Shane Vereen received the lion’s share of the work on Sunday afternoon after what few people remembered what was possible with Vereen’s fantasy upside. That upside is tied in with the slippery hands of Stevan Ridley. In case you missed it Ridley was benched due to a costly fumble midway through the second quarter. If you expected to see Ridley return after that mistake, you haven’t watched many Bill Belichick games. Vereen finished the day with 14 carries for 101 yards (at 7.2 YPC), and seven catches for 58 yards. At 15.90 points in Yahoo! standard scoring, that ranks Vereen as the number five running back heading into Sunday night’s game.
Sunday’s reminder is an important one. Vereen stands as much chance to lead the Patriots in carries as does Ridley. Sure, the Patriots want Ridley to be the starting back; he saw 296 touches last year, compared to Vereen’s 70. But whoever brings it on Sunday is going to earn the opportunity. Vereen spent much of the summer lined up in the slot, meaning he’ll carry added value in the receiving game. Target Vereen now before his value breaks a hole through your ceiling.
Outside of Jared Cook, the best tight end performance of week one was Julius Thomas. So is this some Mountain Coast Bias that has everyone talking about Thomas? Maybe chalk it up to Denver’s primetime appearance, or the record performance of Peyton Manning. Cook scored 24.10 standard points to Thomas’ 23. While Thomas caught five balls for 110 yards and two touchdowns, Cook outdid him on Sunday with seven receptions for 141 yards, two scores and a fumble.
Sam Bradford didn’t look like Sam Bradford, and by that I mean Sam Bradford didn’t look bad. He passed for 299 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, with a passers’ rating of 100.7. If Bradford and this offense can keep things moving, there’s no reason to think Cook can’t continue to heat things up. He’s never caught more than 49 balls in a season, but he’s never caught balls without a Titans’ uniform before either. Cook could have an elite year at tight end, and that’s not an easy thing to come by. If he keeps it up, the price will never be better than right now.
Brian Hartline led the Dolphins in receiving, while seeing 15 of his team’s 38 targets. Ryan Tannehill had a better day than many expected, completing 63 percent of his passes for 272 yards, one score, and one interception. They may be pedestrian numbers, but if you have his top target, you’re probably feeling pretty good about it. He scored 17.4 standard points against the Browns. Hartline led the team in targets (128), receptions (74) and yards (1,083) in 2012, and seems poised for a breakout year.
Mike Wallace only garnered one catch on his five targets Sunday. This was only one game, so there’s no need to assume Hartline will outperform Wallace for all of 2013. But Hartline demonstrated that he is Tannehill’s security blanket, seeing three times the targets of the sixty-million-dollar man. Speculation has lingered all summer that Wallace and Tannehill lack chemistry on the field. The man who stands to gain from that stunted growth is none other than Hartline. See how much he’s worth now. He could very well see 90 to 100 catches this year, especially when considering how often Tannehill and the struggling Dolphins could find themselves in fourth quarter garbage time.
Stats courtesy of yahoo.com, espn.com, and pro-football-reference.com.