There are plenty of complicated things in this world, but few compare to Bill Belichick's usage of running backs. The New England Patriots mastermind has had great success over the years despite often lacking a bell-cow back. That is once again the case this season, but a potential stud emerged on Sunday in the form of Brandon Bolden.
Stevan Ridley was viewed as New England's top rusher heading into the season on the heels of a 1,263-yard, 12-touchdown campaign in 2012. A Ridley fumble early in the Pats' Week 1 game against the Buffalo Bills led directly to a Buffalo touchdown, though, and Belichick has seemingly lost confidence in him ever since.
Shane Vereen took the reins for the remainder of the Buffalo game and seemed to gain a stranglehold on the starting job by virtue of a 100-yard performance, but he suffered a wrist injury that will keep him out for at least eight weeks, according to Shalise Manza Young of The Boston Globe.
That injury forced Belichick to go back to Ridley, but the third-year man out of LSU failed to capitalize on his opportunity. Ridley rushed for just 40 yards on 16 carries in Week 2 against the New York Jets, and he wasn't much better in Week 3 with 35 yards on 11 totes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In fact, Ridley was seemingly overtaken by the plodding LeGarrette Blount, who rumbled for 65 yards on 14 carries. Although Blount ran well, he likely won't be a fantasy factor moving forward due to the fact that he is a short-yardage guy at best.
The biggest takeaway from New England's win on Sunday, however, was the play of running back Brandon Bolden. The second-year player out of Ole Miss sat out the Patriots' first two games with a knee injury, but he came back with a bang in Week 3.
Not only did Bolden gain 51 rushing yards on just three carries, but he was the Pats' second-leading receiver with five grabs for 49 yards. As pointed out by ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss, it appears as though Bolden has stepped into the role formerly occupied by Vereen as quarterback Tom Brady's top receiving option out of the backfield.
Rolling the dice on a Patriots running back is always a risky proposition since Belichick seems to change his philosophy from one week to the next, but a pass-catcher always has a role in New England's offense. Vereen appeared to be on track for a monster season, so Bolden will be a useful fantasy commodity as long as he is utilized in a similar manner.
According to Dave Richard of CBSSports.com, Bolden was used plenty on Sunday, and he is owned in just three percent of CBS Sports fantasy leagues.
He is also owned in a mere 0.2 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues, so it is almost guaranteed that he is available.
It wouldn't be wise to add him with the expectation that he will be a savior, but he could be a serviceable flex option over the next couple months in point-per-reception leagues especially. Provided there is a player on your bench who you can afford to part with, Bolden is definitely worth a look.
Belichick is like Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to his running backs, so keeping him on the bench in Week 4 in order to see if his usage remains consistent would be the best course of action.
The Atlanta Falcons are only allowing 79 rushing yards per game as a team as well, so Bolden is a less-than-ideal option this week. He will be a capable flex play moving forward, though, and he is unquestionably worth a roster spot.
Week 4 Projection: 35 rushing yards and six receptions for 40 yards
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