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Mostly NFL Notes: Examining Arian Foster and Pierre Garcon and a look around the league

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Arian Foster's fantasy value is becoming polarizing (USAT)

I’m not sure what to make of Arian Foster. On one hand, he’s scored 47 touchdowns over the past three seasons (a span of 45 games), won’t turn 27 years old until later this month and has been a full-time starter for just three seasons. On the other hand, Foster has been worked harder than any other back in football over that span, as he’s accrued 1,061 carries (while missing three games), and he’s becoming increasingly more susceptible to injury, including a recent calf strain that has sidelined him since May. YPC isn’t a perfect stat, but after getting 4.9 three years ago, Foster got 4.4 in 2011 and a career-low 4.1 last season. Part of that might be attributed to high volume (he had an NFL-high 351 rushing attempts) as well as a whopping (and also an NFL-high) 26 carries inside the five-yard line. But advanced stats (thanks to Pro Football Focus), suggest this might be a player already in decline. Despite leading the league in carries last year, Foster’s 29 broken tackles ranked outside the top-10, and his YPC after contact (2.2) was 40th.

Even more worrisome is Foster’s precipitous drop in production as a receiver. He racked up 400 fewer receiving yards last year compared to the season before (when he missed three games). His YPT fell from 8.6 to a staggeringly low 3.7, although Foster did catch 15 balls for 97 yards over two playoff games. But if you remove his two games against the Colts’ terrible run defense, Foster managed just 3.78 YPC over the rest of the league (although to be fair, he gets to face Indy another two times in 2013). Moreover, the Houston offensive line is trending in the wrong direction (it’s tough to stay elite in this area over a long stretch of time). Foster remains the favorite to lead the NFL in goal-line carries if he’s able to stay healthy in 2013, so I’m not dropping him too far down my cheat sheet despite the obvious concerns, but I personally would take other backs like C.J. Spiller, Jamaal Charles and Doug Martin over him at this point. Because of Foster’s aforementioned risks and the Texans’ favorable run environment, I really want to recommend aggressively drafting Ben Tate, who might very well be the superior player when the ball is in his hands at this stage of their careers, but the latter may be an even bigger injury risk. Still, Tate is my favorite RB who doesn’t currently project to be a starter (and in a way, Tate’s presence is a good thing for Foster owners who handcuff, as they would be in better shape should their first round pick suffer an injury than those who select Adrian Peterson, Martin, Spiller, Charles or Trent Richardson).

An American “Football” coach in London.

This photo of Jonathan Ogden in high school is absolutely insane.

Pierre Garcon injured his foot during his fourth catch of the year last season, which was an 88-yard touchdown in the first quarter. The injury cost him six games and ultimately limited him throughout the rest of the year. But over his final six contests, Garcon hauled in 33 catches for 475 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, he racked up 52 targets over that span, which is a season’s pace of 139; only 12 other receivers saw more in 2012. And this occurred with Garcon still being limited by injury and trying to develop a rapport with a rookie QB who he wasn’t able to practice with for the majority of the season. Being the clear No. 1 wide receiver in a Mike Shanahan system while having Robert Griffin, who became the only rookie QB to lead the NFL in YPA in the history of the league, throwing to him and is about as good of a situation as it gets. Garcon is 26 years old and just averaged the third-most yards after catch per reception (7.3) while learning a new system and playing with a badly damaged foot. I’d rank a fully healthy Garcon as an easy top-10 fantasy wide receiver, but he elected not to undergo surgery during the offseason, so he’s a wild card. After reports suggested he was “showing no signs of last year’s foot injury or the offseason labrum surgery,” he sat out Thursday’s preseason opener with a toe ailment. Garcon is among the biggest high risk/high reward options among fantasy wide receivers this season, and I’ll probably be the one foolishly swinging for the fences.

Here’s the worst possible way ever to be denied a perfect 300 bowling game.

Here’s someone transporting a mattress via a bicycle.

Here are the results of a recent PPR Mock I participated in, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I have no idea what to say about this live report on TV. It’s all so confusing.

There appears to be a clear-cut top-12 when it comes to fantasy quarterbacks this season. Even as someone who always waits on the position, I’ll probably end up with one of those dozen on most of my teams. But if you somehow miss out, it’s not a lost cause, as there are two options who shouldn’t be too far behind that group who will cost much less at draft tables. One is Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for 26 touchdowns over 12.5 games last year (including nine over his final four) and has a career 7.9 YPA that’s tied for sixth all time (Aaron Rodgers is the only active player with a higher career mark). He lost Mike Wallace via free agency and is injury prone, but Roethlisberger is far more comfortable entering his second year with Todd Haley as OC and should have a healthier offensive line in 2013. Big Ben threw six more touchdowns than Matthew Stafford last year despite attempting 278 fewer pass attempts while not playing indoors nor having Calvin Johnson as a WR option.

The other quarterback is Eli Manning, who’s one season removed from throwing for 4,933 yards, the eighth-most in NFL history. Over the last four years, Manning has averaged 4,226 passing yards with 28.3 touchdowns while getting 7.8 YPA. While Manning can’t meet some of the other QBs ranked ahead of him in rushing ability (in fact, over the past two seasons, Manning has run for just 45 yards on 55 rushing attempts and no, this doesn’t count sacks), there’s a lot of evidence suggesting last season’s down year was a fluke. The Giants scored the second most points-per-drive, but they just happened to have 22 fewer drives than their prior season. As Chase Stuart points out (I recommend you read the entire article), part of that was due to fewer big plays (which hopefully will be rectified by Victor Cruz bouncing back and Hakeem Nicks staying healthier. Plus, Rueben Randle looks like a prime breakout candidate), and the other part was a bend-don’t-break defense that ranked 30th in third down rate and 31st in yards allowed but 12th in points against – something that’s highly unlikely to repeat. Manning has never missed a single game due to injury during his NFL career, and the Giants could easily be in a bunch of shootouts in the NFC East this season. Plus, Manning is actually kind of funny!

Animal Antics: Bear Steals Dumpster From Restaurant Twice in 24 Hours...Blind Couple to Marry After Guide Dogs Fall in Love...Officials Raid Animal Shelter to Kill Baby Deer Named Giggles...Chinese Man Tries to Board Plane With Pet Turtle Disguised as Hamburger...Here’s a dog doing skateboard tricks...Here’s the picture of the year...In Russia, fish catch fisherman...Here’s a Bear riding a Sea Doo...Canada Goose Survives Arrow Shot Through Head.

In Honor of Shark Week: Here’s a shark found on a NY Subway, and here’s Tara Reid dropping knowledge about sharks...This man recently survived a shark bite, but that’s actually just kid’s play, as he’s also been struck by lightning, been bitten by a rattlesnake and has been punched by monkeys twice.

Tight End Talk: I could see spending a top-15 pick on Jimmy Graham, who’s one year removed from a 99-catch, 1,310-yard, 11-touchdown season and separates himself by a wide margin from the rest of the position. Moreover, I wrote last week about how my favorite plan regarding tight ends is targeting Vernon Davis in the middle rounds, but if you miss out on one of the big-five (Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez being the other three), then the best strategy is waiting as long as possible before addressing the position. Not only are there a lot of seemingly worthy sleepers, I don’t see any big differences among the next tier. In other words, I have a hard time ranking the following: Kyle Rudolph, Antonio Gates, Brandon Myers, Jordan Cameron, Martellus Bennett, Jared Cook, Owen Daniels, Rob Housler, Fred Davis, Jermichael Finley and Coby Fleener. I’d be happy with any of those who happen to fall the furthest. In fact, I’d give 50/50 odds if you reversed the order I just listed them, the rankings would be similar. And if you happen to end up with a bust, we still haven’t mentioned deeper options like Ed Dickson, Zach Sundfeld and Dwayne Allen (assuming his recent injury isn’t bad) among others, as fallback options. So if you don’t draft one of the big-five, just remain as patient as possible when addressing the tight end position.

Police Blotter: Woman Lied About Dying Father to Get Out of Speeding Ticket...Man Charged With Blowing Up Family Dog...Man Dressed Like Cornholio From “Beavis and Butthead” Robs Sushi Bar...Police in Turkey link Telepathy to Deaths...Man Hides Loaded Gun in Buttocks, Then Helps Police Find It...DUI Suspect Dances and Motorboats During Sobriety Tests.

Here’s the twin teleport prank.

I’m tired of trying to rank the rookie running backs. At this point, it’s become clear Le’Veon Bell is first among this group, as he’s going to be given every opportunity to be Pittsburgh’s workhorse…I liked Montee Ball the best a few weeks back, and while I’m not too down on him based on just a couple weeks of practice reports, it does appear he’s no lock to be Denver’s feature back, although in that offense, he probably has the most upside among first year backs…And then there’s Eddie Lacy, who’s also in an ostensibly terrific situation in Green Bay (albeit one with a worse offensive line). Lacy went from laughingstock thanks to a photo in which he looked the size of a house to someone receiving glowing practice reports in a matter of days, only to then suffer a hamstring injury. I have no idea what to make of him right now, but aside from the photo and injury, he had clearly separated himself from the rest of the RB competition in Green Bay (even if DuJuan Harris was still listed as RB1 on the depth chart)…Giovani Bernard doesn’t play in as an explosive of an offense as Ball or Lacy, but he also might have the least competition (BenJarvus Green-Ellis is actually the more established back among the competition, but he also is a plodder who simply offers little playmaking ability). Watching the terrific “Hard Knocks” has me dangerously close to drafting Bernard a lot higher than I probably should...With DeMarco Murray so injury prone, I planned on targeting Joseph Randle, but both Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner look like superior late round fliers…For those in deeper dynasty leagues, spend a buck on Marcus Lattimore...Christine Michael could be an absolute monster if Marshawn Lynch were to go down. He’ll be very cheap and is the type of pick who could win your league for you.

Longread of the Week: In Honor of “Breaking Bad” starting the second half of its final season Sunday, here’s “The Last Stand of Walter White.

Quick Hits: Daryl Richardson is creeping more and more up my running back board. Pro Football Focus actually graded him very poorly last year, ranking him 49th among 51 backs (only Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden were worse), but Richardson’s 2.8 YPC after contact was very strong, and it appears he’s separating himself in St. Louis’ backfield. Sticking with the Rams, I’d bet Chris Givens is the more valuable fantasy receiver this season than Tavon Austin at even money, so it’s just gravy the former is so much cheaper at draft tables. St. Louis is going to have a tough time winning a lot of games with what looks like a deadly schedule, but this team is far from a doormat…Colt McCoy, who's currently behind the immortal Scott Tolzien as San Francisco’s QB2, will make more money than Colin Kaepernick this season. It’s almost as if the old rookie wage scale was out of whack…The more I think about it, the more I worry Mike Wallace is going to be a huge bust this year...Over the Eagles’ final 10 games last season (right after defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was fired), Philadelphia allowed 30.9 points-per-game, which would have tied for the worst mark over a full year since 2008. And if Friday’s preseason game was any indication, this defense is going to be an absolute sieve in 2013, especially against the run. As for their offense, Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson are two of my favorite targets this year. I also wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if LeSean McCoy finishes as a top-three fantasy player and don’t buy the Chris Polk over Bryce Brown talk as the team’s RB2.

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