I knew it happened it to me last year when I selected C.J. Spiller. You drafted a seed with an irrepressible brand but deep down knew something wouldn’t pan out. Everyone talked about his upside and how the Bills wanted to give him the ball until he “threw up.” Everyone was drinking the Spiller Kool-Aid. I didn’t even like him last year–I liked that everyone else liked him. There was a little voice within myself urging caution . . . but I decided to take a drink for myself.
With this series, I want to smoke out these guys and see if my hunch can be backed up with equally worrisome data.
Stevan Ridley – Shane Vereen – James White – Brandon Bolden
The Patriots backfield reminds me of my college calculus class. You have a problem in front of you that you sit and stare at, you look through all your notes and the examples in the textbook, but nothing gets any more clear. You just sit there in frustration and eventually give up and crack open a beer. That is the Patriots backfield.
We’ve got Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden and the rookie, James White. Ridley has trouble keeping the ball off the ground, Vereen sees minimal carries and is mostly utilized through the air, Bolden can quietly catch and run the ball, while White has been highly praised in training camp, but hasn’t shown it in the preseason games. The majority of this article is going to focus on Ridley and Vereen because they’re the main players in the fantasy world, but White and Bolden shouldn’t go unnoticed because it’s possible they play a factor in this offense, from a real football standpoint.
The snap counts above should concern just about anyone who’s considering drafting a Patriots RB. Blount isn’t there anymore, but they did invest a fourth-round pick on James White in this year’s draft. Vereen had a substantial amount of snaps when you notice that he only played eight games last year. Averaging over 40 snaps/game.
These splits are a bit troubling to me. Vereen seems fairly unaffected when Ridley plays. Ridley, on the other hand sees a tremendous dip in production when Vereen is involved. He loses about six carries and his fantasy points take an eight point dip. This seems worrisome if you’re deciding whether or not to draft Ridley. I’m also worried about Vereen, but for a different reason that I’ll get to later.
Game Splits- Part Two: Gronk
Ridley proved to be more effective when playing with Gronk. If Ridley didn’t have his fumbling woes, I think he’d be a top 12 RB in terms of fantasy points. Vereen’s split seem like they’re better when Gronk plays, but it is HEAVILY skewed by the game against Cleveland when Gronk tore his ACL (see below).
Removing the Cleveland game from the picture when Gronk had the early exit and Vereen’s production and usage dropped in every category. I think Vereen’s usage in 2014 would closely resemble the “out of split” directly above.
It’s no surprise that Ridley isn’t much of an asset in the passing game, but when he carries the ball (and hangs on to it) he is still effective. If Vereen isn’t catching the ball out of the backfield, he isn’t of much use to the Patriots or your fantasy football team. He did have 47 receptions in eight games last year, but 12 of them came in the Cleveland game. Ridley should still be seen as a workhorse, as he saw 43 percent of the Patriots rushing attempts. Blount saw 32 percent of the team’s rushing attempts, so those carries will need to go somewhere.
Stevan Ridley- Sim Score
With the RotoViz sim score app, Ridley has a rather bleak projection. Obviously, these are just projections, so interpret however you wish. It would be more apt to to draft Ridley in a standard league over PPR.
Shane Vereen- Sim Score
The projection for Vereen looks to be fairly close to his numbers in the game splits app. While this projection looks like a healthy one, I don’t know if I’m willing to invest in Vereen as one of my early picks because the usage in the Patriots backfield has potential to be sporadic, especially when you’re relying on an RB who relies on the majority of his production through the air and rarely sees more than five carries/game.
Who I’m Drafting
If I have to draft one of these players, I’m going to side with Ridley in standard leagues (Vereen for PPR). Fantasy Gumshoe sums up well why Vereen is overvalued in our RotoViz Round Table. I think to rely on Vereen as your fourth-to-fifth round pick teeters on the risky side. Patriot backfield play can be sporadic at times depending on how the game is going and if Ridley fumbles. To rely on Vereen is to rely on a player who rarely sees more than five rushes/game and receiving for RBs is inherently random. There will be weeks he produces, but to rely on them on a consistent basis could be detrimental to your fantasy team when you’re selecting him that early in drafts. Selecting Ridley doesn’t come without the risks, either. Ridley is on thin ice with eight fumbles in the last two years. If he somehow manages to bring his fumbles down, I think he could transform back into the player he was in 2012 when he rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 TDs.