- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Baltimore Ravens are going to add a running back this offseason. It's just a matter of whether it's through free agency or the draft.
The Ravens need insurance at that position behind Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Rice is facing a domestic violence assault charge and is coming off his worst season as the Ravens' featured back. Pierce underwent shoulder surgery this offseason and won't practice until the start of training camp.
The best fit for the Ravens in free agency is LeGarrette Blount, who played last season in New England after three seasons with Tampa Bay. He is the bruising big back that the Ravens have lacked in their ground game for years.
Blount is not an electric runner. He's 247 pounds, and he has pedestrian speed for an NFL running back (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds). Why the Ravens should look at Blount is his running style. He does most of his damage in between the tackles, unlike Pierce, who has a habit of bouncing too quickly to the outside.
The Ravens' running backs were awful in creating extra yards. Rice averaged 1.11 yards after contact, and Pierce was not much better at 1.31. In comparison, Blount ranked third in the NFL last season with an average of 2.16 yards after contact.
Some of the Ravens' ineffectiveness is due to a bad offensive line. Blount, however, excels at breaking tackles. About 42 percent of his rushing yards last season were gained after contact.
If the Ravens choose to add a third running back in the draft, ESPN's Todd McShay identified three running backs who best suit the Ravens: Ohio State's Carlos Hyde (second round), Washington's Bishop Sankey (third round) and Florida State's Devonta Freeman (fourth round). McShay targeted backs who can patiently wait for creases to open up in Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme and then accelerate through the hole.
Hyde, the only running back who received a second-round grade from McShay, had an off-the-field issue that could worry the Ravens. He was suspended for three games at the start of last season after he allegedly assaulted a woman at a bar. Police later dropped the charges.
Sankey, a potential third-round prospect, has a quick initial burst and has been compared to Tampa Bay's Doug Martin. Freeman, who is projected to go in the fourth round, doesn't have ideal size (5-foot-8) but he's tough and runs hard.