Towards the beginning of last season, not many people were even aware of exactly who Shane Vereen was. Fast forward to the summer of 2013 and he is on the fantasy radars of everyone out there.
Vereen showed some flashes last season, making some big plays out of the backfield. He’ll be asked to do a lot more in 2013. With Wes Welker gone, Aaron Hernandez preoccupied (?) and Rob Gronkowski continually banged up, Vereen may very well be the most important part of the Patriots aerial attack this season. Also, an underrated departure is that of Danny Woodhead, a very utilized aspect of the passing game during his time in New England. Last season, both Vereen and Woodhead saw a total of 186 touches, helping Woodhead quietly finish as fantasy’s number 25 running back. In a PPR format, Woodhead also scored 0.40 fantasy points per snap, which was good for ninth in football. Now, I’d expect all of those touches to go directly to Vereen, which could lead to some serious fantasy production in 2013.
This uptick in production has fantasy owners buzzing, resulting in a boost in Vereen’s ADP. Via Fantasy Football Calculator, here is a graph that shows the progression of his ADP since June 10th.
As you can see, in June, Vereen’s ADP was around 8.04. Now, with the Patriots offense going down like flies, Vereen’s current average draft position is currently sitting at 6.06, making him the 31st running back off the board. Incredible. More than two rounds higher than from about a month ago. The hype is very, very real.
But should it be?
I spoke with ESPN’s Patriots insider, Field Yates, about how Vereen will be used in New England’s offense and more. He knows this organization and it’s players like the back of his hand, and I suggest you give him a Twitter follow @FieldYates. He’s also very knowledgeable when it comes to Fantasy Football.
“Vereen is a unique back in that he’s capable of aligning in receiver spots and has the ability to run a diverse route tree, both from the backfield and when split out,” Yates explained. “The Patriots have endured substantial turnover among their receivers this season, but Vereen could have his name called for an increased role in his third season. Thus far, consistency and durability have been the two areas that have stunted his production since being drafted in the second round in 2011, but Vereen looks ready to make the jump in 2013. Vereen has very good lateral agility to make defenders miss, is a smooth, natural hands catcher and his excellent speed makes him a threat for big plays. The Patriots are masters of dictating favorable match ups on offense, and if they can find ways to consistently draw man coverage from a linebacker against Vereen, he could make a substantial leap into fantasy relevance this season.”
So there you have it, folks. A very intelligent, in-depth analysis of Vereen and has opportunity in New England this year. Yates explained Vereen’s ability to line up as a wideout, and it appears the Patriots have been noticing it as well. During spring practices, the third year back was seen lining up as a receiver at times. He has the ability to run unique routes, ranging from double moves, slants, you name it. He is a very versatile talent that will be utilized in more ways than one this season.
As for the skyrocketing ADP, it’s certainly a lot of love, but assuming he’ll get Woodhead’s work from last year, as well as Hernandez’s targets (remember, Hernandez lined up as WR over 60% of time last year), there is no reason to believe he can’t finish as a top-20 back, especially when you consider the position isn’t exactly the deepest it’s ever been. One thing is for sure, Vereen shouldn’t be drafted solely as Stevan Ridley’s backup.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.