His first two seasons were not too eventful, but New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen is finally starting to turn into the player that Bill Belichick saw when he drafted Vereen in 2011.
At the time that Vereen was drafted, many scouts were skeptical of the pick because running backs that were slight of frame were not considered to be featured backs. GM often preferred to draft bigger, thicker running backs then because they felt that bigger running backs could handle the physicality of the NFL better than smaller running backs. We must credit Belichick though, as he certainly had an eye toward the future when he drafted Vereen.
Smaller, more explosive running backs are starting to take over the league. Guys like Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy are proof that explosion has now become the most important trait for a running back to have. Vereen might not be as good as those two, but he certainly has similar burst.
What is starting to set Vereen apart from his fellow Patriots running backs is his ability to catch the football. He is almost like a wide receiver, often splitting out wide and winning on outside routes. Opposing defensive coordinators have no idea who they should use to cover Vereen. It certainly cannot be a linebacker, as Vereen is too fast for most of them. The top three cornerbacks are often used up on other Patriots pass catchers.
Vereen can also serve as a traditional running back. He has rushed 38 times this season, going for 186 yards (good for 4.9 yards per carry). Josh McDaniels is doing his best to limit Vereen’s carries because he does not want Vereen to get too winded. However, it does not appear that getting between 10-15 carries per game will hurt him too much.
Offensive coordinators are calling for passes more and more these days, which calls for a running back that is adept at catching the football. More passes means less rushes, which means that this very same running back only needs to carry the ball between 10-15 times per game to get a true workload.
This is exactly what Vereen is capable of and is what he is getting closer to doing. He is a part of the future of the running back position.
Philip Alexander is a New England Patriots writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @steely0906, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.