A real sleeper for a fantasy team could be New England Patriots RB Stevan Ridley. The second year back will be the featured player in New England’s backfield this season.
Shane Vereen is slotted behind Ridley on the depth chart, but he will probably get his fair share of carries as well. Danny Woodhead will be in the mix as well with more of a ‘factor back’ type of role (think Darren Sproles).
Now before you gasp at my choice of Ridley as a legitimate fantasy sleeper hear me out. It is widely known that New England has a top notch high powered offensive attack.
Tom Brady and company have always used the short passing and screen game as a way to kind of run the ball or keep the chains moving so to speak.
It may be a surprise that over the course of the last several years New England has been amongst the NFL league leaders in rushing touchdowns with a third place finish in 2011.
While BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a solid back for the Pats he was in no way a game breaker. He kept a good hold of the football and did not fumble, which is a problem Ridley will have to address if he wants to get the bulk of the team’s carries.
Green-Ellis had 11 touchdowns in 2011. He was definitely a back that benefitted from being in a prolific offense. Just look at the running backs for the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers in recent years if there is any question that a good offense helps add TD’s to a RB’s stats.
For New England to be amongst the league leaders in rushing TD’s shows that the team can swap backs in out and out year after year. This is a team that has not really had a legit top of the line back in the Tom Brady era with the exception of the 2004 season with Corey Dillon.
Vereen has been criticized for not protecting the ball and for being fumble prone. He is currently atop the Pats depth chart, but recent reports have Vereen giving him a fight for that top spot. One thing that is for certain is that each back back will get the opportunity to prove themselves in 2012, especially considering the popularity of the two back system. The Patriots have always seemed to use a two back approach under HC Bill Belichick.