Will any Patriots back thrive?
With BenJarvus Green-Ellis gone, will one running back take the reins in New England?
They say a leopard cannot change its spots. In the case of Bill Belichick, the same can be said not only for his choice of sideline attire but also his running philosophy.
Simply put, in the absence of a superstar running back, there's no reason to believe that Belichick will divert from his time-honored tradition of using a time-share in his backfield. He simply cannot change.
Belichick has never been one to put all his eggs in one basket when running the ball. A quick look at the following chart will show that the last time he put his faith in just one set of legs, it was Corey Dillon, way back in 2004.
Top Patriots RB Since 2004
|Year||Top Back||Att||Yds||Team Att||Team Yds||% Att||% Yds|
Injuries forced Dillon's workload to diminish over the subsequent years, but since that time, the Patriots have been able to produce at a relatively constant rate in the ground game without the need to have a superstar do all of the heavy lifting.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a reliable ball carrier, with nary a fumble to his name. That's why over the past two seasons, though he ranked 18th in overall carries, when it came to crunch time, he was used far more frequently, moving up to seventh overall when only fourth quarter carries were taken into account.
But do we really think any of the group that includes Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Bolden is the reincarnation of Dillon? Belichick certainly doesn't think so, telling NESN after a recent practice, "If the Corey Dillon of 2004 was on this roster, I'm sure he'd get it 300 times too. I have not seen Corey out there today."
At best, we can expect the No. 1 back in New England to get 200 carries. In order to end up with 1,000 yards for the season with that small number of touches, he would have to average five yards per carry. How likely is that? Since 2000, only 27 backs have managed that average with at least 200 carries.
Ridley, the likely candidate to be the No. 1 guy in Week 1, managed to sustain a 5.1 YPC rate in 87 carries last season. Most importantly, he did even better than that, 5.4, during a three-game stretch from Weeks 15-17 last season, which certainly factored into the decision to let the Law Firm find employment elsewhere in 2012.
However, it's a far cry from saying that Ridley will be the best of this ragtag bunch of backs to elevating him into anything more than a flex play, even if he does manage to score with the same frequency as his predecessor.
His ADP places him as the No. 24 running back off the board, two spots behind Green-Ellis. That's probably about right for Ridley, simply because when the Patriots go into passing mode -- and heaven knows Belichick has no problem going full throttle in that regard all game, every game -- the skill sets of Woodhead and Vereen appear better suited for being on the field. Either can be taken as a late-round flier in a PPR format.
In the end, the Patriots will win and lose via the air. Tom Brady and his multiple passing weapons are the keys to another trip to the Super Bowl. Ridley and the rest will merely be tasked with not getting in the way. From a team standpoint, they may do the job. However, that simply won't translate into much fantasy value for any of them.
FANTASY TOP HEADLINES
- Harris: Will Jordan Reed become top-tier TE?
- Matthew Berry: Love (and extra hate) for Week 8
- Fantasy Football Week 8 quarterback rankings
- Karabell: Week 8 flex rankings
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
2012 Fantasy Football Draft Kit
ESPN.com's fantasy analysts offer all the information you'll need to succeed in your draft and all season long.
• Draft Kit Home
• Join/Reactivate a league
• Follow ESPN Fantasy on Facebook
• The NFL on ESPN.com
Profiles and Projections for 2012
• Top 300 | Cheat Sheets
• Analysts: Berry | Harris | Karabell
• Quarterback: Rankings | Preview
• Running back: Rankings | Preview
• Wide receiver: Rankings | Preview
• Tight end: Rankings | Preview
• Def./Special teams: Rankings | Preview
• Kicker: Rankings | Preview
• IDP: Rankings | Preview
• Other formats: PPR | TD-Only | Keepers
• Analysts: Berry | Harris | Karabell
• The Magazine: Position profiles
The Talented Mr. Roto
• Mock 1: 10-team standard (May 7)
• Mock 2: 12-team standard (June 14)
• Mock 3: 12-team PPR (July 17)
• Mock 4: 10-team standard (Aug. 7)
• Mock 5: 10-team, 2 QBs (Aug. 13)
• Mock 6: 10-team auction (Aug. 21)
• Mock 7: 12-team standard (Aug. 29)
• Twitter Mock Draft
Geico Fantasy Draft Special Podcast
• Top 2012 storylines: 20 to 11 (Aug. 3)
• Top 2012 storylines: 10 to 1 (Aug. 7)
• Quarterback preview (Aug. 10)
• Running back preview (Aug. 17)
• Wide receiver preview (Aug. 21)
• TE, D/ST, K preview (Aug. 28)
• Injury updates: QB | RB | WR | TE
• Staff sleepers and busts
• Top faces in new places
• Are TEs worthy of flex consideration?
• Ten hotly debated players for 2012
• Does the two-QB approach work?
• Better predicting kickers' values
• Don't overanalyze strength of schedule
• How to use value-based drafting
• Will Cam Newton repeat his rookie success?
• Metrics to consider in finding IDP breakouts
• Streaming D/ST units
• Finding potential rebound candidates
• Harris' 10 flag-planted players for 2012
• Harris' super-deep sleepers for 2012
• C.J. Spiller's effect on Fred Jackson's value
• Where should Trent Richardson be drafted?
• Will Green-Ellis' TD success continue?
• Ben Tate's impact on Arian Foster's value
• Will Cruz, Nelson fall back to earth?
• Is Jones-Drew poised for drop-off?
• When to draft Darren McFadden
• Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker?
• Are Panthers RBs unstartable?
• How much will Gore's fantasy value decline?
• How will Charles, Hillis split workload in KC?
• When should you draft Adrian Peterson?
• Rivers' new favorite WR: Meachem or Floyd?
• Vincent Jackson's impact with new team
• Choosing between Bryant and Austin
• The polarizing Michael Turner
• Roddy White or Julio Jones?
• Lloyd effect on Pats' other receivers
• Will any one Patriots RB emerge in 2012?
• Making sense of Saints backfield
• Can you trust DeMarco Murray?
• What is Tim Tebow's value with the Jets?
• Assessing the values of Bucs RBs
• Can Robert Griffin III match Cam Newton?
• Joyner: Underrated PPR WRs for 2012
• Karabell: Top 35 rookies for 2012
• Kiper: Keeper-league targets
• Joyner: Underrated WRs for 2012
• Joyner: Underrated RBs for 2012
• Kiper: Fantasy rookies to target, avoid
• Joyner: Underrated QBs for 2012
• Karabell: Will DeSean Jackson bounce back?
• Joyner: How O-Lines impact QBs in fantasy
• Karabell: Reggie Bush outlook
• Karabell: Early ADP trends
• Karabell: Redskins RB situation
• Joyner: Undervalued, overvalued RBs
• Karabell: Be wary of Steve Smith
• Joyner: Why CJ2K will be top fantasy RB
• Joyner: Five breakout players in 2012
• Karabell: Five keeper-league targets
• Adrian Peterson outlook
• Peyton Manning's health
• Peyton Manning expectations
• Darren McFadden outlook
• Andre Johnson's health
• Projecting Cam Newton
• Second-tier RBs to consider
• Arian Foster versus Ray Rice
• Will DeSean Jackson bounce back?
• Michael Vick expectations
• Mark Sanchez versus Tim Tebow
• Will Rob Gronkowski repeat as top TE?
• Where to draft Gronkowski, Graham
• Aaron Hernandez expectations
• Can RG3 match Newton's rookie season?
• Will Jamaal Charles return to form?
• DeMarco Murray outlook
• Is Beanie Wells being undervalued?
• Rashard Mendenhall versus Isaac Redman
• How will Drew Brees handle turmoil in NO?
• Why has Matt Schaub's ranking fallen?
• Is this the year Matt Ryan breaks out?
• Tight end sleepers for 2012
• Jonathan Stewart versus DeAngelo Williams
• Which rookie RBs could surprise?
• Demaryius Thomas versus Eric Decker
• Better late pick: Rookie WR or Randy Moss?
• Is Jordy Nelson's TD total repeatable?
• Is Eli Manning an elite fantasy QB?
• Will Philip Rivers bounce back in 2012?
• Can Victor Cruz repeat his breakout 2011?
• Andrew Luck's short- and long-term value
• Expectations for Trent Richardson
• Will Julio Jones outperform Roddy White?
• Is it wise to draft a QB early?
• Will Reggie Bush repeat his 2011 numbers?
• Brandon Marshall expectations