Arian Foster, Ryan Torain: NFL Fantasy Football Gold

Lake CruiseAnalyst IOctober 25, 2010

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 17:  Ryan Torain #46 of the Washington Redskins heads up field for a long gain against the Indianapolis Colts at FedExField on October 17, 2010 in Landover, Maryland. The Colts won the game 27-24.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Born 14 days apart, they are about the same size and have overcome similar adversities. 

The two 24-year-olds were born in August, and they both stand close to 6’1”, 225 pounds.

Their jersey numbers are 23 and 46: 23 is half of 46. 


Arian Foster is from San Diego via Albuquerque while Ryan Torain was born in Topeka and played college ball in Tempe.

Both came up from practice squad rosters to become NFL starters at tailback this season. 

While the position is the most talent rich in football, drawing all pro-caliber running backs from the practice squad is a relatively new phenomenon.

Also called the scout team, practice team or practice roster, the squad in the NFL consists of no more than eight players apart from the 53-man active roster.

Mainly rookies and borderline NFL-caliber talent make up practice squads, but now in the fantasy football realm, practice squads should be watched for potential call-ups.

That is for savvy owners though. 

Continue reading if you are not that savvy.  Even if you are that savvy, the following information will help you make quality fantasy decisions.

Three seasons is the limit for most players to be on a scout team.

They practice alongside the regular team but are ineligible for games.  The minimum salary is around $88,000 per season. 

The minimum for an NFL rookie is $285,000.

Yet offensive lineman Billy Yates was paid the full $425,000 as a third-year practice squad player in 2006.

The Patriots are known for valuing their practice squad players in terms of giving them higher salaries than required.

The overwhelming majorities of the NFL’s practice players are free agents.  

Other players who have enjoyed practice squad success at tailback include Kyle Eckel, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Justin Forsett and Kenneth Darby.

Torain was a fifth-round pick by the Denver Broncos from Arizona State where he reconfigured Sun Devils rushing records.

ESPN’s draft guru Mel Kiper had him as the No. 2 running back in 2007’s senior class.

Suffering a torn ACL in November 2008, Torain was placed on injured reserve and out for the season. 

Fantasy standout Peyton Hillis replaced him as the Broncos starting tailback.

Foster is an avid poet and he knows it.  A power back, some of his scats are poetry in motion.  He can also philosophize on the finer points of making cuts.

Philosophy was his major.

A quicker version of former Tennessee Titans bruiser Eddie George, Foster is a few steps faster than both George and Torain.

Neither of the two tailbacks is threatening Chris Johnson or C.J. Spiller in the 40, but Foster has proved that he has breakaway NFL speed.

Torain runs like a runaway bull in a bowling alley. 

He simply plows down defenders with shoulder punches and stiff-arms that are reminiscent of Bo Jackson or Earl Campbell.

More of a Marcus Allen-type than Eddie George, Foster played in two games last year.

His performances made Texans head coach Gary Kubiak start him.  Kubiak has tutored the likes of Terrell Davis and Clinton Portis.

Both Portis and Torain were drafted by current Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan.

Starting in Week 5, Torain replaced Portis who suffered a groin injury after Larry Johnson and “Fast” Willie Parker fizzled out of Washington’s future plans. 

Foster went undrafted in 2009 out of the University of Tennessee, and he signed with the Texans on their practice squad.

His father played wide receiver for the University of New Mexico and his mother worked as an administrative assistant there.

Told he was not good enough as a running back at Valley High, he went to California with his father after his parents divorced in 2000.

He led San Diego County with 2,500 all purpose yards as a senior after starting out as a linebacker.  Tennessee signed him and he red-shirted his freshman season.

Gerald Riggs II was the starter and Cedric Houston was second on the Volunteers depth chart.

After Riggs II was injured in 2005, the freshman Foster became the Vols starter and finished with 879 yards rushing including 223 against Vanderbilt.

He gained a reputation as somewhat of a fumbler after his performance against Penn State. 

But he bounced back in his junior year with Montario Hardesty backing him up.

The Texans signed him to their active roster on Nov. 17, 2009. 

He started out on special teams, but he scored on a 17-yard burst through the heart of the Miami Dolphins five weeks later.

He started the next week against the Patriots and did 119 yards and two scores on 20 attempts.

On opening day 2010, he reconfigured the NFL’s and the Texans’ record books by putting up 231 yards and three touchdowns against the defending AFC champion Colts.

It was the second-highest opening day rushing performance behind only O.J. Simpson’s 250 yards in 1973. 

Torain touched the Colts for 100 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns last week.  That is golden by any fantasy football format standards.

Going forward, both Foster and Torain should glitter like gold for your fantasy squads. 

Foster is the NFL’s leading rusher and should stay at or near the top all season.

Andre Ward is proving to be a quality back up for Foster in all fantasy formats.

While Torain is best suited for Yahoo! formats now, he will benefit from the Redskins improving running game.

He will still get a ton of looks in the red zone if he can stay healthy.

“We started jelling real well,” Torain said after the Colts game. “And the offensive line started opening up big holes and I just kept running hard and when the opportunity presented itself I took advantage of it.”

Portis’ return may vulture a few touchdowns, but Shanahan likes No. 46 a lot.

“He can be an elite NFL running back,” Shanahan said.

Torain is still available in some leagues, but I have no idea why. 

Maybe because Keiland Williams is the Redskins rookie who plays most in passing situations.

Williams is another player promoted from the practice squad.  He debuted against the Green Bay Packers for the Redskins this year.

Washington could be in passing situations a lot in order to come from behind in games this season, but Torain will still get the looks near the goal.

Grab him and start him if you have not.  If you have, tell me about your experiences.  


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