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Buzz: Initially broken by Tania Ganguli, who walks the Texans beat for ESPN NFL Nation, Arian Foster suffered a severe groin injury in Houston's first practice with pads. The concern is the setback could require surgery which would shelve the superstar for weeks if not months. How predictable. Suffice it to say, the drama should be THICK on the season-debut of "Hard Knocks."
If Foster does indeed miss 3-6 months, as some reliable sources have reported, it could spell game over for 2015.
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Spin: Entering the heart of the fantasy draft season, the injury downside attached to Foster was precisely why many were apprehensive sinking a first-round pick into his services. Since breaking onto the scene in 2010, he's missed 13 games due to various lower-body ailments.
When healthy few RBs produce at a similar prolific level. The four-time Pro Bowl selection finished top-five in fantasy points per game in four of the past five seasons. Last fall, the philosopher king was second only to McCoy in the category. Yes, he outpaced Le’veon Bell, Marshawn Lynch and Eddie Lacy in standard settings. He also cracked the top-five in PPR (No. 4) and ranked at or near the top in several secondary categories (e.g. elusive rating and breakaway percentage). His chances of matching that success, however, is now in major jeopardy.
Not much has changed in H-Town since last year. Considering their dismal situation at quarterback, Bill O’Brien is sure to lean on the ground game early and often, even sans Foster. The Texans offensive line, which ranked No. 6 last year in run-blocking per Pro Football Focus, should again dominate the line of scrimmage. Overall, Houston RBs averaged 34.4 attempts per game, the most in the league last year. In all likelihood, O'Brian will install a three-headed RBBC of unknown distribution featuring Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes and Chris Polk. Best guess: Blue nets the bulk of the action, possibly 12-14 touches per game, Grimes is occasionally rotated in on third/pass downs tallying 8-10 touches per game and Polk nets 5-7 carries per contest, possibly morphing into a goal-line gremlin. The Texans could also explore kicking the tires on rusted out El Caminos Steven Jackson, Ray Rice, Chris Johnson or, the most intriguing option of the bunch considering his lower odometer reading and versatile skill set, Pierre Thomas. (UPDATE: According to NFL.com's Rand Getlin, Thomas is on his way to Houston for a tryout. If he signs, the RB would have mmediate fantasy appeal. PT ranked No. 9 in overall rating last year according to PFF. The ex-Saint would surely taken on roughly 12-14 touches per game, possibly more.)
Bottom Line: In the blink of an eye, Foster's has potentially gone from RB1 to RB NONE if he does miss 3-6 months. However, if the projected recovery time falls on the short side (Week 10 return the earliest), he's still draftable in deeper leagues, particularly in those that have an IR spot.
As for Blue/Grimes/Polk, the former is an immediate add until clarification is received. Filling the void for a dinged Foster in Weeks 11 (at Cle) and 12 (vs. Cin) last year, the then rookie totaled 222 combined yards on 55 grips, good for an uneventful 4.04 yards per touch. On the year, however, he amassed an impressive 63.6 yards after contact percentage and displayed adequate pass-blocking skills. Sadly, though, he doesn't possess the vision and wiggle of Foster as his 14.0 missed tackle percentage proves. For now, he belongs in the Ryan Mathews/Duke Johnson/Devonta Freeman tier of middling RB3s. If O'Brien names him the committee frontrunner, a Round 6 pick in a 12-team league would be warranted.
Finally, Foster's unfortunate downfall is a prime example why drafting a RB in Round 1 is drenched in risk. The 43.1 percent RB1 bust rate since 2009 will only grow. Andrew Luck anyone?!