The Baltimore Ravens have not had a truly dynamic back since the days of Ray Rice. However, don’t mistake the lack of household names for lack of value in the Raven backfield.
Strictly talking “best ball,” Javorius “Buck” Allen is the back that should be number one on your radar. Allen isn’t a great running back, but the key to remember here is value. Buck Allen has an ADP around 210, depending on what database you use. That is absurdly good value for a back who is locked in at the third-down back and can threaten for the starting job. The current starter on the depth chart is Alex Collins. Expect many of your league mates to overestimate the impact of the current pecking order and for them to expect it to translate into touches. John Harbaugh himself has refused to crown Alex Collins as the undisputed starter. Collins did have a respectable tally last year, but is his ADP in the low 60’s worth the price?
Keep in mind we are talking about best ball, and Collins only reached over total 100 yards twice last year. Is that worth the risk as your 6th or 7th rounder? Allen may not be flashy, but he did play all 16 games last year and hasn’t fumbled in 2 seasons. Alex Collins will likely start the season with the larger workload. However, we have seen John Harbaugh consistently favor a committee approach. This means that there will be enough opportunity to warrant a late round flier on Allen. While Allen isn’t elite, he has proven to be reliable and is familiar with the offense. The ADP of Collins simply is too high to risk with the threat of all the congestion in the backfield. Collins will probably get more fantasy points, but not enough in relation to his draft position.
Something tells me the one back that I am going to end up keeping an eye on is Kenneth Dixon. Dixon had fantasy relevance as a rookie but failed to live up to the buzz around him. Dixon threatened to take over the starting role as a rookie, averaging 4.3 yards a carry and increasing his presence as an every-down back. In four of the final six games in 2016, Dixon met or exceeded 11.7 fantasy points. Unfortunately, Dixon disappointed fantasy owners as he missed his entire sophomore campaign with a meniscus injury in the offseason.
Knee injuries are often the type to linger, meaning Dixon will have a thought time returning to his upward trajectory next year. Perhaps the Ravens don’t believe in Allen as the number one, and if something were to happen to Allen, they still wouldn’t slide him into the starting role. Instead, the Ravens might first turn to Dixon to take over the role. Dixon’s knee is a huge question mark, and to me, the meniscus injury makes him un-draftable, at least in redraft style leagues.
Both Collins and Dixon will still take their share of carries, but Allen has the best opportunity in the passing game. With Alex Collins and Kenneth Dixonbeing his competition, Allen just needs to string a few good weeks in a row or see something go wrong with Collins and he will rise to the top of the depth chart. I feel very confident that Allen will only gain trust and touches from his coaching staff.
Besides having the best nickname, Buck Allen also has the best chance of any Raven rusher to exceed his touchdown total from last year. Allen put up a measly five touchdowns on the ground last year. Based on size Allen has the frame to be the goal line back at 6’1” 220 lbs, and in best ball, a couple of touchdowns one week is worth the low risk on drafting Allen at the end of your draft.
Allen is also the biggest threat in the passing game. The Ravens receivers aren’t a strong group so Allen should easily exceed the 46 receptions he snagged last year. It’s worth noting that Joe Flacco is not a gunslinging quarterback and prefers safe throws. The Ravens love using backs out of the backfield, Allen could earn catches as he is slated to handle 3rd downs and has proven to be capable of catching balls from Joe Flacco.
Javorius Allen averaged just shy of 10 carries a game last year. Considering the lack of star power in the backfield, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hope Allen outshines Alex Collins and absorbs more work. If Allen keeps his passing presence, goal line potential, and then eats into Collins’ carries on early downs, then the low ADP on him warrants a good look. The overarching key to Buck Allen is that I would only take him in best ball. In fact, none of the Baltimore running backs give me the confidence to take, especially in redraft. With the dirt cheap value and chance to break a run or catch and the goal line chances, Javorius Allen is the best choice in Best Ball leagues for 2018.