Entering this season, Ray Rice quickly became a trendy fantasy sleeper back, who was named the starter for the Baltimore Ravens.
Willis McGahee's stock plummeted, and he was suddenly going undrafted in many leagues. At best, McGahee was viewed as a deep sleeper.
After three games, the Ravens are undefeated and scoring more points than most people thought possible.
Despite Rice being named the starter, though, he has split carries with McGahee and both backs have performed well. Both Rice and McGahee are averaging over five yards per carry so far on the season.
The problem, though, is that neither back is getting a huge workload. Rice is averaging just 13 carries per game, while McGahee is getting 11 per week. Both backs are averaging around 60 yards per game as well. None of those numbers are going to dominate a fantasy week.
There are two wild cards on Baltimore's offense that, four weeks ago, not many people would have predicted.
First, quarterback Joe Flacco has emerged as a legit fantasy star. He's throwing for almost 300 yards and two touchdowns per game, and isn't making mistakes. He's thrown six touchdowns to only two interceptions, has only lost an average of seven yards per sack the three times the rush has reached him so far, and has a rating of 101.4 after three weeks.
The second wild card is that McGahee, not Rice, has become the red zone back for the Ravens. This is surprising considering Rice was supposed to be in that role, at least according to coaches, and the Ravens were successful using now-fullback Le'Ron McClain in that role last year. McGahee has five rushing touchdowns through three games, while McClain and Rice only have one each.
So what should fantasy owners do with the running backs in Baltimore? My recommendations are:
If you're in a league with morons, McGahee might still be a waiver claim candidate. That's doubtful, though. Given McGahee's getting nearly the same work load as Rice, he's worth making a trade for at this point. Considering mid-round fantasy backs like Jamal Lewis, Ryan Grant, Joseph Addai and even LaDanian Tomlinson are disappointing so far, moving for McGahee would be a solid upgrade.
With regard to Rice, odds are that the touchdowns will level off just as the carries are nearly even. McGahee's scored well so far, but Rice will get into the end zone as this season moves along. When you consider McGahee's injury history, Rice owners shouldn't sell.