Shane Vereen returned to the New England Patriots lineup in Week 11 after an eight-game absence, making his triumphant debut against the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football. He had an impact right out of the gates and looks poised to serve as a legit weekly flex option to close out the 2013 season.
Fantasy owners—especially those in leagues that reward points per reception—were definitely rewarded if they took a chance on Vereen, as he finished the evening with just one rush for seven yards but hauled in eight receptions for 65 yards.
The versatile talent was expected to be eased into the lineup but was instead thrown into the fire and logged the most offensive plays of any running back on the roster. The 24-year-old participated on 34-of-72 snaps, besting LeGarrette Blount (19-of-72) and Stevan Ridley (19-of-72) in that department.
Vereen is the type of talent that isn’t greatly impacted by the matchup, as head coach Bill Belichick can employ him in a variety of ways on the field. Quarterback Tom Brady clearly trusts the “joker” in his offense and often looks his way during mismatches in coverage on passing plays.
The Cal product led the team in targets (11) in his first contest back against one of the league’s most elite defensive units. His 10 targets ranked just behind wideouts Danny Amendola (14) and Kembrell Thompkins (14) in that category back in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills—the only other contest Vereen participated in due to his wrist injury.
While he’s not perfect and clearly shaking off some rust—Vereen notably dropped a wide-open pass in the final minute after he burned star linebacker Luke Kuechly—there is so much potential for this young man to carry fantasy owners to greatness.
Vereen is an absolute must-own, must-start for those in PPR leagues and a very worthwhile addition in standard formats.
He’s arguably the only legitimate third-down back on the roster and will see plenty of action with a Pats passing attack poised to explode down the stretch.
Don’t be surprised if Vereen continues to see double-digit targets in each of the remaining contests, plus gets a bigger workload carrying the rock out of the backfield. He had 14 rushes in Week 1 and should find a balance between that high and his low of one in Week 11.
With the Denver Broncos coming to Foxborough for a Week 12 Sunday Night Football matchup, Vereen is definitely worth plugging into your starting lineup and should reward owners with a big statistical outing in what promises to be a shootout.