In the past, New England Patriot running backs are not great fantasy football options. After all, the Patriots are one of the more pass-happy teams in the National Football League and Bill Belichick enjoys rotating his running backs just about as much as Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan.
Over the past two years, Benjarvus Green-Ellis has been what you would call the Patriots starting running back and he was solid for the team and for fantasy owners. Last season, the law-firm as he was affectionately called in New England gained only 667 yards rushing but reached paydirt 11 times, which led to his ranking 27th among running backs for fantasy points in point per reception leagues.
However, the 2012 New England Patriots have a little bit of a different running back situation after Green-Ellis departed to the Bengals via free agency. With Green-Ellis out of the picture, it opens the door Stevan Ridley to assume the starter’s role for the Patriots.
Some may have assumed that Ridley would be just another cog in the Patriots running back rotation but digging a little deeper into the situation reveals a bit of a different story.
As a rookie, Ridley was very effective running the football, as he carried the ball 87 times for 441 yards, which equates to an average of 5.1 yards per carry. Ridley has also proven that he can catch the ball out of the backfield, even though he caught just three passes, reports out of Patriots training camp say that Ridley has been impressive during camp running the ball and as a receiver.
The next thing in Ridley’s favor are the other runners left on the New England roster following the release of veteran Joseph Addai. Shane Vereen, a fellow second-year player and Danny Woodhead round out the running back group. Both players are smallish 3rd-down or change of pace backs. Neither really has the size to take the consistent pounding that comes with being a starting running back, so there is reason to believe Ridley is going to end up being the workhorse.
In my opinion, Ridley is going to get somewhere between 200-225 carries this season, which means he could rush for approximately 900-1,000 yards. Ridley should also be good for about 30-40 receptions.
The other good news about Ridley is that he should scored some touchdowns because neither Woodhead or Vereen really have the ability to be goal-line backs, so its likely that Ridley also takes over for Green-Ellis as the goal-line back. With that in mind, an eight to 10 touchdown season is not stretch for Ridley.
While, there is a very limited sample size on Ridley, sometimes in fantasy football we have to evaluate the player as much as the numbers and Ridley is a talented runner, who will have a big enough role in New England to be a solid flex player for PPR owners in 2012.