Let’s be honest; when you think about the New England Patriots offense the first vision you have is of Tom Brady and the aerial attack. And that makes sense as Brady is listed annually as a top three Fantasy Football quarterback and he lives up to the billing for the most part every year.
Statistically the Patriots are one of the top passing teams in the NFL each season. In 2012 they finished fourth in yards (4,662) and passing attempts (641). My guess is those could have been more inflated numbers had New England not held large leads in the latter parts of many games. So yes, the Patriots are known for and subsequently live up to the label of passing offense.
Here’s what you may not know. In 2012 the Patriots finished seventh in the league with 2,184 yards rushing and even more surprisingly second in rush attempts with 523.
Now I am not going to try and argue with you about the Patriots’ passing labels; they are certainly legit. What I do want to shed light on is the relevance of the Patriots ground game. They pound the rock – a lot.
Here are a couple more stats to ponder. The Patriots had 7,028 total offensive yards and 59 touchdowns in 2012 making them arguably one of the best Fantasy Football offenses. Now, hold on to your hat. Of the total listed above 3,041 yards and 17 touchdowns left Massachusetts this offseason when the Patriots parted ways with Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Danny Woodhead. That’s a ton of production, folks.
And yet, I guarantee you the Patriots will again be a perennial offensive powerhouse this season. So, by declaration someone is going to be the recipient of that lost production. In free agency the Patriots brought in former St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola, then drafted Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson in the second round and TCU Horned Frog Josh Boyce in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. That is a step in the right direction for making up some of the lost receiving yardage.
Now, who gets the nod in making up the lost rushing yardage for New England? In the offseason the Patriots traded for NFL bad boy and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back LaGarrette Blount, but that move was more about depth than production.
Shane Vereen was a spot fill in for Patriots third down back Woodhead in 2012 and did an admirable job of it. In fact Vereen accrued 562 yards and seven touchdowns through the course of the regular season and playoffs last year. Not a bad stat line for a second string single down back.
Now that Woodhead is soaking up the California sun, Vereen is in line for the full time job. What does that mean in Fantasy Football lingo? Vereen makes for an enticing flex play this season. Not that you can expect these kind of numbers, but if you add Woodhead and Vereen’s 2012 regular and postseason totals you get a stat line that reads 1,308 yards and 14 scores.
That’s a stretch for anticipated Vereen numbers in 2013. What isn’t a stretch is the historical importance and production of a third down back in a Bill Belichick run offense. Vereen will be relevant. He can run the ball, he’s got dependable hands as a receiver out of the backfield and the guy is nails when it comes to yards after catch. If you’re in a PPR league that requires a flex, Vereen is your guy.