In what seems like some horrible episode of the Twilight Zone or Black Mirror, the Baltimore Ravens lost another running back to a season-ending injury — this time with Gus Edwards. With options running thin on the depth chart and fantasy football managers reeling, should you target Ty’Son Williams, Trenton Cannon, Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, or Latavius Murray for your fantasy team?
Gus Edwards’ 2021 season is likely over
Honestly, even as I sit here and write this, I cannot believe it. After losing RB J.K. Dobbins in Week 3 of the preseason to a torn ACL and then RB Justice Hill during practice to a torn Achilles, the Ravens’ backfield took yet another blow.
On Thursday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported mid-afternoon that Ravens RB Gus Edwards suffered what the team believes is a torn ACL. The injury occurred during practice as the team prepares for their Week 1 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders. To make matters worse, on the very next play of practice, CB Marcus Peters went down with what the team also fears was a torn ACL.
After the loss of Dobbins, Edwards was slated to be the leading rusher for a Ravens offense that had led the NFL in rushing attempts for the past four years, averaging 539.5 attempts per season. Over his three seasons in the NFL, Edwards saw consistent usage, receiving over 133 carries and recording 700+ yards in each season.
With Edwards likely to join Dobbins on the IR the same day that Dobbins went under the knife, the Ravens will be without five of their top six leaders in rushing attempts from the 2020 season with only QB Lamar Jackson remaining.
Baltimore brought in three running backs
In the wake of the Dobbins and Hill injuries, the Ravens signed RB Trenton Cannon to their 53-man roster and veteran Le’Veon Bell to their practice squad.
On Thursday, following the cancellation of practice after the injuries to Edwards and Peters, the Ravens signed Devonta Freeman, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, per his agent Drew Rosenhaus. The idea is that Freeman will be promoted to the Ravens’ active roster.
Should you target Ty’Son Williams, Trenton Cannon, Le’Veon Bell, or Devonta Freeman for your fantasy team?
With the Ravens and fantasy managers searching for options, who, if anyone, should you target in 2021 with the season set to kick off in mere hours?
The first player that comes to mind is Ty’Son Williams, as he would have been the RB2 before Edwards’ unfortunate injury. Williams was already pegged as one of my Week 1 sleepers, but he’s now vaulted up the rankings.
Williams is a 2020 UDFA who spent his rookie season on Baltimore’s practice squad but should see a sizeable amount of rushing attempts. While we haven’t seen much of him, we have seen a dynamic rusher during college stints at South Carolina and BYU.
During his work in all three preseason games, Williams had 24 carries for 130 yards with 1 touchdown while recording 8 receptions on 8 targets for 37 yards. For Week 1, Williams is a mid-range RB2 against a weak Raiders defense. Beyond this week, however, we likely see a committee approach from the Ravens, hurting everyone’s upside.
Trenton Cannon feels more like a warm body on the depth chart than someone to consider for fantasy football. In his three seasons, Cannon has combined for 146 rushing yards on 46 carries with 1 touchdown while adding 20 receptions (28 targets) for 160 yards while making stops with the Jets, and more recently, the Panthers in 2020.
I do not see Canton being fantasy-relevant unless the injury bug hits again. At this rate, the Ravens might as well have the agents of FA running backs on speed dial.
The signing of Bell is intriguing. Rather than adding him to the 53-man active roster, they signed him to the practice squad. When asked earlier today [September 9], head coach John Harbaugh said, “I think there’s a chance,” when referring if Bell would be activated ahead of their Monday Night Football game against the Raiders.
“We have a process with him,” Harbaugh said. “He’s excited. He’s learning, and we’ll see where it goes.”
Whatever that “process” was, I bet it just went into overdrive after Edwards went down.
Last season, Bell appeared in 11 combined games for the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, recording 82 carries for 328 yards and 2 touchdowns with 16 receptions on 20 targets for 138 yards. Bell is by no means close to the same player he was with the Steelers. But given the Ravens’ offensive line talent and his ability out of the backfield, Bell could be a low-end flex play in the right matchups.
However, given their additions at RB while assembling this M.A.S.H. unit, I fear this will be nothing more than a convoluted and messy committee that takes away one of the more valuable situations in all of fantasy.
Added late on Thursday, Devonta Freeman is the latest name to join the depth chart. After leading the Falcons’ backfield for six seasons, including two trips to the Pro Bowl (2015 and 2016), Freeman played for the Giants last season as they attempted to find production after Saquon Barkley tore his ACL in Week 2.
Freeman appeared in five games for the Giants, carrying the ball 54 times for 172 yards (3.2 ypc) and 1 TD, while nabbing 7 receptions on 10 targets for 58 yards and another score through the air.
However, Freeman dealt with his own injury issues. He missed Weeks 6 and 7 due to an ankle injury, then spent the rest of the season on injured reserve.
If, and that’s a big if, Freeman can stay on the field, he could be a productive RB3 for the Ravens. Nevertheless, he’s played in just 21 games combined the previous three seasons and is likely to be ignored for fantasy as this backfield gets messier by the day.
The Ravens have signed Latavius Murray to the roster following the injury to Edwards. Murray was recently released by the Saints, having been expected to play the secondary role to Alvin Kamara in New Orleans.
Over the past three seasons, Murray has averaged 144 attempts, 634 yards, and 5 touchdowns per year in the run game. In the passing game, he has seen a total of 95 targets with 79 receptions, 552 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns. It may take him a little time to get up to speed but his ability in both the run and pass game could make him an effective part of the Ravens offense this season.