The New England Patriots have a plethora of talented running backs on their roster, but LeGarrette Blount is the better fantasy option over last year's incumbent starter Stevan Ridley at least for the moment.
In Sunday's 23-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Blount received 14 carries and gained 65 yards against his former team, while Ridley only had 11.
NFL Network's Michael Fabiano had no mercy in evaluating Ridley:
Stevan Ridley saw 11 carries today. LeGarrette Blount had 14. Ridley is a HUGE early-season fantasy bust. HUGE.— Michael Fabiano (@Michael_Fabiano) September 22, 2013
As the Tampa game progressed into the second half, the Patriots turned more frequently to Blount and Brandon Bolden than Ridley, as was evident by their snaps in the first 30 minutes:
Patriots RB snaps in first half (including penalties): Stevan Ridley 17; Brandon Bolden 16; LeGarrette Blount 5.— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) September 22, 2013
Part of that could be attributed to the game being handily in New England's favor, but head coach Bill Belichick has benched Ridley multiple times for fumbling issues. With the way Blount ran in Week 3, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels should be calling his number more often.
That's especially the case because the Pats' passing game is struggling significantly right now.
Who will be the Patriots' leading rusher in 2013?
Brady is forced to be more conservative with so much inexperience and injuries within his supporting cast.
New England could stand to pound the rock a little more with an inexperienced receiving corp, and Blount is the best option to do that due to his hard-nosed style and size at 250 pounds.
Plus, Blount is nimble on his feet for a man of his size—he's been returning kicks for the Patriots through the first three games:
Yes Tampa Bay fans. LeGarrette Blount did return that kick. Yes. THAT LeGarrette Blount.— Rick Brown (@LedgeronBucs) September 22, 2013
Tight end Rob Gronkowski has yet to play a down this year either, so a slight shift to a more ground-and-pound attack to wear down opposing front sevens is a logical strategy.
Instead of attempting to pour it on and run up the score as many past Patriots teams have, McDaniels stuck largely to the ground game, which saw Blount get the lion's share of the carries. Against the league's reigning No. 1-ranked rush defense, he fared reasonably well.
This is not to detract from how good of a player Ridley is, but he has a history with Belichick. It's not a good one either.
So even though Ridley ran for over 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns only a season ago, count on Blount to emerge as the more viable fantasy option in the short-term.
Belichick tends to tinker with backfield personnel a lot, and when the other Patriots starters, such as Gronkowski and Danny Amendola return from injury, Ridley should be able to work his way back into the No. 1 slot.
Taking a beating between the tackles isn't the ideal model for a sustainable, long-term career, but now is Blount's time to shine for the next month or so after a strong showing in Week 3.