Sunday, June 16, 2013

Welcome to another installment of “Over/Under” where I highlight a player and determine some projections based on past tendencies and then state whether I think they will go “over or under” those projections. The criteria will be different for each player based on position and situation.

Today we are going to talk about a player who has been a former number one overall pick in dynasty leagues and a lightning rod for debate this off-season, Houston Texans running back Arian Foster. We will put his betting line at 1,500 total yards and 12.5 total touchdowns.

I’ve been playing dynasty fantasy football for 15 years now and barring injury, I have never seen the dynasty community bail on a player faster than they have on Foster. I’ve mentioned it before; I often pick my topic based on Twitter conversations and trends. The Foster debate is never ending. You can pretty much pick a night and find someone arguing about Foster’s outlook and downward trend. They cite age, yards per carry, number of touches and more. If that doesn’t work, a very specific, obscure metric that eliminates 95% of the field will pop up to support whatever they’re trying to convince you of.

The dreaded age of the performance cliff for running backs has historically been at age 30, Foster will celebrate his 27th birthday just before week one of his fifth professional season rolls around. Here are Arian Foster’s career stats since his rookie year in 2009.

Year

Games


Carries


Yards


YPC


TDs


Catches


Yards


TDs


F. Pts


Rank

2009

6


54


257


4.8


3


8


93


0


61


RB70

2010

16


327


1616


4.9


16


66


604


2


396


RB1

2011

13


278


1224


4.4


10


53


617


2


309.1


RB3

2012

16


351


1411


4.0


15


40


217


2


304.8


RB3

 

Much has been made of his declining yards per carry in each of the last three seasons. Obviously, when you average almost five yards per carry as a work horse back, there really isn’t anywhere to go but down. After 2010 and his 4.9 YPC, Foster fell to 4.4 YPC in 2011, and a flat 4.0 YPC in 2012. This speaks volumes to the amazing season he had in 2010. He finished nearly 100 points ahead of the RB2. He shouldn’t be held to that unattainable standard. Chris Johnson was dubbed CJ2K after his historic season and is called a failure every year he doesn’t hit it again. You can bet if Adrian Peterson “only” rushes for 1,400 yards and ten touchdowns, people are going to ask, “What’s wrong with AP?” One of the league’s premier runners with an elite three down skill set, Foster hasn’t finished lower than sixth in the league in rushing yards since taking the reins in the Texans backfield. When you factor in his receptions, yardage, and touchdowns from the passing game, you have one of the safest all around RB1s in fantasy PPR leagues, never finishing lower than the RB3, excluding his six game rookie campaign.

Outside of a hamstring injury in 2011 which cost Foster three games, he has remained healthy and dependable while piling up 1,115 touches over the past three seasons, or 24.8 touches per game. For comparison, over that same time frame, Ray Rice has averaged 22.0 touches per game while playing in all 48 games, and Adrian Peterson has averaged 21.7 touches per game, but has missed five games.

The dynasty rankers here at DLF have varying opinions on Foster’s future as well. Jeff and I still view him as the number one running back to select in startup drafts while Chad believes there are eight better options at the position. The rest of the rankers fall somewhere in between. You can see the team’s rankings for Foster below.


Rank Name

Eric D


Eric O (author)


Chad


Jarrett


Jeff H


Ken M


Ryan


Steve


Avg.

RB4 A. Foster

6


1


9


7


1


4


8


8


5.14

 

Clearly, I am still firmly seated on the Arian Foster bandwagon. I’m not going to downgrade a soon-to-be 27 year old running back with proven ability for a younger player who has yet to prove he can handle the load Foster has. According to Ryan McDowell’s ADP tracking, Foster has seen his ADP go from seventh overall in January to eighth in February to sixth in March and to eighth in April and May.

I crunched some numbers from the past three years to get the top 12 running backs in PPR leagues, or since Foster took over the starting job in Houston. There were no exceptions due to injury or length of service. Guys that missed extensive time due to injury, like Jamaal Charles or Maurice Jones-Drew, or young players like Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, and Stevan Ridley did not make the chart. These were season ending statistics from the past three seasons. The reason I omitted Charles and Jones-Drew is because a top selection in dynasty startup league needs to be counted on and dependable. The young pups weren’t included because anyone can do it once, just ask Mike Shanahan! Here is the chart:

In my opinion, each of the top running backs have their own unique question marks. Peterson is coming off a historic campaign, just turned 28 years old, and a regression is inevitable. Trent Richardson averaged 3.7 yards per carry, is always dealing with some sort of lingering injury, and his fantasy success was largely dependent on touchdowns, a recipe for disaster. Ask LeSean McCoy owners from the past two years. Speaking of McCoy, he has a new coaching staff and offense to learn, and now has Bryce Brown to steal carries in Chip Kelly’s up tempo scheme. Doug Martin scored 29% of his 2012 fantasy points in weeks eight and nine. Ray Rice now shares the backfield with Bernard Pierce. How will C.J. Spiller handle feature back duties for the first time in his career with new coach Doug Marrone calling the shots? Spiller has always been in a committee attack, going all the way back to his college days at Clemson. Jamaal Charles should be the focal point in Andy Reid’s Kansas City offense, but Reid is no stranger to fantasy owner’s frustrations and if Alex Smith can’t keep defenses from dropping eight in the box, Charles is going to be in trouble.

Having nitpicked and poked holes in the top eight dynasty running backs, I’m not blind or ignoring Foster’s blemishes, but Foster’s age doesn’t concern me and neither does his work load. Foster keeps himself in phenomenal shape. The number of touches Foster has accrued is definitely worth noting, but bright side of it, he’s being fed the rock and given plenty of opportunities to score plenty of fantasy points. One thing to keep in mind for Foster’s outlook this season is the AFC South is scheduled to play the NFC West this year. That’s four games versus some of the league’s most stout defenses.

The Texans know they have to do a better job of monitoring Foster’s work load. Getting a hefty dose of carries is great, but quality carries are better than empty end of game carries that end up being against eight and nine defenders in the box. Quarterback Matt Schaub has to do a better job of keeping defenses honest. For the first time in Andre Johnson’s career he will have a legitimate playmaker lining up across from him in DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins, measuring in at 6’1” and 214 pounds, is already running with the first team in OTAs and will finally open running lanes for Foster and underneath routes for tight end Owen Daniels while drawing double teams off of Andre Johnson.

A healthy Ben Tate entering a contract year will help keep Foster fresh. They need/want to give Foster a couple series off a game. If Tate misses time like he has in each of his pro seasons, the Texans are better equipped to deal with it after addressing their running back depth chart on draft weekend by adding a trio of talented undrafted free agents in Cierre Wood, Ray Graham, and Dennis Johnson. While it’s possible only one of the three will make the final 53 man roster, it’s very clear the Texans do not plan on being short handed in the running game should they need to go to the bullpen.

Bottom line, the hatred and naysayers are now out of hand. Foster is still one of the three most talented running backs in the NFL and I think he still deserves to be drafted as such. I’m taking the over on this line. With the Texans having the best all around talent in franchise history, they should be able to open up the playbook and give Foster the opportunity to make plays both in the running and receiving game. I look for Foster to eclipse 1,400 yards rushing while adding at least 300 yards receiving. Scoring at least 13 touchdowns won’t be difficult for Foster, he’s one of the game’s best at finding the end zone. Like Jim Day (@FantasyTaz) said on Twitter, “I love you guys for driving Foster’s value down. Please continue!” I agree, Jim. If you get Foster later than the fifth pick in a dynasty start up draft, buy your buddies a frosty adult beverage for doing you a solid favor.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you still hanging with me on the “Arian Foster Party Bus” or did you get you a big ol’ glass of Haterade too? Are you taking the “Over / Under” on Foster hitting 1,500 total yards and 12.5 total touchdowns?

Let me know in the comments section below and as always, thanks for reading!

For more great articles, check out Dynasty League Football.

1 comments:

Phil said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Subscribe to RSS Feed Follow me on Twitter!