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6 Reasons Why Arian Foster Won’t Make My Fantasy Squad

I rode Arian Foster to many championships, but I'm jumping off this year.
I rode Arian Foster to many championships, but I'm jumping off this year.

Make no mistake about it, Arian Foster is one of the most transcendent fantasy stars we’ve seen this decade, and for good reason. Ever since his week 1 thrashing of Indianapolis back in 2010 where he totaled 231 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns, Foster has done little to disappoint to disappoint, and everything to reward owners willing to take him with the highest of draft picks. But he won’t be on my team this year.

Foster has played 45 of 48 games, averaged a hair over 1900 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns per year, and has finished #1, #4, and #3 among fantasy running backs over the past three seasons. Accomplishments as extreme as these are rivaled only by the likes of Adrian Peterson, so why am I so down on Foster for 2013, to the point where he won’t make my fantasy squad? Well, there are six good reasons why I’ll be making Arian a Fantasy Foster child this season.

Should I Draft Arian Foster? These Six Reasons Say “NO!”

6) Expect Fewer Touches This Time

In 2012, Foster received a league-high 351 carries and 391 touches. They’re high numbers, especially when you consider that he was on pace for 400 carries until the Houston Texans held him back late in the season. With declining per-play production, as we’ll get to later, Foster needed every extra carry to maintain his fantasy value. The Texans have made it clear they’re aware of Foster’s heavy workload and will show more restraint with his usage going forward. Odds are Foster won’t come close to the same amount of touches as he has in year’s past, which is a direct fantasy hit unless you assume he starts playing much more efficiently again. I’m not willing to make that assumption so easily.

5) Ben Tate is Ready For Action

In addition to the Texans scaling back Foster’s touches for preservation reasons, the return of a healthy Ben Tate, who is in a contract year, could cut into Foster’s playing time some more. Tate looked like an emerging star in 2011 while working as a change of pace to Foster and was tough for coaches to take off the field. At the time, Tate carried the ball 175 times for 942 yards (5.4 YPC) in 15 games, bringing an element of speed and ferocity that Foster lacked. Last season, though, Tate was hurt and hobbled, limiting him to 11 games at less-than-full strength. With the Texans wanting to lessen the burden on Foster, I expect a healthy Tate to take significant carries away from Foster, to the point of his fantasy detriment, if not a significant portion of his downfall. And it’s not inconceivable, either, that if Foster struggles, he could cede many more carries to Tate than anyone expects.

Remember how things shifted with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew? Granted, Taylor was no Foster in fantasy, and Tate may not be the next MJD, but it only takes a little bit of success to see the fantasy value of either back in a two-party system halved by the carries they cede to one another.

4) The Injuries Keep Piling Up

If there’s an obvious warning sign when drafting a player in fantasy, it’s a guy currently being injured and unable to play. At the moment, Foster finds himself on the PUP list to begin training camp as he has not fully healed from a calf strain suffered two months ago. The slow recovery is a concern and while he’s expected to be ready for the season, we can’t be 100% sure. Foster has dealt with many nagging leg injuries like this before, most notably when he posted an MRI of his hurt hamstring on Twitter just a few seasons ago.

To his credit, Foster has only missed three games since 2010, but the timing of the injuries has been quite unfortunate. I see no reason why these kind of injuries, which Foster does seem susceptible to, couldn’t start popping up during the season, and when you already have a young back breathing down your neck, it makes it particularly difficult to not worry about the fantasy risks in a player like Foster.

3) The Decline Has Been Steady

Since Foster’s breakout season in 2010, where he averaged 4.9 YPC, the running back’s average has declined in two consecutive seasons. These aren’t marginal declines either, with Foster having dropped from 4.9 to 4.4 and then all the way down to 4.1 last year. Foster even spent a good portion of this past season under the 4 YPC mark. Foster is still only 26 years old (crazy, right?) and should be in his athletic prime, but these numbers could be the sign of overuse wearing down a back, as we have seen many times in the past.

It’s not always a simple a matter of figuring out who is 30 years old and who isn’t, as players age and wear down differently, so it’s important to pay attention to the warning signs. Whatever the reason, Foster objectively isn’t playing as effectively as he once was, and as noted earlier, he may not have the number of touches needed to make up for it this season. It’s possible the lighter workload could keep Foster fresher and thus raise his YPC back up, but to what point, and do I want to take that leap of faith for such a high draft pick?

2) Receiving Numbers Have Dropped Drastically

Perhaps much worse for his fantasy value than the reduced YPC, Foster’s reception total (40), receiving yards (217), and yards-per-reception average (5.4) were all far and away career-lows for the young back in 2012. For comparison, the previous two seasons Foster had averaged 60 catches for 611 yards (10.3 average) and was regarded by many as one of the premier dual-threat backs in the league. That’s a startling difference. With Foster’s passing game troubles and lower YPC, it created a situation last year where he was highly reliant on large amounts of touches and touchdowns for fantasy points.

I’ve laid out why Foster’s touches will likely decrease a fair amount, leaving touchdowns as his main attraction. You can count on Foster to score plenty of goal line touchdowns in the Texans offense, but I don’t know if 17 touchdowns is going to repeat. To sum up everything up to this point: Foster may lose carries, rushing yards, and touchdowns from 2012’s totals, and while it’s hard to see the receiving being any worse, we can’t assume it will be anywhere close to where it was in 2010 and 2011. Foster is also injured and could be considered more of an injury risk than other elite backs.

1) Too Expensive For The Risk

And finally, the biggest reason I probably won’t be taking Foster this year is his average draft position. In order to secure Foster to my team, I almost certainly have to spend a top 3 pick, or even more likely a top 2 selection. The issue I have taking Foster here is the normal expectation of safety with a pick this high. It could be argued that Foster’s track record and situation make him one of the safest picks at the top of drafts, but for reasons I established above, I believe he has more warning signs than some of the other considerations.

In the first round, there is not much to be gained with these picks, only lost. Either the player lives up to expectations and I get what I paid for and nothing more, or the player under-performs and my season hinges on how much he under-performed by. It’s more about assessing downside than upside, and I see Foster having more downside this year than in previous years. Fantasy in the first round is all about controlling for chaos, and it just feels like there are too many arrows pointing in the wrong direction for Foster this time around. If I take Doug Martin at #2 and he finishes #6, I can live with that. If I take Arian Foster #2 and he finishes #18, that’s probably not going to work out for me.

Who would YOU take over Foster this season? Comment below!

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