Ray Rice has been the Ravens' lead running back for the past four seasons, and he isn't going to lose that role any time soon. But the playing-time gap between him and his backup, Bernard Pierce , seems to be shrinking. Garrett Downing of the Ravens' official website states that Rice will get "pushed" by Pierce for more touches this year, and although Rice will still earn the majority, Downing writes that a strong training camp performance could balance the distribution of the carries.
This is what makes Rice one of the more talked-about players among those who are first-round locks. I've seen him go as high as third and as low as ninth in mock drafts, and where you will draft Rice heavily depends on how much you think Pierce's role will grow this season. I still think Rice is a top-5 player for a couple of reasons. One: He is still a major factor in the passing game, and perhaps even more so this year with the Ravens being short on proven pass-catching talent. And two: Even though Pierce is bigger, Rice will continue to get the valuable goal-line chances.
Rice's 318 touches last year were his least since 2007. But because of his dual-threat ability and touchdown prowess, Rice is going to continue to be extremely valuable for fantasy owners if that touches number drops to "only" 300 or so. However, Pierce does look like he may be the best handcuff/change-of-pace running backs available.