Shane Vereen's Instant Fantasy Reaction After Preseason Game vs. Panthers

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVAugust 22, 2014

New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen runs to the goal line for a touchdown after catching a pass from Tom Brady in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Carolina Panthers Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

Shane Vereen is far from a household fantasy name, but that will change in 2014 if his preseason performance against the Carolina Panthers becomes a regular occurrence.

The fourth-year Patriots back only had 18 yards on six carries, but made his presence felt through the air in a big way. He caught five balls for 57 yards and hurled in both of Tom Brady's two touchdown passes. 

It can be tricky assessing Vereen's value in an offense like Bill Belichick's. Even the top running back can be a fantasy afterthought if the run game isn't going, much less the No. 2.

But with Vereen catching all five of his targeted passes on Friday and continuing to prove dangerous in the passing game, his ability to catch passes certainly ups his stock.

Vereen is getting used to the Patriots offense and working with Brady, and the added familiarity is making him more of a weapon.

“I can’t say I’ve learned a whole lot, because this is my fourth year now,” Vereen said, per WEEI's Mike Petraglia. “I’ve seen him lead us now for three seasons. He does exactly what he’s done every other year. He’s led us well, he’s led the offense well and we look forward to seeing that from him for the rest of the year.”

Patriots running backs Jonas Gray, James White and Roy Finch have both been getting plenty of carries in the preseason, with Gray impressing especially after a 12-carry, 98-yard performance in Week 2. But neither back has the standing in New England that Vereen does, and he's done nothing on the field to diminish his role in the Pats offense.

Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Plus, Ryan Hannable of Metro noted a trend that bodes well for Vereen as the No. 2 back:

Should Vereen continue to hold a firm spot of the No. 2 running back position behind Stevan Ridley, he could be in for a big year. The former California standout looked poised for a breakout 2013 season before early injuries derailed his campaign, but he still finished with more than 600 total yards.

If Vereen is able to stay healthy in 2014 and he continues to be one of Brady's favorite targets in the air, he'll be worth owning in standard fantasy leagues as an occasional starter.

But those are both big "if"s.