NEW YORK (TheStreet) If you know anything about me, you know that I bleed blue, silver and red for #patriotsnation. I live and breathe the New England Patriots, and in my world, everything Bill Belichick and Tom Brady do is never wrong. The rest of the team isn't afforded that luxury, especially if you're Patriots RB Stevan Ridley. In light of Ridley's recent fumbling issues, fantasy owners have been scratching their heads, searching for an answer that isn't there -- just yet.
Ridley, 24, is a supremely talented runner, having rushed for 1,263 yards last year, scoring 12 TD's while catching 14 passes for 51 yards. In the 4 leagues I'm in (two auction drafts, two snake drafts), Ridley went for an average of $34.50, and was picked 26.5. He's obviously well regarded as he's owned in 96% of Yahoo! leagues.
Yet with 3 fumbles in the last 3 games, Belichick's confidence in the running back is falling, fast.
On Belichick's conference call, he said Ridley's fumbling problem is correctable, but that he has a very low tolerance for mishaps. "I don't think any of our backs have an issue that I would say would prevent them from being a productive player," Belichick said, in comments captured by ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss (who does a great job covering the Patriots). "Look, there are some plays that happen in football that are plays that happen in football. Then there are other plays that are caused by a lack of discipline, a lack of technique, just carelessness. Those are the ones we have to eliminate."
Ridley was benched on Sunday night after the latest fumble against the Denver Broncos, finishing the night with 4 carries for 14 yards, and 1 costly fumble. Normally, a backup RB would be the logical answer for fantasy owners, but LeGarrette Blount, a 250 lb. bruiser the Pats acquired from Tampa Bay in the off-season, also has had fumbling issues. In fact, the Patriots fumbled the ball 3 times in their first 3 possessions Sunday night, though they went on to beat Denver 34-31 in a thrilling overtime game.
With fantasy owners searching for help, Shane Vereen might be the answer for your prayers in Week 13, going into the playoffs. Vereen is coming back from a broken wrist, having played the past two weeks. With Ridley and Blount both in Belichick's dog house, Vereen picked up the slack, running 10 times for 31 yards. More importantly for fantasy owners (especially those in PPR leagues), Vereen had 8 catches for 60 yards. Vereen is by far the Patriots best receiving back, and is owned in just 65% of Yahoo! leagues, making this pass catching threat a potential steal, as playoffs approach.
Vereen's work load in Week 13 against the Houston Texans should be pretty comparable to what we saw against Denver, perhaps even more so, as the Patriots begin to push towards winning another AFC East title, and securing at least the 2nd seed in the AFC, behind Denver and the Kansas City Chiefs.