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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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RB Chris Johnson: I'd fit good in Dallas
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/5/2015) Running back Chris Johnson is still looking for a place to play next season. After being cut by the Jets at the end of 2014, Johnson believes he could be the answer to what the Cowboys need at running back after letting DeMarco Murray go to Philadelphia and not drafting a running back, according to the Dallas Morning News.

"I'd fit good in Dallas," Johnson said to TMZ. "They need it. Yeah. That's what we're trying to do. Cowboys, come holler at me."

Dallas signed Darren McFadden to a two-year deal in the offseason worth up to $5.85 million. Johnson had the worst rushing season in his career in 2014, totaling 663 yards on the ground with one touchdown.


Report: Bears sign fourth-round pick Jeremy Langford
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(5/5/2015) The Bears have reportedly signed running back Jeremy Langford from Michigan State to a four-year contract, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Langford was drafted by Chicago in the fourth round and was considered the ninth-best running back prospect in the draft class. He rushed for 1,522 yards and 22 touchdowns in his final season with Michigan State in 2014.


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(5/5/2015) The Chargers have claimed tight end Kyle Miller off waivers from the Falcons and released defensive end Damik Scafe, according to U-T San Diego.

Milller has appeared in one game since entering the league in 2012 without making a catch.


Bears claim OT Paul Cornick off waviers
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(5/5/2015) The Bears have claimed offensive tackle Paul Cornick off waivers from the Broncos, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Cornick was waived by Denver Monday after making making six starts and appearing in 12 games for the Broncos in 2014.


John Carlson's surprise retirement leaves Cardinals in a bind at TE
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(5/5/2015) The unexpected retirement of John Carlson has left the Cardinals depleted of experienced tight ends on the roster, reports ESPN.com.

Troy Niklas, last year's second-round pick, and Darren Fells are currently the only tight ends on the team who caught passes in 2014, combining for eight receptions and 109 yards during the regular season.

Carlson caught 33 passes for 350 yards and one touchdown last season.

Dolphins cut ties with Heath, Hocker, Rose
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(5/5/2015) The Dolphins waived defensive back T.J. Heath, kicker Zach Hocker and defensive back Lowell Rose on Tuesday, the team announced.

Heath and Rose were with the team during the 2014 season, while Hocker was signed in the offseason. 


Raiders release Bojay Filimoeatu, Jansen Watson, Justin Jackson
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(5/5/2015) The Raiders have released linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu, cornerback Jansen Watson and linebacker Justin Jackson, reports ESPN.

Filimoeatu played in eight games with the Raiders last season, Watson played with the team's practice squad and Jackson played with three other teams in 2014.

Patriots axe CB Alfonzo Dennard, two others
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(5/5/2015) As expected, the Patriots have announced the release of cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who exceeded expectations for three years after having been taken in the seventh round of the 2012 draft.

Dennard started 20 of 29 games in which he played and racked up 92 tackles and five interceptions. He also started in four postseason games with two picks. But he played just six games a year ago and lost time to a hamstring injury.

Long snapper Tyler Ott and linebacker Deontae Skinner were also cut loose by the Patriots on Tuesday.


Report: Chiefs release quarterback Terrelle Pryor
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/5/2015) The Chiefs have reportedly cut ties with quarterback Terrelle Pryor, according to Pro Football Talk. 

Pryor was signed by Kansas City in January and coach Andy Reid wanted to give him a chance to earn the starting quarterback role.

"We're going to give him an opportunity to play quarterback and see how he does," Reid said. "He’s there lifting everyday and doing his thing. We can’t meet with him but he shows up everyday and does what he can do."

Pryor last started as a quarterback in 2013 with the Raiders, totaling 2,374 yards with seven touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.


Cardinals cut Zach Bauman, Roc Carmichael
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5/5/2015) The Cardinals released running back Zach Bauman and cornerback Roc Carmichael on Tuesday, reports Fox Sports Arizona.

Bauman and Carmichael did not appear in any games last season.


 
 
 
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