Yesterday, I broke down this in-depth study on Hot off the Wire:
Texans | Dissecting run-game problems
A big part of Houston Texans RB Arian Foster's struggles last season can be blamed on the right side of the offensive line. The front five's continuity was broken when Houston had to replace their right tackle and right guard. Foster didn't look as spry in 2012 as he did in the two previous years, but Houston had issues eliminating penetration and sealing the edge. Foster's drop-off in aggressive cut-back runs can be blamed on both his hesitation to execute them and the line's flaws with cut-back blocks last year. Houston also needs to keep aggressive downhill linebackers at bay with more play-action passes.
Fostering false hope?
There's plenty at stake if you're considering Foster for the No. 1 or 2, preferably the latter, selection in your pick 'em party. Cory already reflected hesitation in banking on the Texans' bell cow, and I agree with his belief that Jamaal Charles will have the bigger year.
Some questions regarding Foster:
- Will his workload and evidently slowing run game take its toll to a more drastic level? Foster will turn 27 in August but has had a furious-paced three seasons after rising from near obscurity. The tailback dropped from 4.7 yards per tote in 2010 and 2011 to 4.1 last year, when he averaged fewer than 4.0 yards per carry in nine of his 16 games -- more than half. Luckily, he found paydirt in six of those contests, twice crossing the plane for a pair.
- His touchdown total hid a lot of his issues last year, and you shouldn't draft with a primary weight on scores because their frequency fluctuates. Week-to-week consistency is a funny attribute in fantasy football. People laud end-of-season totals but don't always look at what happens in each game. On the whole, Foster was one of the most productive players, sure, but that's not carte blanche to buy elite production every week.
- Will his calf be in shape by the time August and September roll around? He said the other day that it will, but let's get everyone into pads before making any strong notions.
- Can the right side of Foster's wall get in sync? Derek Newton, who's recovering from knee surgery, seems to be better as a pass protector than a run blocker. He's definitely not at the level of former Texans right tackle Eric Winston, a casualty of salary and potentially age that they sorely missed last year. Maybe rookie Brennan Williams, a deceiving ZBS fit, could pick up the slack, but this still looks like a competition that may last into this season, which would leave the RT position in flux.
That's a lot of uncertainty about someone many call an unquestionable top-two pick. And it justifies -- finally -- spending just a tad more on Ben Tate.
It's really Adrian Peterson, then everyone else, as opposed to Peterson and Foster being alone in the top tier. Given the way blind faith in RBs with existing issues -- heck, RBs in general -- can ruin a draft, you can't emphatically say he's the second-best pick in football. (I still say it's Calvin Johnson, especially in PPRs.)
If Foster somehow falls to the middle or back end of the first round, that's more comfortable pricing. Will it happen? Doubt it, unless summer workouts paint a cloudy picture.
I'll leave you with that post's Fantasy Tip:
This zone-blocking system feeds on precision up front, and when it's not there, even talented guys like Foster can drop off. Of course, though this article downplays it, the RB's workload, along with his current calf injury, can't be ignored. It's too soon in the offseason to cement him as the No. 1 or No. 2 overall pick, as it's more likely that the combination of things working against him would leave such drafters disappointed. As long as he's healthy, however, he's still likely to finish as a first-round asset because of the volume of his work. Hopefully you're not drafting until August or September so we can offer you the best idea of his value.
Value the volume. Beware the wear and tear.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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