Every fantasy football season brings us some surprises, and 2010 was certainly no different. Arian Foster and Peyton Hillis both emerged as major contributors to fantasy owners who had them on their rosters.
Wtih the dust settled on 2010, it’s time to look toward the future. The debate between the respective values of Foster and Hillis has been raging in the DLF Forum for some time now. Hillis was recently featured in our “List of Sells,” and it certainly caused quite a stir.
In the first of a major offseason series of Dynasty Debates, we take a look at the situations of Foster and Hillis in an attempt to shed some perspective on what we should expect from these two in the future, and which of the two has more long term value.
Foster = 6’1″, 227 pounds
Hillis = 6’1′, 240 pounds
Amazing, isn’t it? From looking at the two, you’d think Hillis was a clear 20 or 30 pounds bigger than Foster, but he isn’t. They both carry their weight well and while Hillis shows more power, Foster shows more wiggle.
Both of these players enjoyed career years in 2010.
Peyton Hillis may be the greatest “throw-in” with a trade in league history. Hillis was sent to the Browns from the Broncos as an added piece for quarterback Brady Quinn. In the end, that was just one of the poor moves that sealed Josh McDaniels fate.
When Montario Hardesty was hurt, Hillis took advantage of his unlikely opportunity by posting 1,177 rushing yards, 477 receiving yards, and 13 total touchdowns. Not bad for a throw in, eh?
It’s amazing that after all those years of debating who the best Arkansas running back was between Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, that it was another Hog alum in Hillis who outplayed them both for stretches last season.
Hillis did seem to wear down in the stretch run, however. He was only able to produce 272 rushing yards and didn’t score after week 12, bringing some doubt as to his ability to shoulder a load for an entire season.
Arian Foster also took advantage of an injury to claim his permanent spot in fantasy football history. After Ben Tate was hurt, Foster seized the featured back job to himself and rewarded owners with 1,616 rushing yards, 604 receiving yards, and 18 touchdowns. His rushing total led the entire league and his receiving yards led all running backs.
Here’s where it gets a little murky.
Arian Foster’s situation in Houston isn’t as clear cut as many people would think. The Texans still hold out hope that Ben Tate can return to health and have a productive career. They also run the classic zone blocking scheme that tends to churn out 1,000 yard rushers every season. Gary Kubiak is also from the Shanahan tree, meaning his loyalty to running backs may not hold long term. In fact, Kubiak is probably running out of chances in Houston anyway.
All that being said, it’s going to be nearly impossible to keep Foster off the field in the near future. It’s not as if Ben Tate (or anyone else for that matter) could produce the same type of gaudy numbers that Foster could. Foster is a safe bet to be a top 5 running back for the next few seasons and we should be looking at a Larry Johnson-esque ahort burst of fantasy dominance at the least. He’s just doesn’t quite have the safety net of an Adrian Peterson or Maurice Jones-Drew quite yet.
On the other hand, Peyton Hillis’ situation in Cleveland is much more unclear. There are a lot of factors that make a repeat of Hillis’ 2010 season much less likely.
First, Montario Hardesty comes back next season. While it’s obvious he has major injury concerns, Hardesty is still a very capable runner and should challenge Hillis for playing time.
Second, a new coaching regime dissolves any previous loyalties. Pat Shurmur is known for a more pass oriented offense, leaving Hillis’ possible workload in question.
Finally, his less than stellar finish to the season, combined with his eight lost fumbles brings into question his ability to handle the job long-term.
Both players finished the season as the clear featured backs for their respective teams. Foster will have to hold off Ben Tate and Steve Slaton (Derrick Ward may not be back), while Hillis will compete with Montario Hardesty.
Owners of Tate and Hardesty shouldn’t expect much in the short term, but Hardesty has a much greater chance to steak carries from Hillis than Tate does from Foster.
Foster entered the league with a tendency to fumble and a questionable work ethic. He’s completely turned that around in the past 18 months with a renewed focus on ball security and conditioning. He’s a gym rat and felt the Houston job was his all along. His play proved he was right.
Hillis’ work ethic is also tremendous. He’s known to be a tireless worker and most believe he can cure his case of fumbleitis with a good offseason.
The debate between which of the two you’d want in a dynasty league really isn’t much of a debate at all. It’s Foster by a mile. The REAL debate is where these two players fit in the long term planning of a franchise.
When you consider everything, Foster has a realistic chance to be a top-5 fantasy performer for the next 3-5 seasons. He has the offense, the opportunity, and the talent to lead a fantasy team to a championship yet again in 2011 and likely beyond. The chances of him being a long term pillar of a franchise like Adrian Peterson or Maurice Jones-Drew are still unclear, but you just can’t argue with everything going for him right now.
With Hillis, there are simply too many factors working against him repeating the same type of year. With a new coaching regime, a new offense, questions around his ability to finish a season, and his tendency to fumble, it’s tough to just chalk down 1,100 yards and double digit touchdowns as being an absolute given.
While it’s very likely that Hillis could rush for 1,000 yards and 6-8 touchdowns next season, I believe he’s a great “sell high” candidate in dynasty circles based on the factors mentioned in this post.
If you could get another top 10-12 running back for him, I’d jump on the chance. If not, just hold on to him and hope for the best. He’s certainly not worth moving for peanuts.
Stay tuned to DLF for more Dynasty Debates this offseason. The next two on the schedule are as follows:
DeSean Jackson vs. Jeremy Maclin
LeSean McCoy vs. Jamaal Charles
Remember, keep it here for all your offseason analysis. We were the ones who mentioned Peyton Hillis as a waiver wire priority before the season started, and Arian Foster as a long term pickup before the season…the 2009 season!