Baltimore Drafts Ray Rice

Ray Rice become the 2nd Rutgers RB to be drafted into the NFL in as many years when the Baltimore Ravens selected him as the 55th overall pick in the second round of the 2008 entry draft April 26 at Radio City Music Hall in New York. There was apparently a large contingent of Rutgers supporters in the crowd, as the venue erupted with cheers when Baltimore's selection of Rice was announced.

The Ravens acquired the pick and the 86th overall pick from Seattle by trading the 38th selection. The Seahawks drafted Notre Dame tight end John Carlson with their improved position. Four former Rutgers players – defensive tackle Eric Foster and offensive linemen Jeremy Zuttah, Pedro Sosa and Mike Fladell – remained undrafted after the first two rounds.

Last year Rutgers legend Brian Leonard was drafted in the second round (52nd overall) by the St. Louis Rams last season. Leonard played in all 16 games of his rookie season, starting seven. He gained 303 yards rushing on 86 attempts, averaging 3.5 yards per carry, and caught 30 passes for 183 yards.

Rice's selection appears to be an attempt to use him as a change of pace running back and relief ball carrier for Baltimore starter Willis McGahee, who at 232 pounds has nearly a 30-pound weight advantage on Rice. McGahee has a reputation as a punishing runner, and he has averaged 290 carries per season over the past four years. Last season, his first with the Ravens, McGahee averaged a career-best 4.1 yards per carry

Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron utilized a similar scheme as San Diego's offensive coordinator from 2002-06, when he employed LaDainian Tomlinson as the feature back and spelled him with several smaller backs. Rice also benefits from the fact that he comes into a new system with a new coach, as John Harbaugh was named head coach of the Ravens Jan. 19 after the team fired erstwhile skipper Brian Bilick.

At Rutgers, Rice averaged just more than 300 carries per season, and he toted the rock 385 times for 2,012 yard and 24 touchdowns in 2007. His saved his best for last, as Rice closed his college career with 282 yards and four touchdowns against Ball State in the International Bowl Jan. 5, earning him most valuable player honors. Rice averaged more than 5 yards per carry at Rutgers.

So, what does Rice bring to the Ravens? In college, he employed a similar north-south, punishing running style as McGahee. So, he'll be able to step in with relative ease should McGahee go down. He also brings the ability to hit the hole quickly and hide behind his offensive linemen until the last moment, giving him the advantage of stealth. Additionally, defenses will be forced to change their approach when Rice is in the game spelling McGahee, as he is at least four inches shorter than his soon-to-be teammate and is roughly 30 pounds lighter. Expect him more in a scatback role with the Ravens.

However, his effectiveness as a receiver out of the backfield still remains to be seen. In college, Rice only caught 37 passes (25 in 2007) and scored just one receiving touchdown.

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