Expectations were very high for New England Patriots RB Stevan Ridley going into last year, and understandably so. Ridley finished the 2012 season with 1,263 rushing yards and 12 TDs, and on average he was drafted in the second round in 2013. Unfortunately, Ridley disappointed his owners with just 773 rushing yards and seven TDs, but here’s why you should take a chance on him in 2014.
Ridley had a slow start last year, but by the middle of the season, he seemed to be picking up steam with seven TDs in five games. Then came three straight games last November in which he lost a fumble in each game. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was less than pleased, and Ridley was promptly benched. He still got some carries, but he failed to break 100 yards in a game or get a single TD for the rest of the season.
But here’s the thing. Looking back at Ridley’s fumbles from 2013, not all of them were completely his fault. While Ridley has demonstrated that he needs to learn to protect the ball with both hands, at least a couple of his 2013 fumbles were either just great defensive plays or results of poor offensive line play. Ridley can fix or at least improve his poor ball protection skills with proper coaching and practice this offseason and coming preseason.
That brings me to the next point. The Patriots lost LeGarrette Blount to the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason. Brandon Bolden also got carries in 2013, but I believe Ridley to be the much more talented back. While Shane Vereen is an elusive runner, the Patriots seem to prefer using him as a receiving threat rather than a true RB. If Ridley can fix his fumbling issues and re-earn Belichick’s trust next year, he should still be the lead back in New England.
And if Ridley does reclaim his starting job, he has a huge amount of potential. While the Patriots’ offense struggled as a whole last season, the offense should improve this season. Julian Edelman gained Tom Brady’s trust as his reliable go-to receiver. Aaron Dobson showed talent and could develop into a capable WR. There are big questions as to whether Danny Amendola or Rob Gronkowski can stay healthy, but if they do, the Patriots will be a dangerous offense.
Most importantly, many mock drafts have Ridley available through the sixth round or later. I’ve even seen a mock where he remained undrafted until the 10th round. No one is suggesting that he should be your first RB when you draft in a few months. However, Ridley would be a great RB3 or RB4 on your bench if he does reclaim his former 2012 glory.
Yes, there are a lot of “ifs” that need to happen for Ridley to be a good fantasy option in 2014. But assuming Ridley can stop fumbling, he has the talent to succeed. If he remains a low-cost option in August, take a chance on him. Ridley has RB1 upside despite his 2013 performance.