A 2016 fifth-round pick, Collins was released by the Seahawks at the end of last preseason and found himself in a key role for the Ravens by Week 2. He had double-digit carries in each of his last 12 games, finishing the year with 212 carries for 973 yards (4.6 YPC) and six touchdowns in 15 appearances, adding 23 catches for 187 yards on 36 targets. He did fumble four times (two lost) and didn't look comfortable in the passing game, but his vision, power and explosiveness as a runner made a strong impression. Collins profiles as the Ravens' likely workhorse for early downs, while Javorius Allen and Kenneth Dixon figure to compete for a role on passing downs. The lack of pass-catching ability does limit Collins' ceiling, though he figures to be first in line for goal-line carries. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh confirmed in March that Collins is viewed as the starter.
This was essentially a formality, with the signing paving the way for Collins to work on cementing his role in the Ravens' backfield this coming season. On the heels of a 2017 campaign in which he logged 212 carries for 973 yards and six TDs in 15 games, Collins currently tops the team's running back depth chart, a reality that coach John Harbaugh confirmed without hesitation last month. Meanwhile, Javorius Allen and Kenneth Dixon remain in the mix to serve in complementary/change-of-pace roles, with John Crockett, who last recorded an NFL carry in 2015, also under contract.
As is the case for all exclusive rights free agents, Collins has no real choice but to sign a cheap contract with his current team. He can become a restricted free agent next offseason, at which point he'll be in line for a major raise if he's able to build on a breakout 2017 campaign that saw him take 212 carries for 973 yards (4.6 YPC) and six touchdowns. The 2016 fifth-round pick doesn't offer much in the way of receiving skills, but his combination of speed, strength and elusiveness make him the favorite to serve as Baltimore's lead runner, pending the events of free agency and the draft. Given their lack of cap space and other needs across the roster, the Ravens are unlikely to prioritize their backfield in the coming months. Javorius Allen and Kenneth Dixon (knee, suspension) both are viable candidates to handle passing downs and help keep Collins' workload in check. Baltimore released Danny Woodhead on Tuesday.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh praised Collins for his performance during the 2017 season, but stopped short of naming the running back the team's starter heading into 2018, Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun reports. "I'm looking to upgrade everything. We're going to look to have the best running-back group we can," Harbaugh said Thursday.
A surprise cut by the Seahawks out of training camp, Collins landed with the Ravens' practice squad soon after and earned a promotion to the 53-man roster ahead of Week 2 after Danny Woodhead (hamstring) was moved to injured reserve. Though ball security was occasionally an issue, Collins proved to be the team's most effective ballcarrier, finishing the campaign 212 carries for 973 yards (4.6 average) and six touchdowns. Woodhead, Javorius Allen and a rehabbing Kenneth Dixon (knee) are all under contract for 2018 and possess skill sets than have made them useful over their respective NFL careers, but unless the Ravens add another option to the backfield via free agency or the draft, Collins looks poised to enter training camp as the team's No. 1 option.
Collins rushed 20 times for 78 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 18 yards in Sunday's 31-27 loss to the Bengals.
The 78 rushing yards are Collins' highest total since Week 14 and the 20 carries tied his season high. The 23-year-old's 17-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the Ravens' answer to a Bengals defensive touchdown, at the time keeping Baltimore's playoff hopes alive. The loss eliminated the Ravens regardless, but Collins bursting onto the scene to earn the role of the team's feature back this season is one of the better stories of the 2017 season.
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