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Heading into the 2007 season – a year in which New England's passing offense ultimately rewrote the NFL record books – running back Laurence Maroney(notes) was the player that Pats fans were most excited about. 

In fact, I'm not sure that I've ever received as much email hype about any player, in any sport. Nearly all the emails were sent by New England fans who insisted that Maroney was severely undervalued in fantasy drafts. At the time, he was the No. 12 overall pick in an average league.

Tom Brady(notes) was about to have one of the greatest individual seasons in the history of human competition, yet he was typically selected 20 picks after Maroney. Randy Moss(notes) was taken a full round after Brady. You might recall that in the days leading up to final cuts in '07, there was actually widespread speculation that Moss wasn't going to make New England's roster:

It’s 7 p.m. and the Patriots still haven’t released their list of cuts. However, a rumor gaining momentum over the last three days is that they’re planning to drop Randy Moss, which would be a shocker to end all shockers. … The theory seems to be the that the Pats aren’t sure he’ll embrace a role as a decoy.

If you ever need an example of how stingy the Patriots are with actionable information, there you go. The decoy caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns that year.

But let's not dwell on '07, nor on what we knew and when we knew it. Instead let's discuss Maroney's current value, while Sammy Morris(notes) (knee) and Fred Taylor(notes) (ankle) are injured.

It's never easy to reinvest in a player who thoroughly disappointed you (Cedric says "hello"), but Maroney is coming off a 16-carry, 123-yard yard performance against Tennessee, he's about to face a Tampa Bay defense that gave up 267 rushing yards to Carolina, and, well…he and BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes) are pretty much the last men standing in the Patriots backfield. Kevin Faulk's(notes) role won't necessarily change significantly; he was already getting plenty of snaps and most of the receptions.

We don't yet have a meaningful update on Morris' injury – Bill Belichick stiff-armed the media on Monday, per his usual – but we do know that Taylor will be out for an extended period following ankle surgery. There's a chance that New England could acquire a back from the discard pile, although the list of available names reads like a 2005 draft guide: Tatum Bell(notes), Ahman Green(notes), TJ Duckett(notes), Dominic Rhodes(notes).

So for the moment, it's Maroney.

Are you prepared to trust him?

Are you bullish, like it's August 2007 all over again?

I'll admit this much: I've made Maroney waiver claims throughout my fantasy portfolio. All my FAAB bids have exceeded Evans' recommended ceiling, too. And in leagues where I've got no reasonable shot at Maroney, I'm targeting Green-Ellis as a consolation prize. BenJarvus saw the field early against the Titans before that game turned into a slaughter, finishing with seven carries for 67 yards. He also scored touchdowns in four consecutive games last year when pressed into service.

The New England running game is entirely competent, but fantasy owners tend not to notice because that team prefers to spread the wealth. (Redistributionists! Socialists! Keep your government hands outta my backfield!) The Patriots are 12th in the league in rushing yards per game this year (123.1) and they finished sixth in 2008 (142.4). Whoever sits atop their backfield hierarchy is worth owning, even if it's a guy who burned you before. 

The Pats recycle scraps from other teams as effectively as any franchise in the league. Perhaps they'll find something useful in their own trash.


Photo via US Presswire 

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