If you are looking for the next fantasy surprise star, just look down south. Steve Slaton of the Houston Texans shows all of the signs of an upcoming fantasy star.
We will look at him at a fantasy, statistical, and logical level. Let's start with some stats.
In his rookie season, Steve Slaton posted over sixteen hundred total offensive yards, nearly 1,300 of which were rushing. He played on a team with a weak defense and acted as nearly the sole running back for the team.
What makes the feat even more impressive is how well he did considering his conditions. Following a season where the Texans' star running back had only 773 rushing yards, Steve Slaton nearly doubled the yardage, all as a rookie. Slaton played under a weak and inexperienced offensive line that hardly were an asset to him.
Now let's compare Slaton's rookie season to a few other running backs that we know. Slaton worked for an average of 4.8 yards per carry (the same average as Peterson for 2008), a better average than the average of the rookie seasons for Ladainian Tomlinson (3.6), Marshall Faulk (4.1), and Matt Forte (3.9). Quite impressive!
Wait, wait wait, you say. What about the other rookie stars who posted much higher averages in their first year? Why leave them out? What about players like Adrian Peterson and Barry Sanders?
Well, we have to remember that Slaton played under a poor offensive line, though it will improve as years pass. Peterson, for example, played behind two pro bowlers in his 2007, rookie season.
Steve Slaton displayed consistency and endurance throughout the 2008 season. Four of his last seven games of the season were 100+ yard games. His average for rushing attempts 21 through 30 for each game was an amazing 8.7 yards per carry. This came as a surprise to some who saw him as too weak to take the beating as a starting running back.
Now let's look at Steve Slaton at a fantasy level. He was one of the most consistent producers for all fantasy players last year. Ranked seventh of the running backs at the end of the season,11 of his 15 injury-free games were above ten points (ESPN standard scoring).
In fact, he had less single digit point games than Adrian Peterson, excluding non-started games.
Finally, let's think this through logically. After posting such a consistent, surprising, and amazing rookie season, Steve Slaton can only go up. With Andre Johnson stretching the field, Slaton should get open lanes and few men boxes to run through.
With an offensive line that is gradually getting better and better, and with a team that is now at a playoff level, Slaton should flourish.
Expect Slaton to continue his consistency throughout this year and beyond. He will exceed his milestones of 2008, and I expect he won't just rise to sixth or fifth of the running backs. I fully expect Steve Slaton to be a top three fantasy running back in the next couple of years.
So when you are at your draft, don't pass him up. Think hard about him as a late first rounder, and definitely snatch him as a second-rounder.