At What Point in Fantasy Football Drafts Should We Consider Taking Arian Foster?
When news that Arian Foster sustained yet another soft tissue injury broke earlier this month, a collective groan was emitted not only from the Houston Texans’ front office, but also from scores of fantasy football owners that were either planning on drafting (or had already drafted) the four-time Pro Bowler early on in drafts this season.
Initial reports ranged from an unknown, extended amount of missed time, an Injured Reserve designation, or perhaps an entire season missed. But now we know that Foster did indeed undergo groin surgery surgery, a procedure that, according to Dr. Jeffery Budoff of rotoViz, requires an average of 25.8 weeks of recovery time.
So now the question becomes clear. At what point in fantasy drafts is it wise to take Foster? Or should we even draft him at all?
Assuming all goes well with Foster’s rehab, this projection puts his return near Week 8 or 9 of the regular season, with the Texans’ bye week coming in Week 9. This gives Foster owners just four usual weeks during the fantasy football regular season -- with the obvious assumption that Foster can return to near 100% health for Week 10 and beyond.
When Foster is on the field, there’s no denying he offers league-tilting fantasy production. Our own Joseph Juan did a study earlier this offseason that dispelled a few commonly held myths regarding Foster.
Unfortunately, the injury bug crept up once again, but what Joe presented regarding consistency and the positive trend in efficiency in recent seasons still hold true.
Previous Returns From Injury
Last season Foster missed Weeks 10 and 11 due to a strained groin, and while it’s not fair to compare a strained groin with the much more severe injury Foster is dealing with now, looking at how he performed in the weeks after his return tells a tale.
In the eight games played prior to Week 10, Foster averaged 21.6 PPR points per game. In the five regular season games after returning from the groin injury, Foster averaged just 14 PPR points per game and scored just one total touchdown during that stretch.
It's also worth noting that Foster has gained a reputation for being ultra-conservative when returning from injury, which could easily affect his output this season assuming he returns close to our preset timetable.
Not only did his fantasy production decrease by nearly 35 percent in his final five regular season games, but also his efficiency took a similar hit in nearly every category.
Below is a table showing Foster's Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics for both rushing and receiving before and after his mid-season injury. NEP indicates how many points above or below expectation-level a player adds to his team's expected scoring total. For a detailed explanation of NEP, check out our glossary.
|Rushing NEP||Rushing NEP/Carry||Rushing Success Rate||Reception NEP||Reception NEP/Target||Reception Success Rate|
The take away here is that Foster was still a decent running back to close out the season, but he was nowhere near the fantasy asset we've seen him be in the past.
There's no denying that after coming back from the groin injury, Foster simply wasn't as effective in the run game, despite facing just one defense ranked in the top 15 in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play (Baltimore) during that span.
He did take advantage of a favorable schedule in the receiving department, improving his efficiency while facing just on team ranked in the top 13 in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play (Indianapolis).
When thinking about the overarching question of where (if) we should be drafting Foster with the information we now have, I like the idea that was espoused by Sigmund Bloom on a recent podcast: In essence, drafting Foster is a preemptive strike against your league mates in the event that he does come back close to full health near the end of the fantasy football regular season and into the fantasy playoffs.
He could be the piece that propels you to a title.
As of late last week however, according to Fantasy Football Calculator, Foster’s average draft position (ADP) has settled in the middle of the sixth round.
He’s being drafted around players such as Chris Ivory, LeGarrette Blount and Rashad Jennings. None of those players have the upside that Foster does, but as of right now, all three are injury-free and ready to go Week 1 -- minus Blount because of suspension.
I would not draft Foster at his current ADP and would need it to drop another two rounds or so for me to consider it. From the eighth round on, the quality of available running backs diminishes significantly, at which point it makes sense to stash a player like Foster.
If you find yourself in that situation come draft time, it's worth taking a swing on a potential RB1 who should return just in time for your fantasy championship run.