In the wake of the New England Patriots "defense first" draft, it seems odd to focus too much attention on the running back position. The Patriots—with OC Josh McDaniels back in the fold and a glut of wide receivers under contract—seem to be leaning towards the wide open, hurry-up aerial attack Pats fans have become familiar with over the past half-decade.
The running back position was, at best, a complimentary piece of the scheme rather than a feature in 2011. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead fulfilled smaller roles in the Patriots' offense last year, accounting for almost 600 fewer yards in 2011 than in 2010, and between the two of them they averaged almost a yard less per touch.
But 2011 draft picks Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen offer a unique promise of balance to the New England offense. Ridley showed flashes of real explosiveness in limited action last year, and Vereen brings a pedigree out of Cal as the kind of versatile chain-mover that Bill Belichick loves.
With third-down wild card Danny Woodhead still under contract, along with ex-Colt Joseph Addai and Ole Miss UDFA Brandon Bolden, the Patriots are revamping their running back stable for the 2012 campaign.