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“He’s old. He’s injury prone. The Texans stink.”
I don’t care. Arian Foster is still arguably the best running back in the NFL that no one seems to ever want to talk about.
A handful of fantasy footballers have demonstrated trepidation in selecting Foster in drafts this season, and I truly don’t understand it. Over his last five campaigns, Foster has finished as a top-five fantasy rusher four times. Look, I somewhat understand it. Here’s a guy who has only two full seasons under his belt, has plenty of tread on the tires and is approaching that magical (or horrifying) age of 30. But when you realize how insanely efficient Foster is when he’s on the football field, I don’t think you’ll necessarily care all that much.
During his career, there have been two occasions where Foster has only played 13 games — he finished as RB4 and RB5, respectively. Last year was one of those instances, as only four running backs accumulated more fantasy points than Foster, who missed three contests. Speaking of that efficiency, only DeMarco Murray averaged more fantasy points per snap than Foster, while the Houston Texan also managed to rank third in the NFL in fantasy points per contest (18.1). Meanwhile, over the last five seasons, only Adrian Peterson has averaged more fantasy points per game. He also was very valuable, even during the weeks where he didn’t find the end zone. For instance, Foster totaled 100 scrimmage yards in 11-of-13 games last season, while simply rushing for at least 100 yards seven times (he rushed for 99 and 96 yards, too). Foster is also averaging 4.5 yards per carry for his career, which is actually better than the likes of Marshawn Lynch, who is going ahead of him in most drafts. And his 4.8 YPC from last year ranked fifth-beats in the NFL, too. Meanwhile, his 95.8 yards per contest only trailed Murray and his magical campaign. Simply put, Foster does so much with each of his touches.
And he gets a lot of them.
The Houston Texans are absolutely built to run the football–like, a lot.
They lack any sort of clarity at the quarterback position right now, and outside of DeAndre Hopkins, their receiving corp is pretty shaky as well. Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus ranked the Texans offensive line as a top-five run-blocking unit from a season ago.
As a Foster enthusiast, I’m okay with this.
When healthy, Arian has been an absolute workhorse for the Texans, as well as fantasy owners. Last year, in 13 games, he finished seventh in the league in carries (260), and since 2010, he’s averaged 19.7 carries per game. During that span, he’s also averaging just over three receptions per game, too. So you can realistically expect Foster to average around 23 offensive touches per game, and when a guy as talented and efficient as Foster sees that much usage, good things tend to happen. That usage should continue this year.
In 2014, new head coach Bill O’Brien established the run from the get-go. No team in football averaged more rushing attempts per game than the Texans last year (34.5), while they called run 52 percent of the time, which also led the league. Finally, no team saw more total rushing attempts last year than the Texans’ 551. In fantasy, especially nowadays where true workhorse backs are scarce, we want heavy volume backs, and Foster is one of the top in that regard. He saw nine games last season with at least 20 carries, which once again only trailed DeMarco Murray, who only went on to post the sixth-most touches ever recorded in a single season.
And if O’Brien’s recent statements are any indication, Foster will once again be fed this year.
“Well, we have a very good running back,” O’Brien said. “So you can rest assured that as long as he’s healthy and he’s out there, we will run the ball. I can tell you that. That’s one thing we will do.”
This is also okay with me.
And to all the folks that are worried about Foster missing time, consider this. Jamaal Charles, who most have ranked ahead of Foster, has missed 3.2 games per season since 2010, which is actually more than Foster’s 2.8 missed games. Is it possible that Foster misses a few games this year? Absolutely. In fact, you might even consider banking on it. However, what he does in 12 or 13 games is better than what the majority of running backs in the NFL do over the course of an entire season, which warrants him being selected as a top-five running back in fantasy land.
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