Ray Rice suspension opens door for Bernard Pierce

The NFL has ruled on the case of Ray Rice. The Baltimore Ravens running back will be suspended for the first two games of the season under the league's personal conduct policy. The punishment is a response to a video that surfaced in February of an altercation between Rice and his then-fiancée.

This makes it all but official that Bernard Pierce will be Baltimore's backfield starter when the Ravens open the regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals. Behind Pierce will be some combination of Justin Forsett and/or Lorenzo Taliaferro, but that committee could be short-lived since Rice is expected back on the field for the Week 3 contest against the Cleveland Browns.

From a fantasy perspective, Rice's current eighth round Average Draft Position could start to rise. The initial thought was that the veteran rusher could face a longer ban and would have a diminished value.

Yet Pierce remains an obstacle to Rice returning to his previous status as a top-tier fantasy running back. Last season Rice nabbed 51 percent of Baltimore's carries, compared to 36 percent for Pierce. That number could start to even out a little more in 2014. Overall, Rice is the first Ravens back that should come off the board -- ideally sometime in Rounds 6-8 -- but Pierce should follow shortly as a very credible handcuff.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com. You can follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

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