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Spotlight: Arian Foster

posted by on Jul 15th


's thoughts

Houston Texans' running back Arian Foster made a splash in the NFL in his second year. In fantasy circles, his 2010 campaign was dominant - in a big way. He finished as the number one fantasy running back under almost every league format. He was second only to LeSean McCoy that year in running back receptions, and blew away his fantasy competition by 86 fantasy points in non-PPR leagues.

His 2,218 combined rushing and receiving yards were 9th most, and his 18 combined TDs were 13th most, for any player in the last 10 years (I included last year in these statistics). And he played much of that year on a torn meniscus. It is certainly impressive for a running back to play that well on an injured knee. But I do not note the injury purely for that reason.

Though the injury was relatively minor, and was completely repaired via offseason surgery, Foster injured himself again on the first day of 11 on 11 scrimmages. This time it was a hamstring injury. The injury likely occurred due to shortened team-organized conditioning programs resulting from a labor dispute that offseason. Regardless of the reason, Foster was injured for the second time in his short career, which fantasy owners should keep in mind when selecting him as a top-3 overall pick.

He had a lowered draft status in 2011 due to the injury, which paid off big time for those owners who got him in the lower half of the first round. Even after slowly easing into the 2011 season (he missed the first and third games), Foster had a strong 2011 fantasy campaign. He was the fourth best fantasy running back in non-PPR leagues. His 53 receptions and 13 total TDs were each fifth best among RBs. He led the NFL in scrimmages yards per game with 141.6, he was third in the NFL with 1,224 rushing yards, and he was only the fifth player since 1970 to have more than 1,000 yards rushing and 600 yards receiving in back-to-back seasons.

The highlight game was week 7, when he became only the 32nd player in NFL history, to have 100 yards rushing and receiving in the same game. His 3 total TDs and 234 total yards were season highs. Despite a sub-par week 14, his fantasy playoffs run was also good. He had 100+ rush yards and a TD in each of his week 15 and 16 games.

Foster earned second team All Pro honors in 2011 after a phenomenal postseason. He ran for 285 yards in the postseason, the most by any player in his first two NFL playoff games, and he added 3 TDs. The Texans rewarded Foster for this performance with a five-year contract, worth $43.5 million. The contract includes a hard guarantee of $20.75 million; Foster will make $18 million this season and $30 million in the first three years of the deal. Any concerns that Foster is unhappy with the team, or vice versa, are laid to rest with that kind of a contract.

Concerns about competition for touches should likewise be laid to rest. Backup Ben Tate is very talented - possibly the most talented backup in RB the league. He fits the team's zone blocking scheme as well as Foster does, and he proved he could carry the load in Foster's absence. In weeks 1-3 last year, Tate averaged 22 carries and 100 yards per game. In week 17, when Foster sat because the team had clinched their playoff position, Tate had 20 touches for 121 yards and a TD. Though he contributed some good rushing yardage in the team's other games, he averaged about 8.5 carries per game, and barely saw the field in the team's post-season games. If the team planned to use Tate in a way that would cut into Foster's touches, one would imagine greater use than that. Moreover, Tate does not have Foster's skill as a receiver.

One of the more impressive things about Fosters run last year is that other key offensive weaponry missed time while he was doing it. Both QB Matt Schaub (6 games) and WR Andre Johnson (9 games) missed games due to injury. With both players returning healthy to provide a potent passing attack, Foster should be facing even fewer defenses stacked to stop the run in 2012.

Finally, as far as the team's matchup look this year, Houston has a favorable schedule against the run. None of the teams Houston faces from week 12 forward had a top-10 defense or in 2011, and most were in the bottom third of the league (Detroit, Tennessee, New England, Indianapolis twice, and Minnesota). Only Tennessee had a top-10 scoring defense. All of these factors should combine to give Foster another top-4 fantasy running back season.

Positives

  • Potent offense with run blocking scheme designed to maximize Foster's skill set
  • Favorable schedule
  • Proven talent, with a track record of success, toughness to play through injuries, and ability to play at a high level even with other key members of the offense sidelined

Negatives

  • Injury history is a little worrisome
  • Given the number of touches he had in his first three years, getting worn down from overuse is a possible factor
  • If owners want a handcuff, Ben Tate's ADP is much higher than the other RBs who are handcuffs for first round picks

Final thoughts

Arian Foster should be selected at the top of just about every fantasy draft this year. All signs point to another successful statistical output in 2012. He is one of the top fantasy options yet again this year, and could carry your fantasy team to a championship.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

BigSteelThrill said:

#1. Good line. Good defense. Good pass game. A coach who loves to utilize the run game. Stability with nothing in flux. Solid history. 25 years old, turning 26. Lofty yards per carry, plenty of catches and pass game utilization. Really solid back up to hand cuff and get production from if an injury sets in. Lovely division.

TheDirtyWord said:

Let's take the first month of last season away, when Foster was dealing with an ailing hamstring. In the two seasons he's been the bellcow for the HOU running attack, he's put up the following per game numbers (28 games).

140.1 Yards From Scrimmage
1.1 TD's

In an era that has seen the decline of the bellcow RB to the point where only 2 exceeded 300 carries last season (compare to 2003 when 13 did)...Foster is the rarity in that he's putting up top 10 all-time level YFS numbers. The primary reason for this is that he's absolutely deadly in the passing game. His career YPR is 10.3, an ungodly high number for an RB.

When I watch Foster play, what sticks out to me is just how much yardage he gobbles up by the step. While he's gets out to edge very fast, it doesn't look that fast. This applies when he has and does not have the ball and it makes it tough for LB's to cover him. So he's capable of not just having huge rushing games, but huge receiving games as well (he had as many 100 yard receiving games in 2011 as Hakeem Nicks & Greg Jennings). This season, it appears there are 3 top RB's; Foster, Rice & McCoy. I think the choice here is Foster. Rice probably poses the best chance to equal Foster's production, but at the end of the day, Foster has simply proven more productive on a per game basis than any RB in the NFL when he's healthy and he's going to be leaned on to produce closer to his 2010 level than his 2011 so long as he's in good health.

If you take Rice's two best seasons (2009 & 2011) his per game averages come in at:

128.4 Yards From Scrimmage
0.7 TD's

I get that in one of those seasons, McGahee was the goal line vulture. But even when you look at big plays just in 2011...Foster had as many 20+ yard plays as Rice did in 36 fewer touches. At the end of the day, if you wound up with either (assuming Rice does not hold out), you're going to be ecstatic. But Foster IMO simply has a measurable edge even if it's perhaps only by a factor of 10% more production over Rice - but 2 points/week on average is still 2 points/week. In an area of the draft where you are measuring ceilings and the chances of reaching that ceiling, Foster is just a shade better. As for McCoy, we've yet to see him put the YFS & TD numbers in a single season to be considered in the #1 pick discussion. And while McCoy is the youngest of the three, neither Rice's nor Foster's age poses any threat or hint of a decline on the 2012 horizon.

With an aging Andre Johnson who has experienced 2 consecutive injury marred seasons and the failure to have unearthed legitimate complimentary weapons in the passing game, the HOU offense seems destined to ride on the back of Foster again. While Ben Tate did emerge as a solid #2 RB to spell Foster, this offense is now his. His production will show it.

Greg Russell (Footballguys.com Staff Writer) said:

RT Eric Winston and RG Mike Brisiel are gone, replaced with (most likely) Rashad Butler at tackle and probably Antoine Caldwell at guard... though Houston drafted a behemeth rookie guard named Brandon Brooks who might compete for the spot.

Butler is a tackle who can play either side, but only has 4 starts in his career. Those 4 starts were at left tackle 2 years ago when Duane Brown was suspended, and Butler did a good job. Butler is probably a better pass blocker than Winston was, but not as good of a run blocker.

Caldwell has 13 starts in 3 years, including 7 in 2010 when Foster had his breakout season. I don't have much of a well-formed opinion to share yet about how he compares to Brisiel.

On the good side, both players have been with the team for multiple years and have some experience playing with the other players in the starting unit. But it can still take an O-line time to come together when you change out personnel like this.

As far as the loss of Dreessen at TE, it may depend on what they do at 2nd TE and FB. James Casey can probably fill in just as well as Dreessen if they use him as the primarily TE2, or at least when he's not playing fullback. And if I had to put down money now that would be my bet. The other option, Garrett Graham, has been in a zone blocking scheme since college, though coming out of school it was questioned if his run blocking would be up to par or if he lacked enough strength for it. Haven't personally seen enough out of him in NFL games to offer an opinion there.


Arian Foster projections

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