Doug Kyed, NESN:
The New England Patriots’ lack of urgency in finding a dependable replacement for Shane Vereen could be explained by two running backs who took a backseat in 2014.

Most know about James White, a 2014 fourth-round draft pick who touched the ball just 14 times in three games last season, but the Patriots also have former Stanford bell cow Tyler Gaffney, a Carolina Panthers sixth-round pick whom New England claimed off waivers after the rookie tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee. The Panthers tried to sneak Gaffney through waivers to injured reserve, but the Patriots, who were willing to store him through training camp, had other plans.

At least James White was able to touch the ball in 2014. RB Tyler Gaffney spent the season rehabbing his left knee, but was able to spend ample time around Gillette Stadium in learning the Patriots' way of business. Tyler should be rested and well prepared for football in 2015. 2012 was spent as an outfielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates' farm system. 2013 was the last time Tyler had any action on the gridiron. As the primary RB for Stanford University, Gaffney rushed for 1709 yards on 330 carries for a 5.2 yard average and 21 TD's. He was also used as a wide receiver in certain offensive sets.

Competition in filling the shoes of Shane Vereen will be stiff. LeGarrette Blount, James White, Travaris Cadet and possibly Stevan Ridley are in the hunt for playing time. While Shane Vereen was mainly featured as the third down alternative, he remained on the field in the most important second half, Super Bowl XLIX. That position could be a good starting point for Tyler Gaffney.

Although the game sample is small, Tyler Gaffney compares favorably to Steven Ridley and LeGarrette Blount. Doug Kyed, NESN:
Gaffney also was a highly productive short-yardage back in 2013. He received 41 carries on third-and-short and picked up 165 yards, 4 yards per carry and 29 first downs. His 70.7 first-down rate on short-yardage carries rated better than LeGarrette Blount (53.8 percent) and Stevan Ridley (46.4 percent) during their respective final college seasons.

Gaffney fumbled three times in 2013 and just five times in his four-year career at Stanford. He fumbled only once every 103.6 times he touched the ball. To put that in perspective, Blount has fumbled once every 56.7 times he touches the ball in the NFL, which is more frequent than Ridley (74.7).

The fumble ratio alone will move Tyler Gaffney up the depth charts.

The 2015 NFL Draft is projected to feature a strong class of running backs.

1. Todd Gurley, Georgia

2. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

3. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

4. Duke Johnson, Miami

5. Jay Ajayi, Boise State

6. Tevin Coleman, Indiana

The New England Patriots may have their running back, and it didn't cost them a draft pick. The Carolina Panthers giftwrapped a sixth round choice in 2014 to the Super Bowl Champs free of charge. The fact that he carried a double major(sociology and psychology) at a prestigious university while playing two sports, ran a 4.49 40 yard dash, can block, and catch passes makes that rehabilitation cost look like a bargain. And we know the New England Patriots are always in the market for value.

Paul Murphy is a freelance writer from New Hampshire.

Follow me on Twitter at @_prmurphy

For more of my articles, click here.

Paul Murphy 3/23/2015 05:06:00 PM Edit

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