Saturday, August 20, 2022

Fantasy Football: Ravens lose Gus Edwards, add Latavius Murray as injuries mount

The Ravens have lost Gus Edwards for the season after he suffered an ACL tear Thursday during practice, another blow for a backfield that has already lost J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill to season-ending injuries. 

Edwards and DB Marcus Peters apparently suffered injuries on consecutive plays during Thursday’s session, with ESPN reporting the team fears both have suffered season-ending ACL tears. Tests will confirm the initial diagnosis, but at this point, it seems like Edwards season is over before it even begins. Which leaves Baltimore’s backfield in precarious shape heading into Week 1.

Undrafted free agent Ty’Son Williams out of BYU figures to be next in line for carries and should be the starter for the Ravens Monday against the Raiders — and he’s a must-add player in the 34% of CBS Fantasy leagues where is available. The only other name on the official depth chart right now is Trenton Cannon, though the Ravens are expected to sign Latavius Murray and already added Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman to their practice squad earlier this week. So, what should we expect the rotation to look like?

My best guess, at least to start, is Williams steps into the role we expected Edwards to fill, taking on 13-17 carries, likely with a very limited passing game role. And Williams should be pretty good in that role! He’s a pretty big back at 220 pounds, making the 4.48 40-yard dash he ran at his Pro Day look even better (even accounting for Pro Day times being less reliable than combine times), and he rushed for 130 yards on 24 carries in the preseason. 

I don’t think Williams is a special player, necessarily — and neither did NFL teams, which should carry more weight — however playing alongside Lamar Jackson tends to boost rushing efficiency, so Williams seems like a pretty good bet for 60-80 rushing yards against the Raiders, with a decent chance to score a touchdown. Which is to say, my expectations for him are pretty similar to what I expected from Edwards, and I’m slotting Williams in as my No. 27 RB in PPR leagues for Week 1. 

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What I don’t have a sense for is what things might look like when Williams isn’t on the field. Maybe Williams just plays a gigantic snap share while the Ravens sort through their options and figure out what the plan will be moving forward, but given their history, I expect to see multiple backs on the field. And, of those, Bell has to be the more intriguing option for Week 1.

Bell has looked like a shell of his former self lately, but just like Williams figures to rush efficiently in this offense. We’ll likely see a better version of Bell than we’ve gotten in the last few seasons — he averaged 4.0 yards per carry and 6.9 yards per target in 11 games with the Chiefs and Jets in 2020. He still brings pass-catching skills to the table that could help him slot into a decent role on third downs, even if the Ravens don’t typically throw to their backs all that much. Jackson will help create lanes for Bell, and it wouldn’t totally shock me to see Bell get double-digit touches — assuming he is activated from the practice squad for the game, as expected. Bell is worth adding in most leagues at this point. 

It’s possible Cannon fills that No. 2 role instead, but I kind of doubt it. He’s very fast, but undersized, and has just 146 yards on 48 carries over three seasons. I would guess he’s used more on special teams, especially since he signed at the same time as Bell, so it’s not like he’s got more familiarity with the system. 

Beyond Week 1, of course, things could change. Murray will probably need more than two days to get up to speed, so I expect we’ll see him for the first time in Week 2, and he figures to be the most immediate challenge to Williams’ role. In fact, my money would probably be on Murray to be the starter for the Ravens before long, given his track record of solid all-around production. He figures to bring more to the table than Williams, and certainly has more upside thanks his pass-catching skills. 

The Ravens are probably done adding to the backfield, at least for now, though we’ll see if these vets can actually help solidify the position or if they’ll need to keep looking for help. This offense should make any of them look pretty good, so it ultimately comes down to who earns the biggest opportunity. The best bets are Williams and Murray, both of whom should be rostered across the board in CBS Fantasy leagues. But temper expectations, because I would be surprised if either was much more than a fringe No. 2 RB for Fantasy, especially in PPR leagues, because the Ravens don’t throw to their backs much and they’ll likely split work no matter who is the No. 1. 

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