Fantasy Football: Is Javorius Allen the Back to Own in Baltimore?

Coming off of a Week 2 performance that saw him put up 101 total yards, Baltimore Ravens running back Javorius Allen was one of the top waiver wire pickups heading into Week 3.

Then, in the Ravens' Week 3 44-7 beatdown at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Allen was out-rushed by unheralded teammate Alex Collins.

Wait, what?

Uncertainty now reigns in the Baltimore backfield, and several questions loom. Should fantasy owners buy the man they call Buck? Is the 26-year-old a guy you can plug into your lineup and expect to get some precious points in return, or was he a one-week wonder?

Buck's Trends

If nothing else, Allen has proven that he can handle a big workload, as quantified by the fact that he's led Baltimore running backs in touches in every game so far.

Another plus -- with the Week 1 injury to pass-game dynamo Danny Woodhead, Allen is now Baltimore's primary pass-catching back, giving him a nice floor in PPR leagues.

Check out Allen's numbers compared to what Collins and fellow Ravens rusher Terrance West have done.

Player Rushes Rush Yards TDs Receptions Total Points
Javorius Allen 43 152 0 10 36
Terrance West 33 129 2 2 29.2
Alex Collins 16 128 0 0 12.8

On the season, Allen has only six fewer rushes than West and Collins combined. True, he hasn't found the end zone yet, but his 10 catches for 48 yards are good for 14.8 PPR points, 2.8 more than the 12.0 points West earned for his 2 touchdowns.

Allen's sheer number of touches compared to his teammates' work make Allen the back to own in Baltimore. But with just 7 more fantasy points than West to his name, it's closer than people may think.

A Three-Headed Raven?

It looks like the Baltimore backfield is becoming the worst thing ever for fantasy owners: a (gasp) committee.

In the three weeks to start the season, the Ravens have had three different leading rushers. West led the way in Week 1 with 80 yards. In Week 2, Allen was the top dog with 66 rushing yards. And Collins -- who started the year on the Ravens' practice squad -- put up the team's highest rushing total of the season in Week 3 with 82 yards.

Yep, sounds like a committee. But that might not be the case for long.

West has been battling a soft-tissue injury that forced him to leave the game in Week 2. He still suited up in Week 3, but he was ineffective and appeared to be benched after a losing a fumble in the blowout defeat against the Jacksonville Jaguars. With West's iffy-ness and Collins' lack of experience, the job might be Allen's to lose.

Thing is, he might lose it.

The numbers tell us that Allen is the Ravens' least effective back, per our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. Allen's mark of -0.21 Rushing NEP on 43 carries is the worst on the team, and it's the sixth-worst mark out in the league among the 50 running backs with at least 15 carries on the season. In addition, Allen is bringing up the rear in Rushing Success Rate, which is the percentage of runs that positively impact NEP.

Player Rushes Rushing NEP per Play Rushing Success Rate
Alex Collins 16 -0.01 62.50%
Terrance West 33 -0.1 42.42%
Javorius Allen 43 -0.21 25.58%

So will the team continue to feed Allen the ball despite his lack of effectiveness? Or will they look to Collins, who, on a smaller sample, has been more efficient on a per-play basis? Or will they hand more work to West as his health improves?

All these Baltimore backfield questions make the Joe Flacco situation seem like cake.

The Buck Stops Here

While he's demonstrated some nice rushing and receiving chops, counting on Buck Allen as a week-to-week starter could be a dicey proposition. Yes, he provides some safety in PPR leagues thanks to his pass-catching abilities, but any real upside is negated by the fact that the Ravens backfield is an unsettled mess.

Barring an injury or a major upheaval, it appears that Allen won't be much more than bench fodder on your fantasy team. However, as we've seen with this backfield, things can change quickly, and one of these backs could gain a workhorse role as the year goes on.