I think it's safe to say that Arian Foster is no longer flying under the radar. In PFW's 2011 Fantasy Football Magazine, the Texans' star running back is our top-ranked player — regardless of position.
And it's pretty apparent why.
He consistently shredded defenses last season en route to leading the NFL in rushing yards, total yards and TDs, among a variety of other categories.
The $1 million question for fantasy owners is: what will he do for an encore? Here are three reasons why I believe Foster could reward owners with an equally stellar '11 campaign:
Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew wasn't the only AFC South rusher who played last season on a bum knee. Foster, who had his right knee scoped in February, revealed shortly after the surgery that he suffered the injury in the preseason — not in the Pro Bowl, as some suggested. The Texans' zone-blocking scheme features smaller, athletic linemen who often make an initial block before moving on to occupy a second defender on the backside of the play. The beauty of Foster in this system is that he has the patience to wait for the play to develop and the explosiveness and agility to cut to the backside once he sees daylight. In fact, a huge chunk of Foster's damage last season came on cutbacks. Just ask the Colts, who looked more like a Pop Warner defense than an NFL stop unit in Week One, when Foster assaulted the record books with a 231-yard, three-TD output against the helpless Colts' "D." Now, I'm no doctor, but it seems logical that Foster's ability to plant his foot and get upfield, as well as cut back in the opposite direction, will be that much greater this season on two healthy knees.
Running for the money
Foster received an exclusive-rights tender by the Texans before the lockout, which will make his 2011 salary $480,000. By comparison, Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles, who finished second behind Foster in rushing yards, signed a five-year, $32.5 million extension this past December. The NFL's third-ranked rusher in 2010, Titans speed merchant Chris Johnson, is expected to hold out for something in the vicinity of $30 million guaranteed. In a classy move, Foster said before the lockout that he will play under the exclusive-rights tender — as opposed to using his monster '10 campaign as leverage in a training-camp holdout. It is a near certainty that Houston will show him the money in 2012 if he proves that last season's eye-popping production was not an aberration. In talking to people close to Foster, they swear you won't find a guy more dedicated to his craft. He is a true workout warrior. What happens when someone so committed gets that type of extra motivation to succeed? You can probably guess.
Houston's offense is incredibly balanced
Once a running back proves that the front seven doesn't stand a chance at stopping him on its own, the normal response from an opposing defense is to bring a safety up in the box and dare the opposition to take to the air. How likely is that to happen with the lethal Matt Schaub-Andre Johnson pairing? Like Foster, Johnson was hobbled last season, fighting his way through a high ankle sprain and still producing big numbers. Furthermore, who is going to cover a healthy Owen Daniels with a safety dedicated to stopping Foster? The opposition will have to pick its poison, and my bet is the dice being rolled on containing Foster and dedicating the extra attention to the Texans' high-octane passing game. From a statistical perspective, Houston was one of only three teams in the league last season to finish in the top 10 in rushing and passing. Let's just say there is reason offensive coordinators spend so much time preaching the importance of a balanced attack.