After a breakout 2012 season that saw him rush for over 1,200 yards with 12 touchdowns, New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley had a disappointing season last year (773 yards and seven touchdowns). He was very productive from Week 4-Week 11 (six games) last season, when he had 441 rushing yards on 95 carries with seven touchdowns, but fumble issues led to him being benched for Week 13 and he had a minimal role after that. Ridley is still firmly in the mix for carries in New England’s backfield, and if his fumble problems are behind him a rebound season could be coming.
Ridley had 32 carries in the red zone last year, and with the departure of LeGarrette Blount in free agency (23 red zone carries in 2013) he is in line for more opportunities when New England gets close to the end zone. A fair amount of Blount’s 153 carries from last season could go to Ridley this year as well, and he already led the Patriots in carries last year with 178.
The Patriots traditionally lean heavily on the running game in goal-to-go situations, which is good news for any back that gets the majority of the goal line work. That back looks certain to be Ridley this year, with little in terms of substantial competition.
Ridley had 290 carries in 2012, which was good for sixth-best in the league. So he can handle a workhorse role if the opportunity comes, and is still firmly in his prime at age 25.
Ridley only has 19 receptions in three seasons, and Shane Vereen should be New England’s primary passing down back again this year. Rookie James White could make a case for a significant role with a strong training camp and preseason, which would again create a running back by committee for fantasy owners to navigate each week.
If Ridley continues to have issues with fumbles (eight over the last two years), he could land in head coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse again. That would bring a minimized role, and the potential of Ridley being unusable at an inopportune time for his fantasy owners.
Ridley’s upside in PPR leagues is limited by his lack of pass catching production, but otherwise he is in line for a significant role and could be a draft day steal. I don’t necessarily see him equaling his 2012 production this year, but a realistic projection of 200-plus carries, over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns is enough to make Ridley worth a look as a RB2 or RB3 in the middle rounds of a draft.
Bye Week: Week 10
Projected Round: Seventh Round
Auction Value: $11 (Fantasy Pros.com)
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter.