Shane Vereen, Tom Brady

Photo courtesy of AP images
Shane Vareen’s injury will likely cause the Patriots to throw more due to the uncertainty in their backfield.

With a weekend packed full of remarkable individual performances including a seven-touchdown effort from Peyton Manning and running back LeSean McCoy’s 184 yards rushing on Monday night, it’s safe to say Week 1 of the fantasy football season did not disappoint.

But the most pleasant surprise without question was the injury fairy, who didn’t pay a lot of teams a visit.

It’s always a load of owner’s minds when they can get through a week without having to scramble to find a replacement for an injured player, but unfortunately, there were a few to report. So while most teams should be lucky enough to avoid too much maintenance for Week 2, let’s dissect how to properly deal with one while we’re still playing with house money.

Perhaps the most notable injury last Sunday occurred on the already decimated New England Patriots against the Buffalo Bills. The Pats lost a crucial part of their offense on Sunday when running back/receiver Shane Vareen suffered a broken wrist.

Vareen was a versatile weapon for the Patriots, a guy who displayed competency in both the running and passing game. In Week 1 alone, he rushed for 101 yards on just 14 carries against the Buffalo Bills. He also caught seven passes for 58 yards, giving him bonus value in PPR leagues. In short, he was the Darren Sproles of the Pats.

The Patriots placed Vareen on injury reserve and the estimated time of recovery is four weeks but there’s no telling when he will be back exactly. This is a time where you have to rely on finding his most likely replacement if you were unfortunate enough to have him on your team.

Like the adage says, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. Dealing with an injury to a key player on your roster is a crucial team management skill. You must be able to dissect what his injury means to the team, who are the most talented players remaining, and how the team will adjust to the injury. Here’s a look at who’s likely to step up.

Running back

Stevan Ridley — Ridley disappointed fantasy owners in Week 1 after two bad fumbles led to his benching in the first half. While he is the most talented running back left on the roster, his ball security issues will keep the ever-so-strict coach Bill Bellichick from leaning on him too heavily going forward. Expect Ridley’s value to go up slightly because he will no doubt see more carries, but don’t expect him to take over.

LeGarrette Blount — Blount rushed for only 15 yards on seven carries in Week 1, and saw the majority of his carries come post-Ridley fumble. Despite Ridley’s struggles, Vareen’s absence won’t increase Blount’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, which is a skill he lacks and the Patriots rely on.

Leon Washington — A running back more known for his kick return abilities, Washington has more upside than Blount because he’s a better receiver.

Brandon Bolden — Sat out during Week 1 due to a knee injury and status for tonight’s game is still unknown. Not worth the risk.

Wide receiver/tight end

Danny Amendola — Suffered a groin injury and is a game time decision tonight. If he goes, he’s the best fantasy option on the team.

Julian Edelman — A receiver who stepped into the slot role after Amendola got injured in the first half. Edelman grabbed two touchdowns and caught seven of his nine targets for 79 yards.

Slot receivers have had much success with the Patriots in the past. Wes Welker caught 100 or more passes in five of his six seasons with New England in a similar role, and Edelman is certainly capable of doing the same.

Kenbrell Thompkins — A disappointing four catches for 42 yards in the rookie’s NFL debut. On a positive note, he was targeted 14 times, meaning quarterback Tom Brady is really looking to get him involved. But inexperience when the big lights go on may curb Thompkins’ value until he gets seasoned a bit more.

Zach Sudfield — A sleeper tight end pegged talented enough to start in fantasy leagues until Gronkowski returns, yet he also disappointed in his debut with zero catches for zero yards. A pulled hamstring may have had an effect on his production, but either way he’s not a viable option with the possibility of Gronkowski returning tonight.

Aaron Dobson — Didn’t play in Week 1 due to his spot on the depth chart behind the three other receivers listed above, Dobson’s only chance of sleeper upside is if Amendola can’t go.

Rob Gronkowski — Slight chance he plays tonight but don’t count on it.

Final verdict — Ridley and Blount should see a slight boost in carries, but expect the Patriots to utilize Edelman and Thompkins in Vareen’s absence the most. There’s not a lot of confidence in New England’s running game right now and the greatest possibility for fantasy production on the Pats lies in their receiving core. Pick up Edelman for sure or even Dobson if he’s already taken.

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