5 Reasons to Draft Ben Tate in Your Fantasy Football League
The Houston Texans made it to the postseason last year for the first time in franchise history due in large part to a rushing attack that ranked second in the National Football League, chewing up 153 yards a game during the regular season.
That run game benefited a great deal from a two-headed monster at tailback that includes reserve running back Ben Tate.
Tate may be second banana on the depth chart in Houston, but there are a number of reasons why he still merits serious consideration on fantasy draft day.
1. Ben Tate Is a Starting-Caliber Running Back
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Were Ben Tate not stuck behind arguably the best running back in the NFL in Arian Foster he'd probably be a starter on any number of NFL teams.
In fact, the Cleveland Browns reportedly inquired about trading for the third-year pro earlier this year.
That talent was evidenced when Tate was called upon to fill in for Foster in his second NFL season.
In 15 games last year (including two starts) Tate racked up over 1,000 total yards and scored four touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards a carry while displaying an impressive combination of speed and power.
2. The Houston Texans Run the Ball a Ton
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Just because Ben Tate is listed second on the Texans depth chart doesn't mean that the former Auburn star doesn't still see the field enough to be fantasy relevant, even when Arian Foster is healthy.
Tate tallied 188 total touches last season, and by the time all was said and done that workload equated to a 41st-place finish among fantasy running backs in leagues that award a point for receptions.
Granted, that might not make Tate startable on a weekly basis in most fantasy football leagues.
However, given that no team in the NFL ran the ball more than the Houston Texans last year, there should still be enough carries to go around in 2012 to make Tate a viable "flex" starter or bye-week fill-in.
3. Ben Tate's Dynasty Upside Is Considerable
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After signing Arian Foster to a five-year, $43.5 million contract extension earlier this year the Texans may have locked up their starting running back for the long haul, but in doing so they also most likely started the clock ticking on Ben Tate's departure from Houston.
Tate is scheduled to make less than $500,000 this season as part of a rookie contract that will expire after the 2013 season.
The cold, hard fact of the matter is that if Tate continues to perform at a high level there's no way the Texans will be able to afford to keep him.
As Tate recently told The Houston Chronicle he's focused on the present, but he's as aware of that reality as anyone.
“I’m going to keep riding the wave, working hard every single day to get better,” Tate said. “I feel like I’m one of the better running backs in the league right now, definitely (in the) top 10. Adrian’s getting paid the big bucks, but you know what? My time is coming.”
Fantasy owners in dynasty startup drafts would be well served to keep that in mind as they look to the future while trying to win in the present.
4. There Is No More Vital "Handcuff" Back Than Ben Tate
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Arian Foster is arguably the top overall pick in fantasy football this year, with either Foster, running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens or LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles being selected first in the vast majority of fantasy drafts this summer.
Simply put, if you invest a top-three pick in Arian Foster then you have to draft Ben Tate as well.
Foster missed two games with a hamstring injury last year, running back may be the most physically grueling position in all of football and Tate has already demonstrated what he's capable of doing in Foster's stead.
Sure, with an average draft position of the eighth round according to MyFantasyLeague.com securing Tate's services as insurance against a Foster injury isn't cheap.
However, it beats watching your entire fantasy season go up in flames should Foster get hurt.
Also, as I stated earlier in this slideshow Tate isn't without fantasy value of his own even with Foster healthy, so while Ben Tate is an expensive handcuff he's also one capable of helping your team even if disaster doesn't strike.
Finally, an insurance policy that's actually useful.
5. Depth at Running Back Is Essential for Success in Fantasy Football
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I've been beating this drum since my early days of playing fantasy football, and it's a mantra I adhere to to this day.
You can never have too many running backs.
Yes, the gap between the running back position and wideouts, quarterbacks and even tight ends has narrowed in recent years, and a fantasy-draft first round that used to be dominated by running backs is now much more diversified.
However, that doesn't change the fact that nothing will sink a fantasy team faster than not having enough depth at running back.
Not only is it the position that gets hit hardest by injuries, but it's also the hardest hole to plug with the scraps that are left on your fantasy league's waiver wire.
So, whether you're an Arian Foster owner hedging his bet, a dynasty owner looking down the road or just in need of some depth in your fantasy backfield give Ben Tate a long look in the middle rounds of your fantasy draft.
Because as Mike Pisani, the esteemed co-host of the fantasy football podcast I take part in twice weekly, has stated repeatedly, "Ben Tate is going to be a force in the NFL for years to come."