It's June 10. People should be thinking about summer vacation plans, the upcoming holiday celebration, catching some fish, lowering their handicap, or anything but what those of us with "the sickness" are concerned with: fantasy football draft prep.
I spend the greater part of my life consuming everything the NFL has to offer. As a firm believer that too much of anything isn't healthy, I hypocritically toss that counsel to the wind when it comes to fantasy football. Naturally, I keep a pen and notepad at my bedside for the very reason I might awaken with a fantasy football nugget or a new approach to a player's evaluation. I need a life. No, seriously, I really need to get out more, but it will have to wait until January -- when no one wants to get out more. ... So goes the life of a fantasy junkie.
Rambling aside, my purpose to electronically put pen to paper today stems from a late-night revelation about how I devalued Houston Texans running back Arian Foster in my preliminary scouting. Last year matters so little at this point ... a first-time NFL head coach, new-ish QB, different offensive philosophy (especially at RB), possibly no Andre Johnson (gasp). Yet, there is a lot to like about Foster's fantasy prospects.
In what was considered a bad year, before he missed the second half of the year with a back injury, Foster averaged 4.5 yards per carry and 8.3 yards per reception -- both lively figures. The biggest drawback of his game was his failure to find the end zone at his usual clip. He turns 28 years old Aug. 24, but Foster's legs should be as fresh as they have been since his rookie year.
A new role?
New Houston head coach and play caller Bill O'Brien loves to deploy his running backs in multiple ways. In fact, he has stated Foster will be used much like how Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead were utilized in New England under O'Brien's influence. Call me skeptical. You don't outright remove your best pure running back from the feature role and limit him to only third-down duty for an injury-prone overachiever like Andre Brown. Expect Foster to see most of the work on third down, because he is a competent blocker and an even better receiver. Long story short, he is a three-down threat who will be pounded into the dirt.
He expects to be heavily utilized in this offense, and why wouldn't Houston? Next offseason, the Texans likely will part ways with Foster and take a $5 million cap hit but save $4 million in the process. Very few rushers entering an age-29 season are worth $9 million in cap space. By "very few," I mean Adrian Peterson is the lone exception.
Let other owners devalue Foster because of O'Brien's comments and use it to your advantage.
Addressing other concerns
Brown will get series in a rotation that favors the more talented Foster. There is no reason, injury notwithstanding, for Foster to see fewer than 300 offensive touches.
Back surgery sounds scary, I get it, but few championships are won with a safe draft. Foster has been cleared to play and is 100 percent ready, in his own words. The quirky Foster is anything but disingenuous.
I anticipate seeing Ryan Fitzpatrick competently quarterback this team for 16 games. Rookie QB Tom Savage isn't ready yet. Fitz is good enough to keep defenders honest, although he will greatly benefit by having wide receiver Andre Johnson on his side. My best guess is that Johnson and the Texans amicably resolve this rift.
Don't misconstrue what I'm saying. Foster is not in the conversation of the top backs, but you assuredly can do worse with a delayed RB1 selection in reception-rewarding setups. Foster is a fantastic target for owners who start off with a first-round wideout (PPR only, folks) or quarterback (boo!!!).
He'll come off the board in the second round of most drafts, but I have seen him fall into the third on a few occasions in early mocks. Depending where you pick in first round, there is a strong argument to be made for back-to-back running back selections this year (PPR only, from what I have seen).
Foster would make a heck of an RB2 pick, but realize you likely need to commit to making unheralded, scoring-format-driven selections at wide receiver if you go RB-RB. In standard, non-PPR leagues, Foster's worth is depreciated to a low- to midrange No. 2 back.