Among the Patriots worth closely monitoring is running back Shane Vereen, a third-year pro who has natural talent as a receiver. Like Aaron Hernandez, he has the ability be used in various alignments around the formation, opening the door to the Patriots using him as a pre-snap motion player.
He might leapfrog from the backfield to a flexed out alignment to a wide receiver alignment in three successive plays. He was successfully used as a split wide receiver on occasion in 2012, taking advantage of man coverage against linebackers (a Thanksgiving night performance against the Jets was the pinnacle of his season). The Patriots have long excelled at dictating matchups, something they can explore further with Vereen this season.
Considering his late-season production and the fact that Danny Woodhead is out of the way, Vereen's prospects are looking good. He gained at least 38 total yards in six of his last nine games and scored five TDs in that span. Woodhead quietly finished as fantasy football's #25 RB in 2012, so Vereen could post similar numbers if given a similar workload. The Vereen/Woodhead duo posted #14 RB numbers in standard formats and #12 RB numbers in PPR. If Vereen will be used to replace Aaron Hernandez, his PPR value will be considerable.