Remember back during the offseason when fantasy fans and analysts alike were buzzing over the prospects of Shane Vereen?
The hype was real. With a depleted Patriots receiving core, Vereen was going to contribute in this offense in a big way. We saw a sneak preview in Week 1, as Vereen posted his first career 100-yard rushing performance, while also catching seven balls for 58 yards. A PPR machine who would be used in many ways, Vereen was set for fantasy stardom. However, a broken wrist hindered his breakout season, sidelining him until Week 11. Well guess what, folks?
Vereen is back and the hype is still very much real.
Monday night was glorious for those who have been waiting to see Vereen in action. The running back made his first appearance since Week 1, and made fantasy owners who dropped him regret it. In almost 50 percent of the team’s snaps, Vereen only carried the ball once, but managed a healthy eight catches for 65 yards. He was targeted a whopping 11 times by Tom Brady. I’d expect more than one carry per game from Vereen moving forward. New England probably just wanted to ease him back in a bit slowly, at least in the running game. The Patriots are going to use him in every way possible. Whether it’s out of the backfield, in the slot or out wide, Vereen is going to be an ongoing mismatch for opposing lineups. Obviously this is great for those who have been waiting to plug Vereen back into their lineup, but this news is also terrific for the guy tossing him the football.
Throughout his career, Tom Brady has had a reliable pass-catching back. Guys like Kevin Faulk come to mind, but lately, he’s lacked that security blanket out of the backfield. Stevan Ridley has just 18 career receptions, and LeGarrette Blount isn’t exactly a pass-catching threat. With inconsistent receivers all season long, Brady, who already has Rob Gronkowski back, should see more success in the passing game with Vereen back. He won’t have to force passes down the field to his rookies, and Vereen is a guy who can take a wheel route for 50-plus yards for a score.
As long as Vereen is in the lineup for the Patriots, he is a low-end running back two in PPR leagues. After seeing 11 targets in just his first game back, you clearly know that the Patriots will find ways to get this guy the ball. Feel free to start him with confidence.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.