The Patriots focus on the ground game continues in 2013 with a pair of talented 3rd year backs
With all the uncertainty in the New England Patriots passing game the team will continue to focus on establishing a strong running game with both 3rd year running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. Both backs will be heavily used this season just as they were last year when the Patriots were 2nd in the NFL in rushing attempts and 7th in total yards. Most of those rushing attempts will go to Ridley who had 290 carries last season for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is a bruising runner who seems to give 100% on every single run. He has ideal feature back size at 5’11” and 220 pounds. He is also only 24 years old and definitely on the upswing of his career arc. Stevan Ridley is the Patriots workhorse back without question but the Patriots don’t really use him at all in the passing game and this is where Shane Vereen will carve out his own niche for this team.
I’m betting Vereen has a much bigger role in 2013. He may not get more than 125 rushing attempts in 2013 but I have him projected for 60+ receptions and wouldn’t be shocked if he catches 70. With the loss of Hernandez and the uncertainty surrounding when Rob Gronkowski will actually be back on the field, quarterback Tom Brady will be searching for someone to fill out his receiving options. Shane Vereen is the piece of the offense that will moved all over the field, lining up in the backfield, out wide, and in the slot. He is the player that the Patriots will use to fill many of the holes left by Aaron Hernandez. I like to think of Vereen as a “poor man’s” Darren Sproles. Not so much in their playing styles or build, but in how their team’s will use them.
Currently Stevan Ridley is going off the board at RB16 in the 3rd round and Shane Vereen a bit later at RB28 in the late 5th - mid 6th. Ridley makes for a solid fantasy RB2 in PPR leagues and a low end RB1 in standard leagues. Shane Vereen makes for a great RB3 or flex play in both formats.
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