Since Arian Foster joined the Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2009, he has been fairly durable missing only 2 games through a hamstring injury early last year. Foster is obviously a highly talented and difficult person to replace given his success, especially to those in the fantasy community, but the Texans do have depth at the position and one of the better offensive lines in the league to cope should the worst occur to Foster. It wouldn't be a straight swap of Foster for his productive backup, Ben Tate either, as Foster is a much better runner and especially receiver, so there would have to be adjustments made in the Houston offense as a whole. An injury to Foster and this would be a rare case where there will be a lot of beneficiaries in the Houston offense and hardly any losers.
Ben Tate, RB – In the games where Foster was injured or severely limited last year (weeks 1 to 3 and week 17), Tate averaged 20 carries and 99.5 yards a game rushing, with 2 touchdowns. Tate was still good enough to record two 100 yard rushing games when Foster was fit as well, but on the whole was much better when he was the lead back. Expecting a straight swap of Fosters stats for Tate is unrealistic. Foster is an excellent receiver, whereas Tate is barely adequate. Foster is also more explosive as a runner. Tate is capable of top end RB2, bottom end RB1 numbers if Foster is injured and will be a popular target should this happen.
Matt Schaub, QB – The dominance of the Houston offense rests primarily on the shoulders of Arian Foster and Andre Johnson. Should Foster be lost, the ground game will still be very strong, but Schaub will be asked to get more out of the passing game to make up for the lack of dynamism in the backfield. Schaub would push to bottom end QB1 numbers and is worth acquiring if you are struggling at QB or want quality depth.
Owen Daniels, TE – Owen Daniels would be one of the prime candidates to catch the dump off and short passes that would have gone to Arian Foster. Ben Tate is not a match in this area and as long as Daniels was fit, he would be a target to get a large percentage of the passes that would have gone to Foster.
Andre Johnson, WR – It's hard for Andre Johnson to become more valuable, as he already is one of the best players in the league and already is a high draft pick in all leagues, but should Arian Foster be lost the only explosive element left in Houston would be Andre Johnson. Johnson demonstrated in 2008 and 2009, when the Houston rush offense struggled, what he could do as the only superstar in town.
Kevin Walter, WR – With Foster out, Walter is unlikely to benefit in any way. His role in the offense is very well defined and he's not really useful on a regular basis to most in the fantasy community unless you're in very deep leagues or in need of an emergency bye week replacement.
Lestar Jean, WR – This may as well be called the Houston WR3 position as Jean is in a battle with Keshawn Martin and Devier Posey for playing time. The winner of this battle may not see an immediate benefit should Arian Foster be lost, but should any other player listed here go down, save for Matt Schaub, then this will be the area of potential benefit. As these players are all fairly inexperienced, it would be wise to check their progress and playing time before considering a move for them, unless two Texans go down.
Justin Forsett, RB – Forsett appears the favorite for the number 3 role right now. Should Jonathan Grimes or Davin Meggett win it, just insert their names here. If Foster is missing, Forsett is much more explosive than Tate and could do some real damage to opposing defenses if given the chance. He did ok when given opportunities in Seattle, but failed to hold onto the starting job and starts anew in Houston. As one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL, the number 2 back in Houston is always worth considering. Forsett will definitely see time behind Tate and would be a recommended add should Foster get injured.
James Casey, RB/TE – Casey is another similar to Owen Daniels in that he will be the target out or near the backfield. The coaches were pleased with his effort in 2011 and will already be attempting to factor him into the offense anyway. An injury to Foster and he becomes even more useful. Remember him coming out of nowhere in week 3 last year with 5 catches for 126 yards and a TD? Foster was injured. Again, he should be worth rostering dependent on his designation in your fantasy league. Some leagues have him as a Tight End, others as a Running Back. Check carefully, as he only has 1 career rushing attempt to date and will only be valuable as a receiver.
Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org.