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The case for Foster first overall

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Take a look at any Fantasy Football rank list you want, and you're likely to see at least three different names at the No. 1 spot. The candidates include Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson. Michael Vick is even No. 1 overall to some people, but we'll leave him out of this discussion because he shouldn't be ranked that high.

For my first pick, I'm going with Foster. He has the chance to repeat as the No. 1 running back after holding that title with his breakout season in 2010.

One complaint I've received about Foster being ranked No. 1 overall is that he will struggle to duplicate his performance from last season. That's a fair point, especially given the recent history for running backs, but the past 20 years suggest it's also possible Foster can remain on top.

If you look at the past three years, there have been three different No. 1 running backs at the end of the season in DeAngelo Williams (2008), Johnson (2009) and Foster. But prior to that, there were four repeat champions as the No. 1 Fantasy rusher in Marshall Faulk (2000-01), Priest Holmes (2002-03), Shaun Alexander (2004-05) and LaDainian Tomlinson (2006-07).

Going back a decade, Barry Sanders (1990-91) and Emmitt Smith (1992-95) also had back-to-back years as the No. 1 running back, with Smith holding that spot four years in a row. Why can't Foster start that trend again?

I understand why Fantasy owners are skeptical of Foster, who could turn out to be a one-year wonder. The NFL today isn't like it was when Faulk, Holmes, Alexander, Tomlinson, Sanders and Smith were dominating carries. Foster can easily be part of a dreaded tandem and lose touches to Ben Tate, who will return this season after being out for his rookie year with an injury.

Opponents are also well aware of Foster's ability after he had 327 carries for 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns and 66 catches for 604 yards and two scores, and he will see tougher defenses. He also might be without Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach, who is a free agent.

But before you judge Foster -- and me for backing him -- let's take a look at those concerns. For starters, Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison has already said Foster is in no danger of losing significant touches to Tate. Said Dennison, "We're going to give (Tate) the ball a few times and see how he does. We're looking at it as he ended up with a redshirt year. He still has the ability that we liked to get him in the second round. We'll take some turns. Obviously, Arian's our No. 1 guy, and then we'll go from there."

If you look at last season when Derrick Ward was the No. 2 running back in Houston, Foster averaged 24 touches a game (20 carries and four catches), while Ward averaged just three carries a game. Assuming that Tate gets about five touches a game because he's more talented than Ward, that still leaves Foster looking at 20-plus touches.

The Texans also realize the importance of Leach and have stated they want to re-sign him. Houston's offensive line remains intact, and Pro Football Focus said following the year that "when all was said and done, the Texans were the only team whose entire offensive line graded positively."

Foster also has an amazing schedule this year against some of the worst run defenses in the NFL based on their finish in 2010. The Texans face the Colts, Jaguars and Titans twice, and all three teams were in the bottom 12 of run defenses last year. The same goes for Cleveland, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Oakland, which are all on the schedule.

Foster will also see good run defenses in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Miami and Atlanta -- all Top 10 teams in run defense last year -- but he had great outings last year against Top 10 run defenses in San Diego (31 Fantasy points), the Jets (23 Fantasy points) and Baltimore (12 Fantasy points). He won't back down from these tough opponents, and teams can't stack the line of scrimmage against him with Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels on his side.

For me, the difference in Foster compared to Johnson and Peterson is the quarterback. Johnson could have rookie Jake Locker handing him the ball, and Peterson could have rookie Christian Ponder. Are those quarterbacks going to scare defenses? We know that could change in free agency, but Locker and Ponder are still potential starting options. None of them compare to Schaub.

Look, picking between Foster, Johnson and Peterson is like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. All are great, and you'll be happy with whoever you get on Draft Day.

But I'm sticking with Foster. If he stays healthy he has the best chance to succeed, and he should end up as the first No. 1 running back to repeat since Tomlinson. Foster is not going to be a one-year wonder.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Jamey at @jameyeisenberg . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Redskins place Jason Hatcher on IR, add Travian Robertson
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(7:02 pm ET) The Redskins placed defensive end Jason Hatcher on injured reserve Saturday after claiming defensive tackle Travian Robertson off waivers from the Seahawks.

Hatcher has missed the last two games with a knee injury and wil be out Sunday as well when Washington closes out the season against Dallas as a 4-point home underdog. Robertson played in just one game with the Seahawks, recording one assisted tackle.


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(6:47 pm ET) The Seahawks have resigned defensive lineman Jimmy Staten to the practice squad and released linebacker Mike Zimmer, the Everett Herald reports. Staten has bounced on and off the practice squad throughout his rookie season.


Bills downgrade Marcell Dareus, Stephon Gilmore to out for Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(6:00 pm ET) The Bills have downgraded defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (knee) and cornerback Stephon Gilmore (concussion) from doubtful to out for Sunday's season finale at New England, per the team's official website. Both players did not make the trip to New England for Week 17.

Buffalo is a 5-point underdog on Sunday.


Patriots place CB Alfonzo Dennard on injured reserve
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:26 pm ET) The Patriots placed cornerback Alfonzo Dennard on season-ending injured reserve with a hamstring injury, reports Field Yates of ESPN on Saturday. Dennard appeared in only six games this season, registering 15 combined tackles and one interception -- all season lows.

In corresponding moves, the Patriots elevated wide receiver Josh Boyce from the practice squad to take the spot of Dennard on the 53-man active roster. They re-signed Dax Swanson to the practice squad and released defensive lineman Cam Henderson.


Browns QB Johnny Manziel fined for being late to treatment
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:07 pm ET) The Browns have fined rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel an undisclosed amount for arriving late to treatment on Saturday, reports Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer.

Manziel was placed on injured reserve after suffering a hamstring injury in Week 16 against Carolina. Although he's on IR and not eligible to play, he will accompany the team to Baltimore for Cleveland's season finale against the Ravens.

Manziel is expected to be fully recovered in time for OTAs. He finished the turbulent rookie season with 175 passing yards and a 42.0 quarterback rating. He also had two interceptions and one fumble lost.


Saints place John Jenkins on IR
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:35 pm ET) The Saints announced a pair of roster moves on Saturday. The team elevated quarterback Ryan Griffin to the 53-man active roster and placed nose tackle John Jenkins on injured reserve with an abdominal injury.

Jenkins registered 30 combined tackles and a sack in 12 games played.


Raiders CB T.J. Carrie downgraded to out for Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:49 pm ET) The Raiders have downgraded cornerback T.J. Carrie (ankle) from questionable to out for Sunday's season finale against Denver, reports the Bay Area News Group. The rookie appeared in 13 games and posted 44 combined tackles and one interception.

Browns' Phil Bates takes Josh Gordon's roster spot for Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:25 pm ET) The Browns have elevated wide receiver Phil Bates from practice squad to the 53-man active roster following the suspension of wide receiver Josh Gordon on Saturday, per the team's official website. Bates has appeared in only one game this season with Seattle, before joining the Browns. The Browns downgraded Bates out for Sunday's season finale at Baltimore, per the Akron Beacon Journal.

Cowboys LB Rolando McClain downgraded to out for Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:07 pm ET) Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain will not accompany the team to Washington D.C. and was downgraded to out for Sunday's regular season finale against the Redskins due to an illness, reports the team's official website.

McClain posted 81 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception through 13 games. The Cowboys have already clinched a spot in the playoffs, and McClain is primed to be fully recovered for Dallas' first postseason game.


Browns suspend Josh Gordon for violation of team rules
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:56 pm ET) The Browns suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon for a violation of team rules, per the team's official website. Mike Silver of the NFL Network reported that Gordon and Johnny Manziel were absent from Cleveland's walkthru on Saturday, in preparation for Sunday's season finale against Baltimore.

Gordon emerged in 2013 as one of the most explosive skill position players in the NFL. Despite losing the first two games to suspension, he racked up 87 receptions for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns. He served a 10-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy and didn't make his 2014 debut until Week 12 against Atlanta. His tumultuous 2014 campaign comes to an end with only 24 catches for 303 yards and no touchdowns in five games.

The suspension will prevent him from being an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season. He would have needed six games to earn a credited season. The one-game suspension by the Browns gives Gordon five games this year, making him a restricted free agent after 2015, not unrestricted.


 
 
 
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