Will the Patriots' crowded backfield offer any fantasy value?
The Patriots run the ball better and more often than it seems that they do. They've ranked no lower than 13th in the league in rushing the last five seasons. In that case, there should be potential value to be found in New England's backfield. Trouble is, of course, that you can't draft the backfield en masse. And counting on one player to emerge from the mix is a tricky proposition on draft day.
Last year, BenJarvus Green-Ellis forged some fantasy value by scoring 13 touchdowns in his role as the team's goal-line back, although it wouldn't be advised to count on so many scores again. Green-Ellis also became the first Patriots' player in four years to crack the 1,000-yard rushing mark (1,008 yards). He still gained only a modest 68 yards from scrimmage per game, though. Danny Woodhead was just as effective, at 66 yards per game, but he scored only 6 times.
Neither Green-Ellis nor Woodhead appears to be a viable featured back, however, and the Patriots drafted California's Shane Vereen in the second round of the 2011 draft, and LSU's Stevan Ridley in the third round. Add in Thomas Clayton, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, and Fred Taylor (who is officially still on the roster, but probably won't be back), and the Patriots' backfield looks like the Massachusetts Turnpike at 5:30 in the afternoon.
Each player brings own strengths, but none is an every-down player. Collectively, the numbers will all add up in New England, but individually they likely won't look all that great. In fact, before Green-Ellis last year, the Patriots hadn't had an effective fantasy back since Dillon was released following the 2006 season. It wasn't for lack of trying, though. Morris, Taylor, Laurence Maroney, Heath Evans, Kevin Faulk, Kyle Eckel, and LaMont Jordan all got their carries. You can expect a similar logjam this season.
Bottom Line: There are too many ingredients in the mix to count on any player in the Patriots' backfield providing consistent fantasy value.