The New England Patriots have had a history of mixing and matching running backs. That trend was cemented by the fact that Bill Belichick drafted Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. So the Patriots entered the season with reigning 1,000-yard back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, cult hero Danny Woodhead and two highly touted rookie running backs all vying for carries.
Against the Oakland Raiders on the road, the group had its best game of the season, rushing for a season-high 185 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. More impressively, the Patriots did it without Woodhead, who hopped off the field with an ankle injury after two carries. It appears that the injury will not be a serious, but he did not return to the field, and Stevan Ridley reaped the benefits by running for 97 yards on 10 carries and a key touchdown run.
With Vereen still waiting to play his first NFL snap, the onus of running the football for New England will fall to Green-Ellis and Ridley. If you are a fantasy owner with The Lawfirm on the roster, it just makes too much sense to add Ridley. He is a must-add for Woodhead owners as well.
The burly Ridley (5-foot-11, 225) was a workhorse in America's top conference for LSU last season. He carried the ball 249 times for 1,147 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior, and nothing about his breakout performance this weekend says he won't continue to be successful.
Will Ridley become a feature back and get 25 carries per game for the Patriots? Of course not. Keep in mind, Green-Ellis also put forth his best yardage total of the season (75 yards), scored his third touchdown in four games and got six more touches than Ridley.
All signs point to Ridley getting more involved in the offense as both he and Green-Ellis should provide some quality fantasy value for the rest of the year. Whether it's a tough but important match-up (Jets, Steelers, Giants) or an easy lay-up (Miami, Denver, Kansas City, Indianapolis), both backs should expect to get plenty of work for the rest of 2011.
- by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)