Rice's trade value rising
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's easy for a player like Sidney Rice to slip through the cracks.

That's not to say that Rice isn't talented. The former University of South Carolina star is the leading receiver on a winning football team.

All I'm saying is that Rice isn't the flashiest of fantasy options.

Let me show you what I mean:

- This season, 48 players have collected more receiving yards than Rice (475 yards)

- Rice ranks 58th in the NFL in targets with 55

- His season-high in receiving yards is 81

- In 10 games, Rice has only gone over 60 yards receiving twice

- Rice's last 100-yard receiving game came in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on October 30, 2011. He had 102 yards in that game.

- Aside from a breakout year in 2009 (1,312-yards, 83 catches), Rice has never finished a season with more than 35 catches or 500 yards receiving

Add in the fact that Rice has missed 17 games due to injury in the past three seasons and you're looking at one of the more disappointing players in all of fantasy football.

Then why is the 26-year-old Seattle Seahawks wideout owned in over 94 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues?

Simple. He scores touchdowns.

Sunday's performance against the New York Jets should tell you all you need to know about Rice. He finished the day with two receptions for 54 yards. Both catches went for touchdowns.

Including Sunday, Rice has now scored touchdowns in four out of his last five games including each of his last three. Over that five-game span, Rice has averaged 11.4 fantasy points per game.

Since his touchdown spree began in Week 6, Rice has finished among the top-14 fantasy wide receivers every week except one. The lone exception came in a 32- yard effort against San Francisco in Week 7.

Despite Rice's ineptitude in nearly every other receiving category, his six touchdowns ranks 10th in the NFL.

I selected Rice in the 14th round of this year's fantasy draft with no intention of ever playing him unless one of my other wide receivers got injured or went on bye. Given Rice's low yardage totals and his penchant for streakiness (not to mention his poor durability), I had no issue using Rice as a fantasy benchwarmer.

But now Rice's recent uptick in fantasy productivity has forced me to reconsider. How can I keep letting Rice waste away on my bench when he keeps scoring touchdowns?

Unfortunately for Rice, his big break won't come playing on my team. With Dez Bryant, Marques Colston and Victor Cruz already occupying my wide receiver and flex positions, there's simply no room for Rice to play a meaningful fantasy role.

Rice actually outscored all three of those receivers in Week 10 but I'm still hesitant to start him.

That's because Bryant, Colston and Cruz are all part of offenses that are known for airing the ball out. Even if they don't score touchdowns, Bryant, Colston and Cruz still have a chance to be fairly productive most weeks simply because of the high number of targets they'll receive.

Rice's situation isn't nearly as favorable. In Seattle, talented running back Marshawn Lynch is undoubtedly the focal point of the offense with rookie quarterback Russell Wilson functioning more as a game-manager, opting to throw only when the Seahawks have exhausted all other options. As a result of this run-first approach, the Seahawks have attempted the second-fewest passes in the NFL.

With Rice only getting 5.5 targets per game, his fantasy success hinges far more on his ability to score touchdowns than with Bryant, Colston or Cruz. That makes him a much bigger risk.

That doesn't mean Rice is completely useless to me, however. Quite the contrary: he's become a very useful trade chip. I could probably get a decent running back in return for Rice, which would help make up for the loss of Maurice Jones-Drew I suffered a few weeks ago.

With four touchdowns in his last three games, Rice's fantasy value has never been higher. If you're playing in a league with no trade deadline or your trade deadline hasn't occurred yet, now is the time to deal Rice. Who knows, in another week, he might slip through the cracks again.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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