December 16, 2009
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Three years ago Santa Claus arrived in Houston a few days early to deliver presents to all the waiver-savvy fantasy girls and boys.
That season, the Ground Round of Pound bounced numerous would be tacklers off his jelly-filled bowl en route to one of the most memorable Decembers of the decade. As the Raiders, Titans, Pats and Colts can attest only half-eaten cookies, decorative reindeer nuggets and double-digit point totals remained in his wake.
After being buried on the Texans depth chart due to a midseason injury, the 1999 Heisman Trophy winner was elevated back to into the catbird seat Week 13. From that point on he racked a championship-driving 114 total yards per game with five scores. Owners who risked inserting the portly carrier into their lineups surely sipped eggnog from a golden trophy...
Flash forward to the present.
Another Texans rusher could be on the verge of doing his best Dayne impersonation.
Alongside other preseason outcasts Justin Forsett(notes), Chris Jennings(notes) and Quinton Ganther(notes), Arian Foster(notes) was stranded on the Island of Misfit Toys at the beginning of the season. Although he was graded a second round commodity by the NFL Advisory Committee in 2007, his draft stock plummeted last year. Myriad knee and shoulder ailments previously experienced in college put his durability into question. At the combine, he displayed unspectacular speed (4.7 40-yard) and a slimmer frame. Ball security issues further tainted his perceived value. Despite nearly eclipsing Travis Henry's(notes) career rushing record at Tennessee, he went undrafted last April, later signing as a free agent with Houston.
But now, the former practice squad fixture stands at the precipice of Fantasyland stardom.
Through good old-fashioned hard work and a little luck, Foster has reached the summit of the Texans depth chart, surpassing Steve Slaton(notes) (injured), Ryan Moats(notes) (fumble prone) and Chris Brown (overly Lurchy). Perseverance is one intangible scouts failed to account for.
His skill set is rather uninspiring, but in Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme, the wire leviathan is an ideal fit. Before training camp opened in July, the hungry youngster was confident his talents would excel in a one-cut-and-go scheme. Last week against the sorrowful Seahawks his words proved prophetic.
In Houston's lopsided victory, the rookie totaled 88 yards on 17 touches. He displayed excellent versatility, agility, strength and resourcefulness. "Impressed" by his performance, Kubiak quickly declared Foster the starter for Week 15 though he suggested a committee approach would be maintained. Still, with an expected 15-20 touches, owners who were fortunate enough to lasso the rusher out of the free agent stable must be licking their chops. In Round 2 of most owners' playoffs, Houston travels to St. Louis to face an unbelievably generous Rams defense.
Steve Spagnuolo's bunch is always in a giving mood. Over the past five weeks, they've yielded 5.0 yards per carry, 174.6 total yards per game and nine scores to RBs, equal to the most fantasy points allowed. Frontline execution has burdened H-Town for much of the season - Texans backs have averaged just 3.4 yards per carry - but its buffet closers should voraciously consume Rocky Mountain oysters without difficulty. Even if holes are few and far between, which is unlikely with Andre Johnson(notes) on roster, Foster should gain appreciable total yardage. His terrific route-running ability and Kyle Shannahan's dedication to RB designed screens and flares forecast a fruitful Sunday.
Similar to Ganther's situation last week, owners are faced with the classic dilemma: Proven name versus appealing game? Without question, those who advocate matchup over brand power (i.e. DeAngelo Williams(notes) (vs. Min), LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) (vs. Cin), Brandon Jacobs(notes) (at Wash), Ryan Grant(notes) (at Pit), Rashard Mendenhall(notes) (vs.GB)) will be richly rewarded.
Based on the ultra-friendly matchup, Foster, like Dayne before him, could provide plenty of holiday cheer.
Week 15 Fearless Forecast: 16 carries, 73 rushing yards, 5 receptions, 31 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 16 fantasy points
What marquee backs would you demote in favor of Foster? What's your Fearless Forecast? Is reindeer excrement fashionable? What NFL players, past or present, make-up your All-Beard team? Who is your favorite "Rudolph" character? Discuss.
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