Stevan Ridley: Value Pick or Fantasy Headache?
Stevan Ridley Fantasy 2014
In the recent Gridiron Experts June Mock Draft, Stevan Ridley went to Zhan Mourning at 7.03, making him the 75th player selected and the 31st running back off the board. That’s a round and a half later than Yahoo has him ranked, where Ridley is their 60th overall player and their 25th best runner. ESPN has Ridley listed as the 66th overall player and Ridley’s current ADP at Fantasy Football Calculator is 6.05. So that means we here at Gridiron are a little down on Ridley, at least during one mock draft in the month of June. Let’s explore this guy and see if we can decide on the truth: Is he a value play or just a headache waiting to happen?
First off, let’s assess Bill Belichick’s use of running backs in recent years. I checked all the way back to just shy of the Corey Dillon era. What follows are the carries given to New England’s top rushers dating back to 2007. I have also included the primary third down back’s reception totals from each of those years, as I feel they are relevant for showcasing how special Shane Vereen can be. This is a piece on Stevan Ridley, but Vereen’s production is important because the more he gets, the less Ridley gets.
New England Patriots Leading Rushers
New England Patriots RB Receiving
The first thing I notice is a floor of about 180-200 carries for Ridley in this offense. Forecasting any more than that seems like taking a leap of faith, especially with a playmaker like Shane Vereen on the roster. This “floor” even seems a little shaky, as Ridley must prove he can overcome his fumbling issues in order to remain on the field. Still, if he holds on to the ball, he’s a good bet to lead this stable of runners in carries.
It’s also worth noting that Ridley himself was the largest outlier on this list with 290 carries in 2012. It seems logical to think that in 2013 he would have surpassed 220 carries had he not fumbled away his starting job. Again, Ridley must protect the football in order for this pick to pan out; but if he can protect the rock he’s due for a significant workload in 2014.
The third down back in this offense has never held much fantasy value until now. Shane Vereen tallied 47 receptions for 427 yards in only 8 games last season, and chipped in 44 rushes for 208 yards (4.7 YPC). In a full slate of games, 80 receptions seems a given and 90-100 carries seems a safe forecast. Vereen should lead this backfield in snaps, but his value doesn’t necessarily detract from Ridley’s. It only means that Ridley will need to score touchdowns in order to justify his ADP, but he’s proven he can do that already with 20 rushing touchdowns in his three NFL seasons.
I suppose we’ll discuss James White since he’s already making a good first impression during minicamp. Contrary to what public opinion may be, I don’t believe White is a huge threat to Ridley’s playing time. White is more similar to Shane Vereen in skill-set and offers logical insurance should Vereen get hurt again. One can argue that Brandon Bolden is actually a bigger threat to take over Ridley’s 2-down role should the opportunity arise, but he’s only been used as a backup in this offense and isn’t a player of interest at this point.
So, is there any good news here? I think so. If we take Ridley’s depressed 2013 numbers as a possible outcome for 2014, his current ADP seems a fair price to pay. Despite only netting 178 carries in 2013, he finished as the 28th-ranked runner due to his 7 touchdowns. According to Yahoo and ESPN rankings, that’s an equal return on what you’ll pay. That’s just if we break even. Of course, there is a worst-case scenario which involves a total fall from grace–with Vereen taking over as the starter and being spelled by White and Bolden. I don’t think that’s likely, but if Ridley drops the ball it is possible.[ad id=”Ad1″]
A final scenario involves Ridley outperforming last year’s numbers, and you making a profit on his current price. Ridley’s 2012 campaign marked him as the 11th best runner in the fake game, which is equivalent to second-round value. Now tell me, what other running backs being drafted at a similar ADP offer that sort of potential gain? Steven Jackson? Ray Rice? Maurice Jones-Drew? Surely you can’t pass up a 25 year-old who already has a Top-11 campaign (at his position) under his belt in order to take a washed up veteran? If you need more propaganda, here’s a little: Ridley had 32 carries in the red zone last season, and LeGarrette Blount’s 23 red zone carries are now up for grabs. That’s a legitimate shot at double-digit TDs for Ridley, which would cement him firmly among the RB2 ranks.
In summation: Given Ridley’s history of putting the ball on the ground and his subsequent benchings by Belichick, I can only sign off on him as a low-end RB3 with RB2 upside–which is precisely where he fell in the Gridiron June Mock as the 31st runner taken. I would, however, pull the trigger on him anywhere in Round Seven if he lasts to that point. I wouldn’t say I’m targeting him, but if he falls 10-15 spots below his ADP I’ll be drinking the kool-aid. I also couldn’t fault you if you decide to pull the trigger on him in Round Six. With his potential you could be doing much worse in the middle rounds of your draft.