Though we have seen this movie play out a few times before, the final act of the Ricky Williams show appears to have finally ended. An enigma for most of his pro football career, Williams has announced that he will not play out the final season of his recently signed two-year contract with the Ravens.
After the New Orleans Saints traded away their immediate future to draft Williams, the organization soon discovered that the controversial back was not the bump they needed in the Bayou. Trying to salvage something out of one of the worst trades in NFL history, the Saints shipped Williams to Miami for what would become two first round draft picks. Those selections translated to WR Donte' Stallworth (2002) and DT Johnathan Sullivan (2003), both of whom could be considered busts in the NFL.
Williams, meanwhile, moved on to enjoy his most proficient NFL seasons with the Miami Dolphins. His two best years (career and Fantasy Football wise) came in 2002 and 2003. Ricky ran wild during those two seasons as he racked up 3,939 total yards and 27 touchdowns. After an NFL suspension due to drug issues, Williams played a year in the CFL before being reborn in Miami during the 2009 NFL season. That year Williams had 1,385 total yards and 13 touchdowns. Though 2002 was the only season that the "Texas Tornado" ruled the Fantasy Football roost, he was a factor on draft day,(for good or bad) during his entire NFL career.
As if his stock needed to be pumped up any higher, RB Ray Rice stands to benefit the most from the departure of Williams. Fantasy owners who drafted Rice high in the first round in 2011 (yours truly included) were often dismayed to see #34 in the backfield, rather than #27, in goal line situations. We were further put off when Ricky would run into the middle of the pile for no gain or, even worse, a touchdown (as was the case twice last season).
The departure of Williams should also light a spark under Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome as Baltimore now faces an even greater need to get Rice under contract. A peak at the Ravens' depth chart shows Rice along with unproven sophomore Anthony Allen, and often injured Matt Lawrence, as back-ups. Neither player will eat into Double R's playing time during the 2012 NFL season.
I fully expect that the Ravens will seek out an experienced running back in order to give Rice a breather from time to time. That being said, 2012 should be the first time in his career that it will be all Rice, all the time, in Baltimore. Remember, before Ricky Williams in 2011, Rice was always fighting for touches with Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain .
At this very early stage of the 2012 NFL off-season (and depending on how contract negotiations progress), I like Ray Rice as the #1 overall pick on Draft Day, even more with the departure of Williams. Baltimore knows that their success relies on Rice being a reliable workhorse, both running and catching the football. The emergence of Torry Smith at wide receiver, along with a full season out of Anquan Boldin , will also benefit Rice and the Ravens. If they focus their 2012 Draft Day attention on another wide receiver, the sky is the limit for Ray Rice and the Ravens during the coming season.
One other question still remains though – Is Ricky Williams really retired, or will the lure of that $1.5 million in 2012 help change his mind? Fantasy owners are hoping that Ricky Williams' announced retirement sticks and that Ray Rice gets richer in the process.