Fantasy Football 2013: Stevan Ridley Too Risky to Start

Stevan Ridley of the New England Patriots has recently begun to live up to his preseason-fantasy expectations. Even more recently, he has begun to have a relapse of the dreaded fumblitis, leaving him in coach Bill Belichick’s proverbial doghouse. Because of this, his Week 13 fantasy outlook is poor.

Prior to Week 6, Ridley’s fantasy production was uncharacteristically low. In the four games he played, he averaged 44 rushing yards, nine receiving yards, no touchdowns and only four standard-scoring fantasy points—which left the majority of his fantasy owners concerned and frustrated.

Yet, in Week 6, Ridley began to look like his old self by scoring a season-high 22 standard-scoring fantasy points. This was the beginning of a five-game stretch when Ridley was a consistent top-15 fantasy-running back.

Nevertheless, Ridley’s fantasy production was not the only thing that rose throughout the season, his quantity of fumbles increased as well. After fumbling only once in his first seven games of the season, Ridley fumbled once in each of his past three games. He’s been holding the football as well as Yoko Ono does a note.

And as most NFL fans know, coach Bill Belichick quickly loses trust in running backs that put the ball on the ground. As a matter of fact, Belichick has such a notorious abhorrence for this that regardless of the game situation, he will bench star players for fumbling.

This was evident in Week 12’s game between the Patriots and the Denver Broncos. After Ridley fumbled the ball on New England’s opening drive, Belichick sat Ridley on the pine for the remainder of the game. Even when the Patriots were down 24-0 at the beginning of the third quarter, Ridley remained benched.

It’s worth noting that for the past two seasons, Belichick has not significantly decreased Ridley’s workload in the week following one of his fumbles. Since the beginning of the 2012 season, Ridley has averaged 15 carries per game following a week when he had at least one fumble. On all other games in that same time, he has averaged 17 carries per game.

However, because Ridley has never fumbled the ball three games in a row, until now, it’s difficult to predict how Belichick will react. He will likely reduce Ridley’s workload significantly, or just decide to bench him for the game.

For this reason, despite Ridley’s impressive fantasy production since Week 6, coach Belichick’s evolving distrust of him devastates his Week 13 fantasy value. Just as in the second half of last week’s game, New England will rely primarily on the services of Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen.

All in all, the only New England running back that can be started confidently in fantasy for the foreseeable future is Shane Vereen, a top-15 fantasy running back for Week 13. Ridley is outside the top-30 for the week.

All aforementioned statistics are courtesy of Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and ESPN.com’s fantasy football statistics.

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