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2014 Draft Prep: Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley will dominate

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Editor's note: FanDuel.com is hosting a one-week long $100,000 Fantasy Football contest for just Week 1. It's only $10 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts Sunday, September 7 at 1 p.m. ET. Enter now

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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
Panthers DST gets steamrolled
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:55 am ET) After opening the season with two strong performances, the Panthers DST got run over Week 3 by the Steelers. Carolina allowed a whopping 264 rushing yards and 454 total yards in the 37-19 loss. Pittsburgh averaged 7.8 yards per carry.

Carolina mustered one sack, by defensive end Mario Addison, and zero turnovers. The Panthers DST will try to bounce back Week 4 at Baltimore.


Graham Gano goes for seven points
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:51 am ET) Panthers kicker Graham Gano converted a pair of 40-yard field goals and a PAT in the Week 3 loss to the Steelers. He'll visit the Ravens in Week 4.

Panthers get offensive contributions
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:49 am ET) The Panthers got some minor contributions in their Week 3 loss to the Steelers. Wideout Brenton Bersin made a 29-yard catch, and receiver Jason Avant caught two of six targets for 12 yards.

Greg Olsen finds paydirt
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:47 am ET) Panthers tight end Greg Olsen continued his strong start to the season with another touchdown catch Week 3 against the Steelers. Early in the fourth quarter, Olsen caught an out route and turned upfield for a 37-yard touchdown.

He finished with five grabs on seven targets for 69 yards. Olsen has 224 receiving yards and two scores entering Week 4 at Baltimore.


Philly Brown up and down in first start
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:44 am ET) With Carolina hurting at receiver, Panthers rookie Philly Brown got his first start Week 3 and had some strong moments, catching seven passes for 66 yards. But Brown made a huge mistake that virtually killed his team's comeback chances.

Early in the fourth quarter, he fumbled a punt return and the Steelers receovered for a touchdown.

An Onio State product, Brown drew nine targets, second-most on the team. The catches were the first of his career. He'll look to improve Week 4 at Baltimore.


Kelvin Benjamin posts first 100-yard game
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) Panthers rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin stayed on the fast track to stardom Sunday night with his first 100-yard game. He caught eight passes for 115 yards and a touchdown in the loss to the Steelers.

Benjamin made a slew of contested catches, including a 35-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter from Derek Anderson. Benjamin drew a game-high 11 targets and is now averaging nine targets per game.

While he again dropped a couple passes, Benjamin has clearly emerged as Carolina's No. 1 receiver. He has 253 receiving yards and two scores entering Week 4 at Baltimore.


Derek Anderson plays well in relief
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:31 am ET) Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson relieved Cam Newton in the fourth quarter of the Week 3 loss to the Steelers and played well. Anderson completed 5 of 6 throws for 80 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown to rookie wideout Kelvin Benjamin.

Anderson will go back to the bench for Week 4 at Baltimore.


Steelers DST scores in Week 3 rout
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) The Steelers DST enjoyed itself Sunday night in Carolina, producing three sacks, two turnovers and a touchdown in a 37-19 win.

The biggest play came early in the fourth quarter when the Panthers' Philly Brown fumbled on a punt return and safety Robert Golden recovered in the end zone. It was one of two fumble recoveries for Pittsburgh, which got a sack-fumble from outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.

Linebacker Arthur Moats and nose tackle Steve McLendon also sacked Cam Newton. Pittsburgh allowed just 42 rushing yards in what was easily its top defensive performance this year.

The Steelers DST has a chance to dominate again Week 4 against the lowly Buccaneers.


Shaun Suisham nails three field goals
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:19 am ET) Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham was perfect on three field-goal attempts Sunday night, hitting from 42, 24 and 45 yards. He added four PATs for a 13-point night.

Suisham plays the Bucs in Week 4.


Steelers get offensive contributions
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:17 am ET) A number of Steelers contributed to the Week 3 win in Carolina. Among them, receiver Justin Brown caught two of four passes for 10 yards. Fullback Will Johnson was targeted once without a catch.

 
 
 
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