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2014 Draft Prep: Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley will dominate

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Forget the headline you just read. Clear your mind and pretend you stumbled upon this column by chance. We want your thoughts to be unbiased.

Are you ready? Let's begin.

How would you feel about a running back with 1,263 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns? What about another running back with 88 carries for 408 yards and two touchdowns and 94 catches for 854 yards and six touchdowns?

Well, the first one is Stevan Ridley. And the second one is Shane Vereen. But of course you knew that already.

Now, before you start thinking those stats are unrealistic, you have to realize those are Ridley's stats from 2012. And Vereen could have hit those numbers if you project his stats from 2013 over 16 games.

Ridley was a top-10 Fantasy running back in standard leagues in 2012, while Vereen would have been a top-15 running back last year. Can they reach those heights this season? I think they can.

Let's start with Vereen because he's the easy one to explain. He's also the best Fantasy option in this backfield.

In Week 1 last year against Buffalo, after Ridley lost a fumble, Vereen showed a glimpse of his potential with 14 carries for 101 yards and seven catches for 58 yards. But it was a only tease because he broke his wrist, knocking him out until Week 11.

For the season, he had 44 carries for 208 yards and one touchdown and 47 catches for 427 yards and three touchdowns in eight games. He finished with at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league in five of those outings.

He picked up where last season ended with a strong performance against Carolina in the third preseason game, which I attended. Vereen had six carries for 18 yards and five catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns. He also impressed his quarterback and coach.

"He made some great plays tonight," Tom Brady said. "He's been that way -- he's really had such a dependable role for us for the last few years and just done a great job. When the ball is in his hands, good things are happening for our team. We're going to try to just keep getting him the ball."

Added Bill Belichick: "Shane works hard. He's a very dependable guy and he does a good job for us."

Vereen, who has struggled with injuries in his three-year career, told me after the Panthers game his goal this season is to stay healthy. As you would expect, he said a featured role is not something he desires, he only wants to win.

But he said the role he has for New England is a fun one. He gets to be the next Kevin Faulk or Danny Woodhead as the running back catching passes from Brady, which has been great at times for Fantasy owners.

"I'm fortunate enough to be in this system where I can do so much," Vereen said. "Not too many systems are like this. Not too many systems allow their backs to do this much. I'm fortunate and I have fun with it. It keeps it fresh."

We wish Ridley felt as free as Vereen, but his fumble problem likely has him on edge -- as well as Fantasy owners. He has lost eight fumbles in his three-year career, including seven the past two seasons.

Hopefully this year he can hold onto the ball and dominate like he did in 2012, but he's already fumbled once this preseason, which isn't a good sign. Still, based on talent, Ridley is the best pure rusher on the roster, and Belichick might not have another choice but to stick with him.

If that's the case, there's a lot to like about Ridley. For starters, we've already seen him play at a high level once, and the Patriots should have a lot of success running the ball. They were second in the NFL last season with 19 rushing touchdowns and Ridley would be a candidate for double digits in scores if he can secure his role.

Another positive for Ridley is his price tag. His Average Draft Position is No. 86 overall, which is Round 8 in a 12-team league. That's like stealing if you draft him there and he rebounds to his 2012 level.

Vereen's ADP is No. 44 overall and he's definitely worth a pick in Round 4 in standard leagues. In PPR formats, I'd draft him toward the end of Round 2. He might not reach 90-plus receptions like he was on pace for last season, but he could catch at least 70 passes in this offense.

I would consider drafting both Vereen and Ridley because I expect them to be special. Vereen is the easy choice, but Ridley is the risk. Still, in Round 8, it's a risk worth taking.

If things work out right, this could be the best Fantasy running back duo. The season is upon us, so we'll find out if they can make it happen.

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Player News
Report: Bills expect running back Fred Jackson to play Monday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11/22/2014) Despite being listed as questionable for Monday’s game against the Jets, Bills coach Doug Marrone said running back Fred Jackson (groin) is in the team’s game plan, according to ESPN.

"We're planning on him to be ready to go," Marrone said, per ESPN. "Just take the injury and that's how we have to list it to protect ourselves."


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(11/22/2014) The Patriots announced defensive lineman Casey Walker has been signed to the team’s practice squad. To make room for Walker on the practice squad, the Patriots released linebacker Ja’Gared Davis .

Seahawks add T Andrew McDonald, release DT Jimmy Staten
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11/22/2014) The Seahawks added offensive tackle Andrew McDonald to their practice squad and released defensive tackle Jimmy Staten, reports Sports Radio KJR.

Lions RB Reggie Bush unlikely to play vs. New England
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(11/22/2014) Althoguh Lions running back Reggie Bush vowed to return to the lineup this week, he is unlikely to play Sunday against New England, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora Saturday.

Bush was a limited participant all week in practice with an ankle issue. He is still working his way back from the injury, and it appears as if he's still not 100 percent. If he sits out Sunday, he will have missed four of his last six games.


Jets list 11 players as probable for Monday night
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(11/22/2014) Following a bye week, the Jets appear well rested heading into Week 12. The Jets listed offensive lineman Oday Aboushi (shoulder), wide receiver Eric Decker (hamstring), wide receiver Greg Salas (wrist), running back Chris Ivory (shoulder), running back Chris Johnson (knee), wide receiver T.J. Graham (neck), offensive lineman Willie Colon (knee), center Nick Mangold (shoulder), linebacker Antwan Barnes (knee), defensive back Darrin Walls (calf) and defensive back Jaiquawn Jarrett (calf) as probable for Monday night’s game against Buffalo.

Broncos TE Virgil Green: I'm ready to return Sunday
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(11/22/2014) Broncos tight end Virgil Green told the Associated Press he's ready to return to action on Sunday. Green missed the previous three games with a calf injury. If Julius Thomas (ankle) is unable to play, Green hopes the team allows him to display his versatility as a pass-catcher.

"I'd love for J.T. to play. I really don't know where he's at right now, but if he doesn't go, I feel like it's an opportunity for me to show that I'm not just a blocking tight end," Green said. "I can catch. People know I can run the ball as well, so it's an opportunity for me and I have to jump all over it."


Ravens head into MNF with only two players listed as out
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11/22/2014) Only Ravens wide receiver Michael Campanaro (thigh) and tackle Jah Reid (hand) were listed as out for Monday night’s game at New Orleans, according to the team’s final injury report.

The Ravens also listed defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (not injury related), tight end Owen Daniels (not injury related), linebacker Terrell Suggs (not injury related), linebacker Daryl Smith (not injury related), fullback Kyle Juszczyk (foot) and guard Marshal Yanda (knee) as probable.


Bills list RB Fred Jackson questionable for Week 12
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11/22/2014) Bills running back Fred Jackson was a limited participant in practice Saturday and was designated as questionable for Monday night's contest against the Jets, per the team's official website. Jackson sat out Week 11 against Miami after suffering a setback Week 10 against Kansas City.

"We'll see how it goes. It felt good to get out there," Jackson said. "I don't feel like there were any setbacks. Hopefully I can continue to progress well and play well on Monday."


Bills unveil final injury report for Week 12
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(11/22/2014) The Bills have ruled out Jarius Wynn (knee) for Monday's game against the Jets. Ron Brooks (groin) and Fred Jackson (groin) were deemed as questionable for Week 12.

Meanwhile, the following players were ruled as probable: Dan Carpenter (groin), Marquise Goodwin (ankle), Chris Hogan (hip), Manny Lawson (ankle), Kyle Orton (toe), Frank Summers (neck), Kraig Urbik (shoulder) and Sammy Watkins (groin).


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(11/22/2014) The Chargers announced cornerback Richard Crawford was released Saturday. Crawford was released to make room for offensive lineman Ryan Miller. Miller had been on Chargers’ practice squad and was promoted to the 53-man roster. Crawford had yet to appear in a game for the Chargers.

 
 
 
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