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Aug 9, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) carries the ball during the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Stevan Ridley - Fantasy Football Sleeper-Running Backs to Remember

January 1, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) hands the ball off to running back Stevan Ridley (22) during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

It’s back…. NFL football returns in earnest this weeknd with week one of preseason action. Fantasy Football owners everywhere are simultaneously leaping for joy and furiously prepping for their draft. Many will fork out cash for magazines, where out google, and ignore other responsibilities as they furtively prepare for their annual draft night.

We’ve got some great draft coverage already on FantasyCPR and there’s plenty more to come, but after watching a little bit of football last night and trying to keep up with all the dings and injuries that seem to be a part of the preseason one player stood out to me–Stevan Ridley.

Ridley was drafted prior to last season along with fellow RB Shane Vereen. Prior to the draft, Ridley was the primary workhorse back for LSU before joining the Patriots’ huge stash of running back depth last year. He was worked into the rotation with Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Vereen, Kevin Faulk, and even TE Aaron Hernandez at times.

This season though, the Patriots seem ready to give him a greatly increased role after letting Green-Ellis go to Cincinnati, Kevin Fault to retire, and cutting Joseph Addai who was brought in during the offseason. At first glance, it looks like Vereen and Woodhead will pretty much split time with Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen getting occasional looks in some packages.

So can Ridley be a top 20 back? I definitely think so. In 87 carries last year, he rushed for 441 yards and a touchdown. The departed Green-Ellis had 181 carries and 667 yards. Best case scenario is that Ridley picks up around 180-200 carries and ends up over 1,000 yards. He’ll need to make sure his ball security isn’t an issue and that he can grind out yards at the end of games like Ellis was so adept at.

In most rankings, Ridley is ranked around 30th. If you can get him at the 25th running back taken or later, he could pay huge dividends for you. The risk involved has to do with how Belichick rotates and gameplans on a week-to-week basis. There will definitely be weeks where Ridley is a top 10 back, but there will also most likely be weeks where he spends most of his time on the bench.

The key to successfully drafting Ridley is to get two solid backs and take him as your third in ten team leagues. He’ll be a RB2 most weeks I think and if Danny Woodhead struggles with any kind of injury Ridley could breakout and become a RB1 for at least a stretch of the season. He’s shown explosiveness and quickness that will serve him well especially near the goal line where I think he’ll get most of the carries.

He showed some promise in game one of the preseason finishing with 40 yards on eight carries and playing with the firs team offense. He summed it up well himself when he said Wednesday, “The ball can’t be on the ground. Fumbles will have you on the bench.” If he can avoid that pitfall, the upside for Ridley is enormous in an always potent Patriots offense.

Tags: Fantasy Football 2012 Preview Fantasy Football Sleepers Stevan Ridley

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