For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not… My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events…
– An excerpt from “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe
I have already declared to the (fantasy football) world, my love for the young Buck. In this article, I’d like to consider the other two running backs on the Baltimore Ravens roster for 2015. The soon to be 30 year old incumbent starter, Justin Forsett and the fourth round pick from 2014, Lorenzo Taliaferro.
Who is This Year’s Justin Forsett?
Justin Forsett enters the year as the Ravens starting running back. Forsett was reluctantly given the starting job a few weeks into the 2014 season after Ray Rice was released and Bernard Pierce injured his thigh in week 2. To Forsett’s credit, he seized the opportunity that was presented to him.
It has been asserted that the Dolphins Lamar Miller is not viewed as a workhorse back by his coaches due to his sporadic usage and therefore should not be drafted as a reliable RB2. I find it odd that the same argument does not appear relevant to the older, slower, smaller Forsett who only exceeded 17 carries four times in 2014.
The seven year veteran wasn’t fast or agile when he entered the league in 2008. For a 7th round NFL draft pick, he had an above average College Dominator score after taking over for Marshawn Lynch at Cal in 2007. Investigating further, the 5.1 college yards per carry is indicative of the fact that while he was most of the Bears’ offense, the offense itself wasn’t very good.
The Trestman Effect
The narrative suggests that new Ravens Offense Coordinator Marc Trestman has turned mediocre running backs into league winning PPR machines. I’m not convinced. Skilled pass catcher Charlie Garner had 56, 68, and 72 receptions prior to Trestman. Matt Forte had 63 receptions as a rookie and 52 through 12 games in 2011, a 69 reception pace. It’s hard to make a case that Trestman made the active player with the 23rd most receptions, who he is today.
With the exception of the world renowned Derek Loville, Trestman’s other RB1s didn’t see that legendary career high reception bump. There is no doubt that a quarterback read progression exists in his offense to get the ball to the running backs. However, Forte’s 130 targets, 25 more than any other RB in 2014, appears to be an exception rather than the rule.
Zo Fresh and Zo Clean
Lorenzo Taliaferro had an up and down rookie season. In week 3, Zo put up a 19 carry, 91 yard and 1 TD (5.1 ypc) effort against the Browns. The following week against the Panthers he had a less impressive 15/58/1 stat line. Taliaferro had two goal line touchdowns against the Bengals in week 8 and then a costly fumble against the rival Steelers in week 9. That fumble directly correlates to the spike in Forsett’s usage and Zo spent the rest of the season in the proverbial doghouse until he was placed on season ending IR with a foot sprain in mid-December.
“He’s got very good hands out of the backfield. He’s a really outstanding pass protector. They run a lot of play-action fakes and set him right up to pick up a linebacker or defensive end. He’s not afraid to step up. He’s square. He’s a good, hard, aggressive downhill runner.”
Lorenzo dominated the Big South Conference in 2013. As the conference Offensive Player of the Year he had 27 touchdowns while averaging 115 yards per game. There are typically growing pains when entering the NFL, especially from a small school. That adjustment period was accelerated by the Rice incident and the injury to Pierce. According to Taliaferro, he feels more acclimated and is ready to take the next step:
“I feel good, I feel faster,” Taliaferro said in June. “It felt like my weight might be an issue, so I made some changes with my workouts and diet. Going into my second year, I feel more confident. I’m not out there thinking as much. I’m taking my reads and the game is slowing down.”
It appears he may have used the fourth round drafting of Buck Allen as motivation to trim down in order to improve his agility and quickness.
Per the ADP from MyFantasyLeague.com, Zo is currently being drafted as RB80. I think this backfield may turn into more of a committee than most would like to admit, or realize. For virtually no cost, this second year running back is definitely worth a look.
In the Fade
Forsett is still the feel good hit of the summer. The late round sleeper who had no value last year until September when everything fell perfectly into his lap. It’s reckless that Forsett is currently being drafted as the RB12. If he can manage to increase his touches in 2015, while at the same time holding off two talented young backs, then maybe he can return the value. I’m not betting on a running back with below average metrics and one decent year on his resume to be anything more.
You can’t spell Zero RB without Zo.
Aaron Butler is an unapologetic New England Patriots fan and a contributor for RotoViz and PlayerProfiler.
Follow him: @RIPatriot