Terrance West to fantasy football owners: 'It'd be smart to grab me'

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens running back Terrance West offered some advice for fantasy football owners Monday.

"It'd be smart to grab me," he said. "That's the smart way to do it."

A reporter then asked: "Why's that?"

"Why's that?" West responded. "You'll see."

West is just the 97th-ranked player in ESPN's fantasy football rankings. There are 37 running backs ahead of him despite his advantageous position.

He is a near lock to be the Ravens' starting running back this season. West led Baltimore with 774 rushing yards last season, and he has a stronger grip on the job now.

Kenneth Dixon, who was expected to push West for carries, is out for the season with a knee injury. Danny Woodhead will be a factor in the passing game, but he's had only two games of double-digit carries in the last four seasons. And Buck Allen has looked better in camp, but he was a healthy scratch for the final four regular-season games in 2016.

"He's a young player still," coach John Harbaugh said of West. "I think he's steadily improving. Even physically, he's improving. He's maturing and working hard in the offseason."

As West put it, he worked his tail off to lose 12 pounds. He's also excited about the Ravens' new downhill running game under assistant coach Greg Roman.

West likened himself to Frank Gore, who averaged 1,164 yards per season and scored 29 touchdowns overall under Roman in San Francisco.

"He's patient," West said of Gore. "He's got great vision. People sleep on his speed and he can take it the distance."

Baltimore is looking for West to become more explosive. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry in 2016, and he had more attempts stopped behind the line of scrimmage (21) than runs of 10 or more yards (19).

This is an important year for West personally. He will earn $1.797 million this season as a restricted free agent, a salary that ranks 18th among running backs this season.

West will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. That's why it would be fortuitous for West to receive the bulk of the carries this season, which he believes plays to his style.

"As the game go, I get stronger and stronger," he said. "I get to feel the defense out, how the linebackers are pursuing the ball, and get lanes for cutbacks."

At Towson University, West ran the ball 413 times in his final season, averaging 25.8 carries per game. West, though, has eclipsed 20 carries in only four games during his three-year NFL career.

"He can certainly handle the load," running backs coach Thomas Hammock said. "He's proven that."