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Dynasty Debate: Arian Foster vs. Peyton Hillis

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.

Size

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.

Advantage: Push

Production

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.

Advantage: Foster

Situation

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.

Advantage: Foster

Competition

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.

Advantage: Foster

Intangibles

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.

Advantage: Push

Summary

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!

Ken Kelly
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Dan
11 years ago

Great read, I agree 100%…Im born and raised about 35 minutes south of Cleveland and I think Hillis is good for 1000 yards 6-8 TD’s…but Foster is gonna be a beast for a while…thanks for the insight.

David Schley
11 years ago

I agree as well. I think this debate was well thought out and I do believe that Hillis is more of a sell high candidate than a solid choice for next year. However I do wish you’d given Hillis a bit more credit perhaps his numbers down the stretch were more a result of teams preparing for him and his last two games being against the Steelers and Ravens…

DLF Ken K
Reply to  David Schley
11 years ago

It’s funny. I almost noted that, but felt like I was hammering on him MORE if I did, so I took it out.

He had 108 rushing yards against Buffalo, but regressed against each divisional opponent down the stretch the past three weeks with 59 against Cincy (102 the first time), 35 against Buffalo (144 the first time), and 13 against Pittsburgh (41 the first time).

I do think playing those three the last four weeks certainly didn’t help, though. Your point is very valid and well taken. Their game plans were geared to stop him. What concerns me is the fact they did.

It had to be brutal on Hillis to be relied upon to be basically the whole offense, while Foster enjoyed having good QB play and quality receivers..not to mention a great blocking line.

Chad
Reply to  DLF Ken K
11 years ago

I had Hillis in 08 for the Broncos when he was their starting RB for a few games, he did the exact same thing then as he did now until he got hurt. Then Shanny got the boot and a new HC came in a deemed him a FB and they drafted a RB the next draft….he is a great feel good story but if I had him I would be selling.

M-Cat
11 years ago

I agree with David. Hillis does not get enough credit for his work on the field and it sounds like he will surprise people once again.

Skip
11 years ago

Seems that almost everyone is already in the camp that Hillis wont live up to the hype and that Foster is cemented in the top 5…this means that the bigger prize to cash in is Foster while other owners may be willing to deal another high end RB for him (Charles, McCoy, etc.)…and chances are good you can even get them to throw something in. If the thinking is 3-5 years out, deal them both.

DLF Ken K
Reply to  Skip
11 years ago

That would be a very interesting poll. I wonder how many coaches would deal Foster for Charles or McCoy at this point.

It’s a very relevant question and one I believe would have lots of varying opinions, most based on risk tolerance.

Hot nikkels
11 years ago

I’m not really sure what else someone needs to see with Foster. Besides injury and off the field issues what’s the worst case scenario for Foster? 1200 rushing, 300 receiving, 10-12 tds? Chances of Foster reaching his 2010 stats probably won’t happen, but RB1 stats are well within reach in that offense.

The article mentioned Houstons O-line playing good this year. If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t that the same line that Steve Slaton and Chris Brown couldn’t produce with the year before until Foster came in?

Kris Kapsner
11 years ago

For me it’s Foster and it isn’t even close.

I like Hillis as a player. But, he just had his career year. Foster could reproduce his numbers, though I assume he will decrease a bit.

ScottD
11 years ago

I’m with the consensus, Foster’s a no-brainer here. However, I do think the projections of 3-5 seasons of Foster top 5 performance are extremely optimistic. It’s very rare for RBs to have extended runs like that at the top and the ones that do are generally high draft picks who’s offense is molded around them. Foster strikes me as a very good player playing in a offense that suits him very well. Given the history of RBs in that offense and the fact that Kubiak is on the hot seat, I’d be cautious about projecting Foster to greatess into the latter half of the decade. He’s more Terrell Davis than LaDanian Tomlinson.

Hot nikkels
Reply to  ScottD
11 years ago

Or if Kubiak is in the hot seat then why wouldn’t he roll with Foster, a known producer? Tate will get his opportunity, but unless Foster really stumbles he’s got to be the guy.

ScottD
Reply to  Hot nikkels
11 years ago

Oh, I agree Foster is an elite play for 2011 (assuming we have a season), but want to caution viewing him as an elite long-term player.

Bigcsr67
11 years ago

Foster will be legit for a few more years, a la Larry Johnson as was stated in the write up. One thing is for sure when comparing the two, Hillis plays in a much tougher defensive division in the AFC North, opposed to the up and down AFC South. That alone would be more appealing as a potetial buyer/seller of either of the two breakout RBs. Foster has more upside for sure, and that is why his selling value is at what I think is an all time high. I agree with Skips post about getting in on the action now, while the value is at its highest. But you can’t go wrong with holding onto Foster unless is injury history shows up again…. He was a baller in 2010, let us see what becomes of him down the road.

Jack
11 years ago

In my opinion, Hillis is a great buy low now and Foster is a sell high. Being a white rb in the NFL is a odd thing and many people want to get rid of him for anything they can get right now. After seeing Hillis bulldoze his way this year Homgram had to be licking his chops. Hardesty will give him spells he needs to keep fresh this season plus Hillis had a good number of receptions. Foster on the other hand is a hot commodity and commands major return for him. I deal Foster in a heartbeat for McCoy or Charles plus a young wr talent, possibly Wallace, Garcon or Maclin would do it. A big goaline back with hands will go along way in ppr leagues.

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