Arian Foster was once one of the best fantasy players in the NFL, but picking him early in drafts this season would be a mistake.
According to ESPN.com, the Houston Texans running back is, on average, the 12th-highest selection in fantasy football drafts. This also puts him at No. 7 among players at the position. While his upside could make him worthy of this spot, it is too much of a risk for a smart fantasy owner.
Foster missed most of last season with a back injury that was so severe he considered leaving the game, as he explained in an interview with ESPN's Hannah Storm, via ESPN.com's Tania Ganguli:
Any time an athlete goes through an injury like that -- a back, a neck, even knees or hips, something that puts you out for the entire season -- you kind of re-evaluate your life. You see what's really important. Is getting paralyzed more important than playing with your grand kids when you’re 50, 60 years old. People die on the football field. This is a really brutal sport. Going through an injury like that, being 27 years old, I’m young, still I’m at the prime of my career. Is it worth it to try to come back?
While he is back for another year in the NFL, injuries are once again a problem, as he has been limited in training camp with a hamstring injury. He has missed the team's first two preseason games, and it now seems to be a question of whether he will be at full strength by Week 1.
The amount of injuries should not be a surprise for the 27-year-old player. As Indiana Jones said, "It's not the years, it's the mileage."
Foster totaled 956 rushing attempts from 2010-12, ranking in the top six in the NFL each year despite missing three games in 2011. It is not surprising that he wore down over the course of those three seasons from 4.9 yards per carry to 4.4 to 4.1.
Although he bounced back to 4.5 yards per carry in 2013, it was a small sample size with only six full games. Add in another year and the recent injury problems, and you should expect less efficiency in 2014.
Of course, the talent is still there to be a top-five running back in the NFL. New coach Bill O'Brien knows what he has in Foster, and he will likely do what he can to keep him healthy and get the most out of the veteran player.
As a result, fans should expect more touches for the rest of the Texans backfield this season. Ben Tate is gone, but Jonathan Grimes has looked explosive when given a chance. Meanwhile, rookie Alfred Blue has the size to be a quality interior runner. Both of these players could be in line for an expanded workload to keep Foster fresh.
Field Yates of ESPN.com believes the starter is in line for a heavy reduction in carries with a new system (Insider subscription required):
The concern, beyond health, is usage, as Foster was the workhorse in a run-heavy scheme under Gary Kubiak. New head coach Bill O'Brien has spoken highly of Foster, but will his system afford Foster 25 touches per game, as he earned during those three star seasons?
There could be even fewer rushing attempts this season if the squad continues playing from behind. The Texans went 2-14 last season and threw the ball more than all but five teams. With major question marks still at quarterback, it is hard to expect too much more success in 2014.
If Houston is playing catch-up in every game, the opportunities for Foster to make a major impact will be limited.
Finally, Foster might end up struggling behind an offensive line that is dealing with some issues at this point of the year. As Stephanie Stradley of the Houston Chronicle notes, the recent injury to guard Brandon Brooks highlights some big problems:
An oft-injured player getting fewer carries behind a weaker offensive line is not a good recipe for fantasy success. At the very least, it would be a major risk to use a first- or even second-round pick on the former Pro Bowler.
Unless he is still available around the third round of your fantasy drafts, you will be better off avoiding the Texans star.
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