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Patriot Games

The New England Patriots running back situation is one of great interest in dynasty leagues at the moment. After all, New England is one of the most explosive teams in the NFL and anyone who rises from the depth chart to lead the team in carries could be a viable weapon and a key to a dynasty league championship as early as this season. The problem isn’t just about seeing the fantasy viability in the New England backfield –  it could be simply about choosing the right player who will eventually emerge.

Last year, the Patriots shocked most draft pundits by spending two high draft picks on running backs as they added Shane Vereen in the second round and Stevan Ridley shortly after him in the third. After losing BenJarvus Green-Ellis to Cincinnati via free agency this season, both these players are squarely in the fantasy crosshairs.

With this situation, there are three very distinctive schools of thought in regards to the dynasty value of these players. Each of these lines of thinking has merit, so we’ll break down all three.

The Case for Stevan Ridley

While Vereen received much of the press and the bulk of the attention in dynasty league drafts last year, it was Ridley who produced on the field in 2011. He had an impressive 441 rushing yards on just 87 carries – good for an average of over five yards per carry. In addition to his stellar numbers, Ridley showed impressive and unexpected quickness for a player who is 5’11” and weighs over 220 pounds. Most thought he was simply a power back, but he proved that line of thinking was completely unfounded.

Amazingly, Ridley flew under the radar after an impressive career at LSU that featured him rushing for 1,147 yards and 15 touchdowns during his final season. Many draft scouts downgraded him based on his lack of ability in the passing game and a perceived lack of mental capacity. Based on how he grasped the Patriot offense, what does that say about Chad Ochocinco?

Regardless, the case for targeting Ridley is pretty obvious – he has the physical make-up of a player who could be a featured back, with the production last year to prove he belongs in the NFL. Even if the Pats decided to run a true committee approach with their backfield, it would be Ridley who would likely take the role voided by Green-Ellis, who was good for 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons. You’d be pretty hard pressed to find someone who thinks BGE is an incredible or rare talent as well.

If BGE can post those types of numbers with the Patriots, what could Ridley do in the same type of role?

The Case for Shane Vereen

While Stevan Ridley received a nice workload as a rookie, much of that can be attributed to the hamstring injuries suffered by Vereen, not in Ridley being more talented or worthy of the playing time. After a waste of a rookie season that saw him only get 15 carries, Vereen is finally healthy. In addition, reports are surfacing that it was Vereen, not Ridley, who received more of the work with the first team at the Patriots opening practices this week.

There’s also the obvious fact that the Patriots most certainly liked Vereen enough last year to take him ahead of Ridley in the draft. While they’re very different players and his draft status doesn’t guarantee him anything, it does show the Patriots were ultra-high on Vereen’s talent. After all, he’s more of a complete back on paper than Ridley and adds a level of explosion that’s unmatched by anyone on the depth chart at the moment.

When you consider the Patriots also benched Ridley on a few occasions due to his propensity to fumble, it’s really difficult to say this is undoubtedly Ridley’s job and keep any type of straight face. With a camp battle brewing, sometimes you just have to take the more talented player and on paper, that seems to be Vereen.

The Case for Neither

This may be the strongest case of all.

The Patriots are notorious for riding a hot hand at running back or employing a confusing committee approach that’s inconsistent enough to drive fantasy owners crazy. At this point, the depth chart has Ridley, Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Joseph Addai and Brandon Bolden. While Addai may just be insurance and Bolden is likely just a camp body, it’s tough to count any player out at this point. Just check out the leading rushers for the Patriots over the past ten years:

2011 = BenJarvus Green-Ellis (667 yards)
2010 = BenJarvus Green-Ellis (1,008 yards)
2009 = Laurence Maroney (757 yards)
2008 = Sammy Morris (727 yards)
2007 = Laurence Maroney (835 yards)
2006 = Corey Dillon (812 yards)
2005 = Corey Dillon (733 yards)
2004 = Corey Dillon (1,635 yards)
2003 = Antowain Smith (642 yards)
2002 = Antowain Smith (982 yards)

That’s a grand total of just TWO 1,000 yard seasons posted from a New England running back over the last ten seasons. When you take out the magical 2004 season of Corey Dillon, the leading rusher for the Patriots averaged just 796 yards per season over the last decade. Include it and they’ve averaged just 880 yards – not exactly a total you can pencil in and hope to win a title with.

Face it, this is Tom Brady’s team and the committee approach used by the Patriots rarely lends itself to providing truly consistent value to running backs – they’re already on record as saying they’re looking to ride that hot hand and that’s bad news for fantasy owners of Vereen or Ridley. Touchdowns are extremely tough to predict and the only time a running back from New England truly dominated was in 2004 when Dillon had a career season. While Vereen and Ridley are both talented players, it’s tough to see either of them dominating in any fashion close to that.

Summary

The Patriots backfield is a source of both controversy and mystery in dynasty circles right now. While some owners feel Ridley has already shown the ability to be a productive player and is easily the best player of the group to own, many others feel Vereen needs to be the prime target of dynasty owners because he simply didn’t get his chance last season. There’s an even larger contingency of people who are avoiding the situation altogether.

Personally, I’m on the Ridley bandwagon. I’ve seen enough from him to make me pretty excited about his future. That being said, I’d jump off that bandwagon at the first sign of danger!

Where do you stand?

Ken Kelly
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Alan Bauerle
10 years ago

All I know is Ridley better produce I traded the 1.10 for him. I think in time when he’s a F/A there’s going to be a few teams out there needing a rb and he’ll find a good spot to land

Boomer
Reply to  Alan Bauerle
10 years ago

Lol. I dealt Antonio Brown for 1.10 and Ridley. I personally feel both backs are great additions because the risk-reward is totally worth it. Nobody out there seems to be extremely bullish on either player so if you can get the pair it should pay off for RB2 or high flex value.

Pete
10 years ago

Neither will be valuable. They’ll both have a few good games but chances are they’ll be on your bench unless it’s a bye week or you’re a total idiot for starting any running back in a RBBC on the Patriots.

Ryan Krcil
Reply to  Pete
10 years ago

I think this also depends on the size of the league, but for the most part I agree.

Being part of a small 8 man Dynasty league (all close college friends) these two hold little value, but I hold them both.

I think it is all in expectations. I believe one of them will be a RB2 or a RB3/Flex which is good enough to put in my line up.

Cyrus
Reply to  Ryan Krcil
10 years ago

In an 8 team league, I would consider dropping one or both of them, and I am a Patriots fan.

In my 12 team leagues, I have been buying Vereen for cheap all offseason. Unfortunately several of my leagues I can’t get him for cheap– I already spent a first on him last year. But I believe in his measurables and think that he will be the main back eventually.

Ryan Krcil
Reply to  Cyrus
10 years ago

They are more of added depth, but due to roster sizes neither of them should really be dropped. (40/20 rosters IDP)

Tim Miller
Reply to  Cyrus
10 years ago

I am in a 8 team league and Vereen and Ridley are both on waivers going into this season.

Alan Bauerle
Reply to  Pete
10 years ago

Yea well I’m in a 12 team league w 26 roster spots so after he starters it gets thin. Sometimes you gotta start who’s availiable. It’s not the ideal situation but in our league you gotta start who’s availiable.

Beefcake
10 years ago

I’ve tried to get both for cheap this offseason, most owners are high on “their” guy, can’t pry them away without giving up value for a questionable return. I like both, but am finding myself in the “case for neither”. Also have a funny feeling that Woodhead may outproduce both in a PPR league this year…

BOB HUBER
10 years ago

i’ll take BGE before either of those guys!!!!!!!!!!

BOB HUBER
Reply to  BOB HUBER
10 years ago

I am in a keeper league and i believe BGE is a good short term low cost pick. We start 2 RB’s and he would be my #3 and should be consistant and have decent, not great, production. In a 3 year window he could be a solid #3.

Scott
Reply to  BOB HUBER
10 years ago

BJGE doesn’t have the talent of Ridley or Vereen, IMO. In the NE offense, any RB can practically fall into the end zone, with Tom Brady at QB.

robert huber
Reply to  Scott
10 years ago

I agree that Ridley and Vereen have more talent than BJGE, but BJGE will likely be the lead back in Cincinnati and outproduce both of those guys fantasy points wise.

I just think he is in a much better situation and since my league is a keeper/auction league i only need him for 2-3 yeas as a good #3 RB.

I guess the difference is keeper vs dynasty value?

Luke
10 years ago

2001: Jermaine Wiggins: 14 catches, 133 yards, 4 TDs
2002: Christian Fauria: 27 catches, 253 yards, 7 TDs
2003: Daniel Graham: 38 catches, 409 yards, 4 TDs
2004: Daniel Graham: 30 catches, 364 yards, 7 TDs
2005: Ben Watson: 29 catches, 441 yards, 4 TDs
2006: Ben Watson: 49 catches, 643 yards, 3 TDs
2007: Ben Watson: 36 catches, 389 yards, 6 TDs
2008: Ben Watson: 22 catches, 209 yards, 2 TDs
2009: Ben Watson: 29 catches, 404 yards, 5 TDs
2010: Rob Gronkowski: 42 catches, 546 yards, 10 TDs
Aaron Hernandez: 45 catches, 563 yards, 6 TDs
And you already know what happened in 2011.
Point is, nobody thought that Patriot TEs would ever have any value, and I remember people shying away from drafting either Gronk or AHern because Pats drafted them both.
When BB saw the weapons he had, he changed his entire offensive philosophy to exploit them. I’m not saying that Vereen or Ridley is going to finish a RB1, but if one demonstrates that they are clearly better, BB is going to play them.
BJGE, apart from not-fumbling, was the epitome of mediocre, and has no explosive ability.
And I own neither back

Cyrus
Reply to  Luke
10 years ago

Brilliant observation.

Belichick is a chameleon on offense. He doesn’t force the team to do it one way (anti-Martz), he adapts to whatever works best. With McDaniels in town, I think they will try a lot of 4 WR sets and spread out the defense– but in 2007, they were very effective running the ball out of the shotgun.

That is one of the reasons I believe in Vereen. Ridley showed a lot and is a good RB, and if he works on the fumbling issue, he could be the next BJGE. However, Ridley in the offense makes it predictable.

Vereen is the x factor, if he is as fast as I think he is and does well with his opportunities, he can be in the offense regardless of formation. While role players are effective, I think Belichick values versatility on offense and defense, as it allows you to mask what you are doing or shift formations on the fly. Having Vereen could mean running the same formations as Ridley or Woodhead interchangeably within the same series.

It all comes down to whether Vereen shows up and produces. If not, then Ridley is the guy. If Vereen does, I think he adds an element to the offense and will be carrying the load a lot more than history predicts. Remember, the majority of the years cited above include injuries to several of the RB’s, or just ineffective RB’s (Maroney). The one year they had a RB in his prime, they rode him to a Super Bowl. The Patriots trust Brady to throw the ball in any situation, but running the ball helps bleed the clock.

Keith Fortier
10 years ago

They went 10.12 (Ridley) and 11.07 (Vereen) in our recent startup, which is around their current ADPs. I’m a Pats fan, so i watch every minute, and even though i believe either one of these guys have enough talent to be a feature back, i dont believe that either will see enough work to count on them on a weekly basis.

Let’s be real, BB is worse than Shanny. At least when shanny starts a back, that back gets 90% of the workload. With the Pats, it not only can switch from game to game, but drive to drive. The only hope is to see a return to the early 2000s and the Dillon days, but i wouldn’t hold my breath. Not with the recieving weapons they have.

The fact that both have worked with the 1st and 2nd team in OTA’s only solidifies this viewpoint. If you can get either one, cheap, then it’s worth the gamble. But i wouldnt be counting on either to start for me.

Go Pats!

Drew Swanson
10 years ago

Off topic question. Thank you in advance!

Fair trade?

Team A gives: Dez Bryant, Aaron Hernandez, 2012 1.11
Team B gives: Darren McFadden, 2012 1.03 & 2.03

Andr3w
Reply to  Drew Swanson
10 years ago

It depends a lot on the direction and build of your team and league. My initial thoughts were to say Team B though.

Lando
Reply to  Drew Swanson
10 years ago

I would take the DMac side of this and it’s not even close.

Richard
10 years ago

I had both on my roster. Traded them both, Donald Brown, David Hawthorne, T.J. Ward, my 2.01, 3.12 and 5.12 for the 1.02 that I used to get Andrew Luck and Lawrence Timmons.

witdog67
10 years ago

“Let’s be real, BB is worse than Shanny”

Great point, because that was what I was thinking! I’m no patriot expert, but it seems like when push comes to shove, they are throwing. When they are throwing, they are conservative about having a veteran blocker in at RB. That’s even more important with both TE’s out catching passes. Woodhead? I’d play him if you got points for picking up blitzes!

I’d add all of them late in a redraft, but not interested in dynasty unless they come cheap. They’ll get theirs, but inconsistently, game to game, as well as mostly in garbage time against inferior opponents when they do. I hate sweating it out until the 4th quarter with these types.

Coach
10 years ago

I have Foster, MJD and the Lawfirm… also have Shane Vereen so I’m hoping he wins out. He can battle Tim Hightower and Ryan Williams for my 4th RB slot.

Chris Crane
10 years ago

2 words = avoid headaches

Scott
Reply to  Chris Crane
10 years ago

Not so fast. I would argue the headache is with owners of Vereen, not Ridley. As I mentioned in my post below, I got Ridley last year at 4.08. For me, it’s a bonus if Ridley succeeds. Whomever picked Vereen in round 1 is sweating it out, for sure. Ridley owners don’t have much to worry about, since the cost in acquiring him was not prohibitive, unlike Vereen.

Chris Crane
Reply to  Scott
10 years ago

Well I agree with that. I did both like you listed above, BUT I got out when someone gave me a 1st and 2nd for the pair.

Scott
10 years ago

I’m on the Ridley side, but I acknowledge that might turn out completely wrong. My position on this has always been based on draft value. Last year, Vereen was a consensus first round pick in rookie drafts, and Ridley was an afterthought. Ridley had a nice career at LSU, and he played against tough defensive teams in the SEC. Vereen is smaller in stature, and played in a weaker conference compared to Ridley. I can see why fantasy footballers will like Vereen, in terms of his talent/speed, but I always felt the value was with Ridley. We know Belichick has an RBBC from hell. We also know that NE spent a third round pick on Ridley, and those players are generally expected to function as future starters. BJGE was not an overwhelming talent, and he still was a productive RB2/3 player for fantasy football. Ridley has the size to be a replacement for BJGE, whereas Vereen is probably more a replacement for Kevin Faulk in the NE offense. Knowing that, BJGE was a much more valuable commodity than Faulk. Lastly, the most critical point of all is, Ridley cost a LOT less last year. In one of my drafts, Vereen went top 10, and I got Ridley at pick 4.08. For me, it’s a bonus if I can pick a fourth round player who turns out to start. The Vereen owner has a lot more at stake, having taken him top 10. The valuation last year clearly favored Ridley, IMO.

Cyrus
Reply to  Scott
10 years ago

1- I agree completely with the valuation you mention and the return on investment for anyone who drafted Vereen versus Ridley. I drafted Vereen and really hope he makes me look smart and not stupid. (Worse still, I took Vereen at 1.11 and Murray at 2.07– before Murray became the starter, someone asked for Vereen in a trade and I talked him into Murray instead)

However, now that a year has gone by, that is a sunk cost. With regard to current value, you often have to pay more for Ridley than Vereen, which would make me not trade for Ridley. Also in start ups, Ridley is going first.

2- Vereen might be more of a replacement for Faulk, but I remember reading that his measurables were better than Ingram last year, including the bench press. While he is smaller, he is very strong. I see him as an uber-Faulk back who can be used in passing situations and between the tackles as need be.

So while Ridley will be used in GL situations and short yardage, Vereen has the skillset to be the RB on the field at all times and could actually be a better fit for the offense than Ridley.

3- All that said, it is a crapshoot and I just hope one of them emerges so that FF owners have an answer. I also hope that one of them emerges so that the Patriots have a solid RB to rely on. I’m a Pats fan and our running game has been good because of the attention paid to Brady, not on its own merit. I would love for a RB that can gain yardage even when the defense is expecting run.

Glen Potter
10 years ago

I got Ridley off the wire after the team that drafted him cut him just before last season began. I like Ridley but he will be nothing more than a RB3 or RB2 at best. Besides I have Matthews and Forte as my starters. But Ridley showed a lot in the Oakland game. He had 100 yards and looked really good doing it. I am holding onto him unless somebody offers me RB2 money

Mercenaries
10 years ago

In my PPR Dynasty league we can have up to 5 RBs on our roster. I am planning on keeping Foster, Charles, Reggie Bush, and Tate (Foster handcuff). My final RB spot is down to Ridley or Shonn Greene. Who would be better to hang on to? Ridley has the greater potential, but Greene is the obvious starter and Sparano has already said that they plan on running the ball a ton. Who should I keep?

Cyrus
Reply to  Mercenaries
10 years ago

I feel like you have to go upside and I would go with Ridley. I feel that even if he is the starter, Greene won’t do much.

But thats me, and I might be biased (Pats fan).

That said, don’t just cut Greene. Someone traded him for Torrey Smith in my IDP PPR dynasty a week or two ago.

Reply to  Mercenaries
10 years ago

Keep Greene. For all the hate he gets, still a low end RB2

tebow
10 years ago

i am a ridley owner but not for long he is going to be my last drop. its a tough choice but i saw last year him look really good and pick up chunks of yards but the next week he only got a few carries because bb uses different guys every week depending on who they are playing. i dont wanna risk using him on a bye week coming off a 80 yr 2 td game only to see him give me a zero because woodhead and veeren were in that weeks game plan. love the talent but you cant ever trust him unless both those other guys get hurt not to mention addai might take snaps too,bb loves vet rbs that he can trust

john
10 years ago

Would you trade T rich, Hillman and a 1st and 2nd round pick next year for Foster? I have a win now team i believe

Reply to  john
10 years ago

John, that’s a tough call but I would not make that trade. Trich should get a ton of touches, and while he wont produce like Foster, if your team is a strong as you think it is Trich should be fine for you. That is entirely to much to give up for any player, imo.

10 years ago

12 team Dynasty league

Would you trade Calvin Johnson and J. Maclin for A. Foster and Nicks?

Sensei_John_Kreese
Reply to  Lane Kiffin
10 years ago

I would.

witdog67
Reply to  Sensei_John_Kreese
10 years ago

It’s a tough call. IF you’ve got the WR depth AND need a RB, why not. Assume Calvin plays a few years longer than Foster. They both can win you some games! Franchise making players for sure.

Foster is incredible, I like Nicks, he is a bit overrated though. His game to game #’s were a little lacking of elite status if you ask me, no thanks to Cruz stepping up. He looks great doing what he does though! Maclin is streaky, replaceable if you ask me, I rate him no better than a WR3 for a fantasy title team.

witdog67
10 years ago

Anybody have an opinion on a trade I just did? Gave up DMC, M.Bush, and Little for Charles and Wallace. 3 for 2.

I’ve got Mathews,Best,Leshoure,Royster, and Marshall,Julio,AJ,Austin,Crabtree as well. And I still need to reduce my roster size by trading away more players than I get back a few more times too, before the season starts, due to our Injured Reserve rules.

My plan was to gamble adding extra WR talent, as ammo to get a superstar, durable RB in the next potential deal.

6 years ago

Or that ‘MIR’ is brief for “send in discount.

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