Bill Belichick is at it again: shuffling running backs in and out like he is Mike Shanahan. The New England Patriots are always tough to get a read on. Whether it is with injuries or playing time for certain players, Belichick and the tight-lipped Patriots drive Fantasy owners crazy.
Heading in to the 2013 season, it appeared that Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen would take most of the snaps at running back for the Patriots. Ridley is coming off of a season where he rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns, and Vereen showed fantastic versatility and big-play ability in the Patriots’ play-off run. On paper, it appeared that both Ridley and Vereen were both in line to be productive Fantasy players. Of course, it does not always work out that way.
Ridley has been non-existent so far this season rushing for 121 yards on 36 attempts. He had a bad fumble in New England’s Week 1 game, opening up the door for Vereen who was fantastic, rushing for 101 yards on 14 attempts and adding in seven receptions for 58 yards. The Patriots lined Vereen up all over the field and after Week 1, he appeared to be a legitimate Fantasy option. Unfortunately, Vereen broke his wrist in that Week 1 game and will not be ready to return until much later in the season.
With the injury to Vereen and the obvious struggles of Ridley, the door has been opened for another running back to step up. LeGarrette Blount took some carries last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rushing for 65 yards on 14 attempts, but the guy that really caught my eye was second-year back Brandon Bolden.
At 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, Bolden has nice size for a NFL running back. He shows a good power and speed combination that allows him to break big runs like the 46-yard scamper he had last week against Tampa Bay. Bolden was on the field for 26 of the 73 offensive stats that the Patriots took on Sunday, which was the same amount as Ridley. New England is obviously incorporating a running back by committee for now, and I think that Bolden has a chance to put up some nice numbers.
Bolden was used all over the field on Sunday, seemingly taking over Vereen’s role in the offense. He only carried the ball three times (for 51 yards), but he did haul in five catches for 49 yards. The Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4. Atlanta has been solid against the run this season, but they do have trouble against the pass. I think Tom Brady will be spreading them out and throwing a ton in this game. That means plenty of opportunity for Bolden.
I predict that Bolden takes more snaps than both Ridley and Blount this week and has himself a nice game. Most of his damage will probably come from receiving, so he is gets a nice boost in PPR leagues.
Running back is by far the shallowest position in Fantasy Football. With the extreme lack of options and the bye weeks upon us, I think that Bolden represents some nice value, at least in the short term.