2011 NFL Draft Results: Shane Vereen Provides Missing Link in Patriots Backfield

Tony SantorsaSenior Writer IIMay 4, 2011

BERKELEY, CA - OCTOBER 09:  Shane Vereen #34 of the California Golden Bears runs for a touchdown against Aaron Hester #21 of the UCLA Bruins in the first half at California Memorial Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The New England Patriots haven't had a solid running game since the days of Corey Dillon back in 2004—the last year that the Patriots won a Super Bowl.

Last season was a much different story for New England's rushing attack. For the first time since 2004, a New England running back ran for 1,000 yards thanks to BenJarvus Green-Ellis' breakout year. Mix in the dynamic ability of Danny Woodhead and New England has a respectable running game. 

Now it's gotten much better.

In the 2011 NFL draft, the Patriots added two quality running backs in Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley—and one of them is New England's missing link to a top tier rushing attack. 

The key to New England's running game is Vereen, and he'll have a perfect chance to develop into New England's lead running back in 2011. 

Vereen is a well-rounded back that has great speed, power, elusiveness and is very good receiving balls out of the backfield. 

The most notable trait about him is that he never goes down on the first contact; he always keeps his feet and always falls forward. He doesn't necessarily run over defenders but he slips through tackles—arm tackles do not stand a chance. 

In my opinion, Vereen possesses an "x-factor," something that will separate him from most of the 2011 draft-class running backs and all of the running backs on New England's roster: his receiving ability. 

Vereen is very good in open space, so screen passes will be ideal for the former California running back. During his three years of college ball, Vereen managed to reel in 74 balls for a total of 674 yards—solid production from a running back. 

As the Patriots will look to make another run for a Super Bowl in 2011, Vereen is going to be a key part to New England's offense. The Patriots will likely part ways with Kevin Faulk, as Woodhead and especially Vereen can replace his production.

Vereen isn't just going to be an effective third-down running back, like Faulk was, but he's going to be something bigger—something more productive and effective.


This article was first seen at PatriotsPlus.net. Be sure to follow Tony Santorsa on Twitter @      TonySantorsa.