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Shane Vereen’s Low Cost and Big Upside in Fantasy

Shane Vereen has a lot of realistic upside at his current draft position.
Shane Vereen has a lot of realistic upside at his current draft position.

At a 5th round current average draft position (running back #24), Shane Vereen is clearly a player being drafted with a lot of hesitation in fantasy football. Past injuries are scaring owners away, as is the misleading label of being a backup RB for the New England Patriots. However, when intriguing players drop in ADP, there’s always an opportunity for value, and value wins leagues in fantasy. Shane Vereen could very well be just such a value.

The thing that makes Vereen so intriguing, is if he plays his bottom floor of production he is already worth a higher pick than his current draft slot, and his underrated upside makes him a potential league-winning pick. Here, we dig more into that claim and examine both Vereen’s floor, and potential ceiling for fantasy football leagues in 2014.

Shane Vereen’s Floor

If you account for injuries, Shane Vereen’s floor could actually be considered very low. Out of a possible 48 games he could have played during his first 3 seasons he missed 26 of them due to various minor injuries. His most recent injury was a broken wrist that cost him 8 games in 2013. However, if you take the leap of faith that Vereen is going to stay relatively healthy in 2014, his floor becomes much more interesting.

The few elite pass-catching “secondary” backs in the NFL have been quietly emerging as top fantasy options over the past few years. The most popular name in that group is Darren Sproles, who has finished #37, #22, #10 among running backs over the past 3 seasons in New Orleans.

On the surface, that may not seem like much, but consider that Sproles only had more than 53 carries once and more than 124 touches once – the year he had 87 carries, 173 touches, and finished #10. Vereen already had 44 carries and 91 touches in half a season last year.

The man Shane Vereen was drafted to replace, Danny Woodhead, may be a better name to look at. During his 3 years in New England he finished #24, #55, and #29 in fantasy football leagues. Woodhead received a significant bump in work after leaving the Pats for San Diego and finished #19, but still only had 106 carries and 182 touches.

If we assume Vereen stays confined to the pace he was on in limited action last year, somewhere around Woodhead’s 2013 seems like a bottom floor for Vereen if he stays healthy. The injury concerns should not be forgotten, but for savvy fantasy owners those concerns are offset by Vereen’s immense upside.

Shane Vereen’s Ceiling

When you add more context to Shane Vereen’s 2013 numbers, his upside comes more into focus. A banged up Vereen was on pace to match Woodhead’s 182 touches last year while he was essentially the third running back in New England’s pecking order. LeGarrette Blount and his 153 carries just walked in free agency, leaving a large gap to be filled. Some of that will go to Stevan Ridley and some of it to Brandon Bolden, but it stands to be reasoned that Vereen will be a large beneficiary.

Shane Vereen Fantasy Football Leagues ValueAt 5’10” and 205 pounds, Vereen is much bigger than Sproles and Woodhead which should allow him to take up more of a rushing role than either of his common comparisons. Even if Vereen only accounts for 30% of the rushing attempts left over from Blount, that could put him in line for 130 carries with room to grow, plus the insane 94 catches he was on pace for makes him a threat for 230 touches.

230-touch potential at his 2013 yards-per-carry and yards-per-catch averages already makes Shane Vereen a sleeper to finish in the top 12 among running backs in fantasy football leagues, but that’s not even where his upside stops. Would-be lead back Ridley has done his best to earn a fumbler tag during his short career and Bill Belichick hates fumblers. This has led to Ridley being benched a number of times, and sooner or later it’s going to be his last.

If Ridley were to continue his fumbling ways and land him a prolonged spot on the bench, Vereen would theoretically become even more involved in the offense. Vereen averaged 11 carries a game in 3 contests where Ridley was benched last year. Perhaps the best example of what this could mean for Vereen is the week 1 game in Buffalo from last September.

In that Bills game, Ridley started and was given 9 carries before he was removed for fumbling. Vereen then came in and racked up 14 carries for 101 yards rushing plus 7 catches and 58 receiving yards. Those are numbers Vereen, if healthy, could put up nearly weekly if Ridley is not in the picture. The somewhat-low amount of carries you might expect from Vereen doesn’t tell the whole story of a guy who really makes his value known as a dual-threat on the field, and in fantasy football leagues across both standard and PPR formats.

That alone should demonstrate Shane Vereen’s upside, but there are two more factors that should be noted. Vereen, reportedly due to his wrist not being fully healed yet, dropped a few balls last year that should have been either huge gains or even touchdowns. Also, this article was written for standard scoring. In PPR scoring, Vereen sees a massive boost as maybe the only running back in football that is currently a legitimate candidate for 100 catches — we don’t suspect Jamaal Charles will be repeating his monstrous receiving effort from last season, and even if he did, that won’t be better than the pace Vereen was set for last season.

The Bottom Line

Fantasy football is all about evaluating talent, making projections and identifying value, which is why Vereen is such a sneaky prospect this season. Here you have a guy who only played half a season last year, but really shined at moments and could very well be a key cog in a Patriots passing game that sorely needed stability last season. Had Vereen played all 16 games last year instead of the eight he could muster, he would have finished just outside the top 10 for running backs, which is certainly worthwhile territory for his current ADP.

Vereen is a guy with great value right now, and big upside, and could be the sneaky pick you need to win a fantasy football trophy this season. He might not sell Patriots tickets, but there’s plenty to suggest he could help you find a front-row seat to the playoffs in all of your fantasy football leagues.

Do you think Shane Vereen will be a top 15 running back next season?

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  • ravenman1

    Vereen is one of my favorite sleepers this year. I plan on drafting him in most of my leagues.