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How Good Is Shane Vereen Next Week?

With Steven Ridley out with a torn ACL, for the first time all year we saw Shane Vereen look like one of the better fantasy RBs in the NFL. His 114 total yards along with 2 TDs made him one of the top running back plays of the week. Vereen had a career high workload, playing 48 out of 60 total snaps, or 80%, much higher than the under 50% he had gotten all season. This was actually Vereen’s career high in snaps. The presumed starting RB, Branden Bolden, got only 1 snap and practice squad promotion Jonas Gray got the rest. Going into next week’s matchup at home against the Bears with only a $6800 salary on FanDuel, Vereen would almost seem in must play territory. However, there is a lot of evidence that last weeks workload was a fluke, and with 50% or less workload, Vereen is a mediocre play at best. The real gem next week will be Jonas Gray, who I project will play around 50% of snaps.

The Patriots Were Coming Off A Short Week

Steven Ridley gets injured during last weeks game, Branden Bolden comes in and takes his carries, and Vereen plays passing downs as usual. Coming into the Jets game, the assumption was that we would see more of the same, with Vereen possibly getting a little more playing time than usual. The only other RB on the roster was Jonas Gray, who recently signed from the practice squad so probably was just an in case of emergency guy,

What we saw is Vereen get almost all the work, Gray get a little, and Bolden get none. Why did this happen? The Patriots were not comfortable with putting in a new RB during such a short week, so they decided to go with mostly Vereen packages and threw in Gray to spell him. Next week with extra time to prepare, it makes sense we’d see a typical 2 back system we are used to with the Patriots.

The Patriots Always Go RB By Committee

Here’s a question for you readers: How many RBs since 2007 has played in over 50% of snaps for the season for the Patriots? None. Zero. I had thought that the Patriots generally used a two back system, but I didn’t think they had never had a dominant RB. The Patriots have not ever in the past 7 seasons used one RB in more than 50% of snaps on the season. Given this track record, I would say there’s almost no chance we would see Vereen have the kind of workload he got last week. Vereen does seem talented, but it’s hard to imagine he is going to be the exception to this rule. Vereen had the opportunity to become the lead back when Steven Ridley had fumbling issues last year, but they gave the carries to Legarette Blount instead.

The Patriots Had A Pass First Game Plan Against The Jets

One uncharacteristic aspect of the Patriots vs Jets game was how often the Patriots passed the ball versus ran. The Patriots passed it nearly 70% of the time, well above their season average, despite being ahead most of the game. They also passed a lot in their last matchup against the Jets, nearly 70% of the time yet again. Oddly, in that game they used their passing running back nearly 70% of the time as well, although with Vereen out than passing back was Branden Bolden. Vereen’s workload seemed to be a large function of the Jets tough run defense and the Patriots game plan. That game plan should be vastly different against a very weak Bears run defense.

Just Like Last Game, Gray Will Play The Ridley Role

You’d expect since Brandon Bolden was the 2nd string RB on the team when Ridley got injured, ahead of Jonas Gray, that the Patriots would prefer Bolden to Gray. But that clearly wasn’t true, as Bolden didn’t play last week sans one snap. The truth is the Patriots have Bolden as the 2nd  string RB because of his contribution in special teams, something he conceivably does better than the 2nd year player Gray. The Patriots are incredibly cryptic with who will play and what their strategy is, but according to Rotoworld, Bill Belicheck actually said that they will continue to go with Gray this week against the Bears.

Conclusions

Shane Vereen wowed us last week with a large workload and great fantasy production. But factors such as the short week and the tough Jets run defense greatly increased his opportunities. We know that at no point in recent history has a RB for the Patriots played greater than 50% of snaps in a season. We also know Jonas Gray will be ahead of Branden Bolden on the depth chart next week against the Bears. With all this information, the most reasonable guess is that Gray and Vereen both get around 50% workload, making Gray fantastic value.

Note: Jonas Gray is only available on DraftKings this week at minimum salary. FanDuel will add him next week.

View all posts by Daniel Steinberg
Daniel Steinberg

About the Author

Daniel Steinberg Daniel Steinberg is a former bond trader at a multi-billion dollar proprietary trading firm in Chicago. He uses his knowledge of statistics and his creativity from his career as a poker professional to create the most advanced Daily Fantasy statistical analysis that you will find anywhere. Follow him on twitter @DanielSingerS

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