practice squad. Finding reliable running backs in fantasy football is never easy, but will one of these three make the most of the opportunity?
Projecting Ty’Son Williams, Le’Veon Bell, and Devonta Freeman In Baltimore Ravens Backfield
As of this posting, the Baltimore Ravens only have Williams, Bell, Freeman, and Trenton Cannon on their roster. Cannon is exclusively a special teams player, while Bell and Freeman are both well past their primes. As discussed in an earlier article, the two veterans were among the least efficient runners in the league last year, and it’s hard to see either player getting better with age. Freeman has already been cut twice in the past calendar year, and Le’Veon Bell couldn’t even get a job before this point.
Ty’Son Williams doesn’t have a single NFL carry to his name, and he spent the entire 2020 season on Baltimore’s practice squad. That being said, it’s safe to say that he is the best running back on the team. The former undrafted free agent had already beaten out Justice Hill for the backup job prior to the Achilles injury, so the coaching staff clearly sees something in the BYU product.
Nobody is confusing Ty’Son Williams with Barry Sanders, but he should have every opportunity to keep the starting job. After all, he’s the youngest, probably the most athletic, and has tons of experience with the playbook and coaching staff. If the Ravens acquire someone like Latavius Murray or Melvin Gordon, then Williams would probably have to accept life as a backup. Until that point, however, Williams will be projected as the starting running back.
Working Through The Projections
In a perfect world, head coach John Harbaugh likes to use a committee approach to the running back position. Prior to the Gus Edwards injury, I had Wiliams getting 32% of the carries in this run-heavy attack. That number is going to skyrocket, as he’ll probably end up taking 60-65% of Baltimore’s running back carries.
This leaves Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman to fight over the remaining 35-40% of the carries. While neither player is anything more than replacement-level at this point in their respective careers, Freeman should earn the first shot at the backup job. Even though Bell signed first, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Freeman will be promoted to the active roster on game day.
Ravens now are signing veteran free-agent RB Devonta Freeman to their practice squad, per his agent @DrewJRosenhaus. The idea is that Freeman will be promoted to Ravens’ active roster.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 9, 2021
Roster rules dictate that teams are allowed to promote two members of the practice squad to the active roster on game day. I would be surprised if Baltimore used both promotions on the running back position, even with the injury situation. With this in mind, I project Freeman getting 30% of the remaining carries and Trenton Cannon coming in for three or four carries a game. Until further notice, Bell will be nothing more than reserve depth in this backfield.
So that takes care of the carries, but what about the passing work? Baltimore rarely throws to the running back, but those limited targets are still a valuable component of fantasy football. Freeman is still a competent receiver while catching passes is one of the weaker parts of Williams’ game. Freeman will probably be the primary third-down back, but Williams will see some targets.
Ultimately, this all adds up to put Williams right in the RB15-20 range. The Ravens love to run the ball, and just about anyone sharing a backfield with Lamar Jackson is going to be decently efficient on the ground. Freeman’s receiving work makes him a very low-end flex play with handcuff value, while Le’Veon Bell shouldn’t be on anybody’s roster.