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Why Adrian Peterson, not Arian Foster, should go No. 1

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Recent posts by William Del Pilar

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Posted Aug. 31, 2011 @ 10:15 p.m. ET
By William Del Pilar

I didn't own Arian Foster in any of my leagues last year, so I didn't fully appreciate how huge he was in production. He was a beast. He's come a long way from 2009 when the Texans waived him and put him on the practice squad. How many front offices avoid that conversation?

Foster, 2010:

  • Rushing: 327 attempts, 1,616 yards, 16 touchdowns
  • Receiving: 66 receptions, 604 yards, two touchdowns

To be fair, though, it's impressive how consistently great Adrian Peterson has been. Every year we talk about who should go No. 1 overall, and every year Peterson's one-half of the conversation. Whether Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson, Michael Turner or others, Peterson's the one constant.

Peterson, 2010:

  • Rushing: 283 attempts, 1,298 yards, 12 touchdowns
  • Receiving: 36 receptions, 341 yards, one touchdown

So far this year, using ADP (average draft position), Foster's the consensus choice for the overall pick, with Peterson second. Here's the breakdown for various types of leagues:

Standard scoring

  • RB Arian Foster — 1.31
  • RB Adrian Peterson — 2.09

Point-per-reception

  • RB Arian Foster — 1.33
  • RB Adrian Peterson — 2.14

High stakes

  • RB Arian Foster — 1.44
  • RB Adrian Peterson — 2.39

Do you go with consistency and a proven track record or the temptation of Foster, who could smash 2,000 total yards rushing and receiving a second time?

In a straight-up, one-season comparison, Foster crushes Peterson, but we also know historical data are just one component in choosing whom to take. I find it foolish to just use one part of the process to take a shortcut.

 

The Peterson file

In Weeks 14, 15 and 16 — fantasy playoff weeks — he faces Detroit, New Orleans and Washington. The Lions and Redskins ranked 24th and 26th against the run in 2010.

Peterson is consistent. Depending on your scoring system, since entering the league in 2007, Peterson's been a top-three fantasy back.

He's only 26 and entering the prime of his career without major injury. He's missed only three games, two in his rookie season and one last year.

New offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave comes from Atlanta and will incorporate elements of the Falcons' run-heavy schemes into the run-centric West Coast offense already in place.

QB Donovan McNabb is already using the deep ball to Bernard Berrian to open it up underneath. Peterson's role is in the short-passing attack and as a safety valve for McNabb.

Peterson is the team's goal-line back as Toby Gerhart has struggled.

He's playing for a contract, though his priority, like all great ones, is winning.

He faces seven teams that finished in the bottom 10 against the rush last year, including the Panthers. Four of the seven were in the bottom five.

 

The Foster file

In fantasy playoff Weeks 14, 15 and 16, he faces Cincinnati, Carolina and Indianapolis. The Panthers were ranked 23rd against the rush and the Colts 25th.

The team is built around Foster, but defenses still can't stack the line because of the firepower the Texans' aerial attack brings. QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson helped make the Texans one of three teams to finish the season ranked in the top 10 in both rushing and passing. Foster also has solid hands, and Schaub will not hesitate to go to him.

Coming from Denver, head coach Gary Kubiak, to nobody's surprise, employs a one cut, zone-blocking scheme that perfectly fits Foster's skills.

Foster is only 24 with one season under his belt. He's as fresh as they come and playing for a contract. The potential payout is mind-boggling, considering Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams received a five-year deal worth $43 million with $21 million guaranteed. If Foster comes close to last year's stats, I don't even want to think of the financial figures he'd command?

 

Whom do you pick?

If you're like me and still struggling with the subject of whom to pick, know this: Foster injured his hamstring this preseason, missed time and then aggravated it. The team says it's a wait-and-see on his Week One status, though they are optimistic.

We then hear reports from ESPN's John Clayton and Dr. Michael Kaplan stating the hamstring is torn with swelling and bleeding and that he may miss 3-4 weeks. They're speculating, as they're basing it on a tweeted image of the MRI that Foster posted. Regardless, he's hurt and not practicing, with Week One questions. Hamstrings scare me because if you come back too soon, you may just make it worse.

If he misses time, the team doesn't have to rush him back. They have two solid backs in Derrick Ward and Ben Tate, but the loss of Pro Bowl FB Vonta Leach may hurt Foster more than fantasy owners realize. Many believe Leach is the best fullback in the league and that he had a hand in Foster's big season. Leach wanted to be the highest-paid fullback and now blocks for Ravens RB Ray Rice.

Still debating? This boils down to what type of owner you are. Conservative? A risk taker? A little of both?

Everything being equal, I want to be the risk taker, but it's not me. I believe you need to be as safe as possible with your top three picks. It's extremely difficult to recover those points if they go down.

To you risk takers, I applaud you for your bravery, but because of the hamstring question, the difficulty in repeating last year's numbers, and the loss of Leach, it's a no-brainer ...

Go with Adrian Peterson.

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