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Is it time to sell Arian Foster?

Arian_Foster2

 

Before we dive into Arian Foster, I feel I need to enlighten you to my history with him and why this is a hard subject for me to write about.

In the dynasty world, it’s best not to have “emotional connections” with your players – this can cause you to make irrational decisions as far as holding a player, giving up too much, or over-drafting them. I’m afraid I may have broken this rule with Foster.  In my main dynasty league, I was fortunate enough to pick Foster up off the waiver wire near the end of the 2009 season. I was going through somewhat of a rebuild at the running back position at the time and I didn’t have a clear RB1.  I was unable to improve very much at this position during the off-season and I was nervous about how I was going to compete without elite production at this position. When week one of  the 2010 season came around I had Foster plugged into my lineup since I felt confident he’d provide good production, given the Texans zone blocking scheme and their recent success with Steve Slaton.  I was not expecting the 231 rushing yards and three touchdown performance I got.  Ever since that day I’ve felt that emotional connection to Foster (it doesn’t help that I’m a Tennessee fanatic and that happens to be where he went to school). Now, three years later I’m forced to face the hold or sell dilemma.

Over the past three seasons, Foster has consistently finished as either the top scorer (or near the top) at the running back position.  His production has been fantastic and when looking at his numbers from 2012, he should seem like a lock for another top tier performance season in 2013.  He had another great season with 1,424 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns.

There are, however, a few serious red flags I believe we need to look at and address.

The first and most alarming thing you should notice are his touches.  When you discount Foster’s “rookie” season of 2009, when he played in six games and started one, he has averaged 371 touches a season.  In comparison over Ray Rice’s four full seasons in the NFL he’s averaged 346 touches a season. LeSean McCoy over three full seasons has averaged 286 touches.  This may not sound like a huge discrepancy, but over three seasons, Foster has almost another season’s worth of touches more than many running backs.

If the usage isn’t alarming enough, this next stat should have you on the trade offer button. As Foster’s usage has increased, his yards per carry average has went down by almost a half yard each season (4.9 yards per carry in 2010, 4.4 in 2011 and 4.1 in 2012) – this should always be a cause for concern. While his average wasn’t the 3.8 yards per tote of Michael Turner, it does indicate a downward trend.  Any downward trend, in my opinion, should be considered a decline.  So, basically Foster has been in somewhat of a slight decline each season since he became the full time starter in Houston.

The Texans leaned heavily on Foster in 2012 with his 351 carries. What I find to be very interesting is he was used less then ever before in the passing game. If you play in a PPR league, Foster’s usage in the passing game was no doubt extremely appealing.  In 2010 and 2011, he had seasons of 66 and 53 receptions respectively. He also had over 600 receiving yards in each of the those seasons.  In 2012 he had 40 receptions with only 217 receiving yards.  In a PPR league, that is an average of almost 60 fewer fantasy points over a season. It may not sound like a lot, but that’s almost four fewer points a week he’s averaging.  We all know the margin of victory can be slim and I’m sure many of us have been watching late on a Monday night waiting for one more reception or a few more yards so we can secure victory. Foster’s lack of involvement in the passing game should be a serious cause for concern.  If you plan on holding Foster, you have to hope the Texans plan on getting him more involved going forward.  Foster came off the field in favor of Justin Forsett on many third downs, but even Forsett only had three receptions on the season.  The running backs as a collective unit seemed to be phased out of the passing game much of 2012.  Again, if you plan on holding, you’re hoping this was an anomaly and due to what was being shown to them on the defensive side of the ball.

So what about Ben Tate, and how does he fit into all of this?

Many of Foster’s increased touches were due to Tate’s injury plagued season.  Tate missed five games in the 2012 season and was limited in much of his playing time. With Forsett as the next best option at running back, Foster was forced into increased playing time.  At this point, I’m not sure what to expect out of Tate in 2013 and what his subsequent effect on Arian Foster will be.  One train of thought is if Tate comes back healthy, he can cut down on Foster’s workload and possibly keep him more productive for longer.  Foster certainly needs this if he wants to prolong his career.  Of course the other worry is that if Tate does indeed come back healthy, he coudl steal a number of carries? Will Gary Kubiak want to see more of a timeshare?  Kubiak has  shown in the past he’s not afraid to move on quickly from a running back.  He’s stuck with Foster longer then he did Ron Dayne or Steve Slaton, but we still can’t forget that he’s a Mike Shanahan disciple. As unpredictable as Kubiak has proved to be at times, I’m afraid there is no clear answer.

It will be interesting to see the Texans plan going forth giving a huge load to Foster –  the team has previously said they’ll continue to lean on him.  Given the rich contract Foster signed last off-season I would expect them to continue to lean on him.  I don’t think Tate will cut into his workload too much, and if anything will help him stay fresh.  Tate has proved unable to stay healthy and could end up being another Jonathan Stewart-type tease. I’m still concerned with Foster’s downward trend (he’ll be 27 when the season starts). If he continues on this trend, it could be a rocky ride for dynasty owners.  If I was in a rebuilding mode, I think I’d look to deal Foster to a contender for a solid youthful core.  Foster is still going to be a first rounder in startups and redraft leagues since he’s still got plenty of value, but the clock is definitely running on his continued high RB1 production.

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45 Comments

45 Comments

  1. Jordan

    February 21, 2013 at 6:37 am

    I ‘own’ Foster in a dynasty league so I might be slightly biased.. However, I believe there are a few things to consider beyond this article.

    1) Training and nutritional knowledge – 20 years ago, VERY few RBs made it past the age of 28, and if they did, they weren’t productive. In today’s game, we are seeing many (i.e. the Frank Gores of the world) remain productive into their late 20s and even into their 30s)

    2) Foster isn’t a bruiser. He can lay a hit but most of his ‘tackles’ are him getting grazed or ran out of bounce. He isn’t taking the punishment like the traditional RBs did in the 80’s and 90’s. (envision the plodders and bruisers pounding it into the 2 and 3 holes play after play)

    3) OTHER OWNERS HAVE THE SAME CONCERN AS THE ARTICLE POINTS OUT – I can’t go into a trade in a dynasty league and expect a ton of premier players for a guy who many consider declining. IF you can get proven and talented youth for this guy, then do it but I’m guessing you will get a mediocre, at best, return for Foster. In that event, don’t dump him just for anything. He isn’t 31 year old Willis McGahee, yet. 😉

    • Zach Walters

      February 22, 2013 at 9:49 am

      I think it all depends on the age/talent of the team’s roster.

      If you are a contender, by all means hold Foster and make another run or two at the chip.

      However, I recommend that any midde-of-the-road or rebuilding team trade Foster now before being left holding the bag on a guy who soon will have the mileage and wear of a used rental car.

      Cue to MJD owners nodding in unison.

  2. Chris R.

    February 21, 2013 at 6:37 am

    Great article. Well written and brought up some great points. The bigger concern here are articles like this one, and a few others the past few months have all been of this tone regarding selling Foster. People in dynasty leagues catch on to this tone, understand his age, volume of touches, declining YPC, and what you have is a market that isn’t flooded with great offers. I am looking to shop him myself as well(I traded MJD last off-season in numerous leagues knowing I could cash in on top value while I could also) but his market isn’t being greeted with great offers.

    This is a guy who could very easily be the #1 fantasy back next year, and there are only a hanful of backs you can even trust in fantasy, if an owner isn’t willing to give up a great offer you have to ride him out. I always want at least another RB back I can start who is younger when I am doing deals like this(I don’t have the depth to move him for a WR or another position) + some on top.

    For example, last year I was targetting deals for MJD like receiving Demarco Murray as a starting point, then a bunch on top. If the ‘plus parts’ weren’t up to par I would just keep him, which is what I am faced with this off-season.

    Anybody who owns Spiller, Doug Martin, Richardson, or any young back grouped in those tiers is not taking on Foster for 1 of those guys unless you overpaid them. So what are some realistic options? Realistic starting points?

    I’m honestly interested because I own Foster on 2 teams I wouldn’t mind moving him on. 1 I am more inclined to hold because he is backed by Lynch, Murray, and L Miller but if anyone has some good starting targets that you could look to target and go from there I’d be curious to here. Not many owners are eager to trade for Foster and in most discussions he’s treated like a 30 year older, not a 27 year older.

    The production you would get for 2 more years is starting to out weigh the return you could get.

  3. T3

    February 21, 2013 at 6:48 am

    I think many of Foster’s problems stem from the Texans lack of a passing game. If teams are expecting the run over half the time, that’s obviously going to drive down production. If teams don’t feel they have to respect Schaub and the Texans lack of WRs, they’re just going to load up on Foster. If Foster continues to carry at the clip he is at, I still give him at least two more years of top production.

    • Cyrus

      February 21, 2013 at 7:32 am

      As the Andre owner, I wouldn’t mind having Foster and hedging my bets.

      I’ve made an attempt at Foster in some of my leagues, but his owners still value him as a top 3 RB.

  4. Boomer

    February 21, 2013 at 7:00 am

    I sold Foster last year for Trent Richardson, Darren McFadden, and Torrey Smith. This year your options are going to be more limited since if you’re trading him you’re probably looking to get younger off the deal and there’s just not that many quality young backs. If I could get a CJ Spiller, Doug Martin, or Jamaal Charles and a player or two that’s fine. Anything less, if you’re a remote contender, you’re better off keeping Foster.

    • SDMan

      February 21, 2013 at 7:45 am

      Why would anyone trade Doug Martin strait up for Foster? Martin is a new car with 95% tire treed left; Foster is a great old car but his tires only have 30% treed left. In a race Foster may edge Martin out but it won’t be by much.

  5. xlote

    February 21, 2013 at 7:24 am

    Is it time to sell Arian Foster? Not if too many articles like this are widely read. FF is about perceived value, this stuff drives it down.

    • Jordan

      February 21, 2013 at 8:07 am

      Exactly! because of speculation, Foster’s market value is low. He will out perform where is market value is now so if you have him, you are most likely keeping him.

      And BTW – Foster has been the underdog all of his life. I am hoping people doubt him so he can prove you all the doubters wrong. The guy still has the potential to be the #1 RB and is almost a sure lock to be top 5. don’t dump him for the trash people are offering you just because he is 26 going on 27.

    • Chris R.

      February 21, 2013 at 8:42 am

      This was my point. This isn’t the first article like this posted this off-season either, so I don’t know why anyone would think it’s a great time to sell him when that is all you have been reading. He’s got way more value to keep him at this point.

      • Zachary Ragan

        February 21, 2013 at 9:42 am

        A lot of it depends on who you play in leagues with as well. Not everyone is entrenched in the fantasy/dynasty community, so articles and commentaries don’t influence their decision making.

  6. Ray Voeller

    February 21, 2013 at 7:56 am

    Owner in my league 2011 Champ , 2012 Runner up has announced he wants to move Foster. Unfortunately his asking price is off. He is looking for a young top WR AJ, Julio, Bryant, DMerry, Harvin along with a rb like Martin, Spiller, Murray, Wilson. His asking price is waaay outta whack IMO. Feel he was just fishing hoping for a sucker to over pay on Foster. I offered Jordy or Blackmon and 1.1 pick. His counter offer Julio and 1.1 or Trent and Blackmon. My original offer may have been little lite but his counters were way to rich for my fantasy blood. Feel in the end he will hold and attempt to make another run. His core team is still strong Brees, Foster, Lynch, Roddy, Jennings, Graham

    • Cyrus

      February 21, 2013 at 10:28 am

      Yeah, I wouldn’t trade Richardson for Foster. The gap in production is offset by the youth.

      Julio and 1.01 doesn’t make any sense to me either. Plus, Julio will have a much longer career than Foster, I would say I would rather trade Richardson than Julio based on the career argument.

      I think Blackmon and 1.01 is a legit offer. Maybe throw in a veteran RB or someone to offset the loss of Foster, but he would add youth.

  7. Matt Caufield

    February 21, 2013 at 9:09 am

    In similar fashion Zach, I was fortunate to grab Foster off waivers before his breakout season. He’s been nothing short of tremendous on my squad and helped me to B2B Championships. Even with that said, I’m looking to move him now while his value is still a stud RB1. The tough part in my mind is finding the value I want in return. I’m not looking for trade advice in this arena, but wanted to include the current offer we’re discussing as a barometer; Foster for J Stewart/Randall Cobb/2013 rookie pic (3.4)

    To me it comes down to do this, as Foster owners do we trade Foster now for fair value, or ride him into the sunset and perhaps to more championships?

    Tough call, but this is what it’s all about.

    • Cyrus

      February 21, 2013 at 10:30 am

      I wouldn’t trade Foster for that unless you really love Cobb. I’ll add that I like Stewart and think he could do something. But I wouldn’t give up guaranteed production for that risk and a solid WR.

      My brother traded Foster last offseason to capitalize on his “max value.” Unfortunately, he didn’t get a lot, but Dez was part of the deal. That does make up for the other pieces not being that good.

  8. Robert

    February 21, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Are you guys NUTS? Foster has, like, 600 carries in his career.
    What’s AP got–1700? Nobody’s talking about how (relatively) worthless AP is in a trade.
    I have AP in one league, and I’m gonna go check out the Foster owner’s roster RIGHT NOW!

    • Jacob Feldman

      February 21, 2013 at 10:03 am

      Foster has 1010 in the Pros and another 650 in college.

      That’s relatively light when compared to guys like AP at 1754 in the pros and 747 in college. Though comparing anyone to Peterson is dangerous.

      Guys like Ray Rice (1216 pros and 910 in college) are better points of comparison.

      Though I do agree with your point. I think the workload part of the arguement for Foster is/has been blown a bit out of proportion.

      • Eric Olinger

        February 21, 2013 at 10:14 am

        Nice data driven response. Hard to argue numbers like that and I totally agree. The key to a great dynasty trade is TIMING. Neither Jacob or Zach are saying to flood the other owners with knee jerk trade offers. Zach has spotted a downward trend and shared it. Anyone that was bitten by Shawn Alexander or LaDanian Tomlinson knows how this feels.

        • Robert

          February 21, 2013 at 11:05 am

          Excellent info. Only being half-serious, I just glanced at the first list of yearly totals I came across. Plus it’s easy for me to say, sitting on AP after an amazing season. Suffice it to say, methinks these rumors about Arian Foster’s death are “greatly exaggerated” lol.

    • sean mcguigan

      February 21, 2013 at 1:04 pm

      600 carries? What math are you using he has over 1000 plus another 200 catches plus another 800 total touches in college….for me his YPG say it all it wasn’t just one year it is now officially a trend and a downward one at that….I would be surprised if coming off a almost 400 touch year last year that this trend reverses….he is not AP and none should be compared to that freak of nature…Jacob is correct if you can get the right price could be a good time to move him….Doubt Tate will have another injury plagued year and could emerge as better back when all is said and done next year(he has better measureables that is for sure and when the kid was healthy I would argue he looked like the better back)….. the decline is real ignore it if you like.

      • Robert

        February 21, 2013 at 1:55 pm

        No argument here. I was fudging on the low side for “effect”, plus I obviously missed a season in there somewhere. Though I WOULD love to pick Foster up, I agree the author is spot on that now is the time to be prepared to deal him.

        Another thing I had forgotten about is that “mysterious” heart condition. What’s the scoop on that, and do you feel that play into the equation?

  9. John

    February 21, 2013 at 9:58 am

    If it isn’t time to sell, it definitely is time to consider it. Better to sell one year early than one year too late. There has been a noticeable decline in Foster’s numbers (excluding TDs). His workload over this stretch of dominance reminds me of Shaun Alexander and Priest Holmes. No matter how good Foster’s training regimen is or how much he avoids taking big hits (unless he is running out of bounds, he is getting hit by other players and hitting the ground each time he touches the ball), handling the ball so much take a toll. Often times, owners get too caught up in not getting absolute MAX value at the present time. The key is to get proper value 2-3 years down the line.

  10. Matt Mueller

    February 21, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I’m holding Rodgers/Kap and the Foster owner, loaded at rb, has been tossing around the idea of Kap-Forte for Foster-Flacco…

    On face value I think Forte can rebound for a few years and I’m not sure the shorterm upgrade at rb is worth the longterm asset lose of Kap. Additionally this is a 3 year contract league and I only have Rodgers for 2 more years so I need to consider what I can move these guys for…

    What do you guys think of this deal? Fair value?

    We’ve hit a stale mate in trade talks as the owner also wants a 2 second round picks or Pitta tossed in from my Kap-Forte side…way too much imo.

    • Matt Caldwell

      February 22, 2013 at 6:45 am

      can you tag players after the 3 years is up or are they gone? Can you bid on the players coming off contract?

      • Mullmania

        February 22, 2013 at 10:41 am

        Got to trade or release players within 3 years. So my thinking is do I want to be ‘selling’ Rodgers or Kap next year for a big return or look to move Rodgers/Foster 2-3 years from now?

        I’ve got to think in 2-3 years that Rodgers-Kap will have more ‘sell’ value and that might not be worth a short term RB1 upgrade…

  11. Dave Lamson

    February 21, 2013 at 10:59 am

    I’m fortunate in that I own Foster and Tate both. I’m of the mind Im going to ride him to the end. His value is still so high that I just feel it will be difficult to receive equal value. I’ve been guilty of giving up on others a year or two too soon (Tomlinson & Turner). So I’ve just decided that I would rather ride this pony till the end and then see what happens.

  12. Jon

    February 21, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Foster is almost a lock for top 5 numbers for the next two years. I agree that the decline is reason for concern but the overreactions to this are to wide spread. He has much more value right now to his current owners than they could ever expect back in a trade. My advice to Foster owners – Keep him and plug him in each week and smile at the advantage he gives you. If you are going to move him, you can’t expect Martin or TRich for him straight up plus something. That is ridiculous. Also, can’t expect wr’s like AJG or Julio… Foster is a stud that has a couple years left. But those couple years could be top 5 years…

  13. Chad Scott

    February 21, 2013 at 11:28 am

    I think Zach ended the article perfectly…

    If you don’t think your team is in contention for a title, your best bet is to move Foster at some point before it’s too late.

    If you are a contender and not getting serious trade offers, you ride him into the sunset, hopefully with a few ‘ships to his (your) name.

  14. Mullmania

    February 21, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    In a startup would you rather Foster-Flacco or Kap-Forte?

    • Avery Beck

      February 21, 2013 at 3:21 pm

      If Flacco or Kaepernick were going to be my QB1, I would take the Kaep/Forte side. Only because I don’t think Flacco has the upside to ever be in the top 5 scoring qbs in the league like Kaep does and I think Forte, who has racked up at least 1400 yards and caught 40+ every single year of his career, is still a RB1.

      • Avery Beck

        February 21, 2013 at 3:21 pm

        Dang.. now I want Forte.

        • Mullmania

          February 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm

          He’s undervalued. In 2011 he was a top 3 RB until he got hurt and I think the new offensive coordinator will help the offense.

      • sean mcguigan

        February 22, 2013 at 6:56 am

        Forte almost never scores though….major problem for a RB1 no?

  15. Nap

    February 21, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Question; kinda off topic but I was just offered D. Thomas and the 2.05 for Ray Rice??
    My best WR is Nicks and my best RB s T. Rich

    • sean mcguigan

      February 21, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      Tough one I think d Thomas is ready to explode and he was top 5 already last year….I wouldn’t do it butninam probably in the minority I love rice but he was kind of inconsistent last year and lot of tread there….Thomas could/should be a top WR for the next decade tough to trade that….6 3 230 lbs and runs a 4.35 those together don’t come around all that often

    • Carmo

      May 23, 2013 at 7:33 pm

      Sorry Im kinda confused on what 2.05 means is that 5th overall in 2nd round or 2nd pick in 5th round?

      if its round 2 pick 5 and dt for ray i would do it, first off B Pierce will cut into Ray Rice production somewhat and why not get the best years w P Manning out of DT, you have Trent to ride the franchise, Ray is 26, DT 24 with more upside..

  16. alden bietz

    February 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    So would it be a fair trade with Foster, for Luck.

    • Boomer

      February 21, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      Depending on your team, yes. If you’re not a contender and have a younger team you win big time in that trade.

  17. Coach

    February 21, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    lol. i hope you guys keep on posting stuff like this. scare off the foster owners and have them sell him to me cheap.

    if i had the first pick of any draft of any type id call out arian foster. and you’re nutsy if you don’t.

  18. Alex

    February 22, 2013 at 8:57 am

    I traded foster pre season last year along with javon ringer to a cj2k owner for jordy, Doug Martin and a first. Everyone hated at the time but this is turning out to be an amazing trade. I had forte and gore as well which allowed some flexibility. The time is now.

  19. Brian

    February 22, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Semi-related, what tends to be a better barometer for RB decline. Age in general or number of carries for career? I.e. spiller is older than d Martin but has been worked into his role compared to significant carries for Martin from the get go. Spiller will close in on 30 much sooner but have similar carries possibly as Martin who would only be 25-26ish?

    • John

      February 22, 2013 at 10:43 am

      Number of touches is a better barometer. I mentioned Priest Holmes earlier. He was 28 when he got to KC. He had only about 1 1/2 seasons of NFL wear and tear on his body. He dominated from age 28-31. The workload he got over 3 1/2 years wore him down more than chronological age.

  20. Michael

    February 23, 2013 at 5:15 am

    There is so much information out there about Fosters declining YPC 4.9, 4.4, 4.1. What no one seems to mention is the fact that the offensive line took two huge losses last year in Winston and Brisiel. The right side of the line went from a strength to a liability. Ben Jones, Derek Newton, and Ryan Harris are just not as good and no one should have expected them to be. Jones is a rookie and Newton was 2nd year perhaps that group will get better in time. Additionally, I am holding out hope that they take advantage of a stacked class of tackles in FA and a stacked class of guards in the draft? Arian’s YPC was also hurt by the fact that the Texans often gave him the ball in impossible situations, like handing to him three times against a fired up Bears D to close out the game, which resulted in -4 yards. He seemed to be in more manageable situations in his first two years as the Texans D wasn’t quite as dominant. Bottom Line – I adore the man. I own both him and Ben Tate in what I consider the most competitive dynasty league in the world and I have decided to ride him for at least two more years. Whatever the outcome I know I will enjoy the ride.

    • ccj

      February 24, 2013 at 5:08 pm

      I was coming to post this. Also his playoff performances were fantastic. I’m a buyer, I think he has more than two years left.

  21. mike

    August 3, 2013 at 10:30 am

    i need to pick a keeper between trent and foster… ppr league, 3 keeeprs, keeping megatron and graham…. would like some advice… love foster but is it time to keep a younger player with huge upside…

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