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2011 Draft Prep: Foster will be the best again in '11

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Arian Foster doesn't play Fantasy Football, and he said "he's not into rankings." But the Texans running back is probably just being modest.

That's what happens when you're No. 1.

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Last year, Foster was the best running back in the NFL and in all Fantasy leagues, and he's looking for a repeat performance in 2011. We're here to say that Foster will be the No. 1 running back again this season, and he should be drafted first overall.

"As an athlete and a person, all you can ask for in life is an opportunity," Foster said in a recent phone interview. "If you work hard and you know what you can do then it's up to you to make the best of it."

That's what Foster did in 2010. He basically came out of nowhere to rush for 1,614 yards and 16 touchdowns and catch 66 passes for 604 yards and two touchdowns. He had 83 more Fantasy points than Adrian Peterson in standard leagues (309 to 226) and 93 more Fantasy points than LeSean McCoy in point per reception formats (375 to 282).

His goal this season is to remain consistent and not become a one-hit wonder. He doesn't plan to rest on his 2010 accomplishments and call himself a superstar.

"I haven't changed much," Foster said. "I worked out just as hard. I had the same approach in camp. I know what I have to do. You can't win the rushing title in one game. You can't rush for 1,000 yards on one carry. You just take it play by play."

One complaint I've received about Foster being ranked No. 1 overall ahead of Peterson is that he won't be able to duplicate his performance as the best running back in the NFL. 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), Chris 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?

Granted, the NFL today isn't like it was when Faulk, Holmes, Alexander, Tomlinson, Sanders and Smith were dominating carries. Foster can easily start to share touches with Ben Tate, who will return this season after being out for his rookie year in 2010 with an ankle injury. But coach Gary Kubiak indicated that Foster will remain the workhorse in this backfield.

"One thing about the running back position, when you have a great one, they need it 25 times," Kubiak said. "For the most part, when Arian's at his best, he's playing three snaps to the other guys' one."

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 about 20-plus touches.

Opponents are also well aware of Foster's ability, and he knows that. He takes pride in proving people wrong.

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"You got the feeling early on in the (2010) season that nobody knew who I was," Foster said. "Our running game the previous year also wasn't respected. As the year went on, teams started to respect our running game. We're not going to struggle running the ball. It's something we take pride in."

Another concern with Foster is the loss of All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach, who is now in Baltimore. Foster said Leach will be missed, but he's not expecting the running game to fall apart.

He emphasized the ability of his offensive line, which remains intact from last season, and said that group is underrated. He might be right considering Pro Football Focus said following last 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.

Now, he will 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, Foster has the most upside of any running back in the NFL, and it also helps that he's in a potential contract year. He is getting paid just $480,000, which is plenty of motivation.

Look, picking between Foster and Peterson is like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. Both 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.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Turner: Matt Asiata to get bulk of carries Sunday against Dolphins
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:59 pm ET) After it was reported the Vikings were going to use a running-back-by-committee approach once Jerrick McKinnon was lost for the season, offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Thursday Matt Asiata will get the majority of the carries when Minnesota travels to Miami Sunday.

"Well, Matt I think showed, I think he's shown throughout, but he's showed in the game that he's a guy that gives us the best all-around running, catching, [pass] protection," Turner said Thursday. "He had an outstanding game so I would expect Matt to get the bulk of the work and when there's opportunity to get someone else in there we'll do it."

Asiata is averaging 3.3 yards per carry this season with seven rushing touchdowns. Running backs Joe Banyard and Ben Tate appear to be on the back burner after Tate has had just 38 yards on 13 carries since going the Vikings. While Banyard has just 45 yards on 10 carries. 


Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham on track to play Week 16
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:53 pm ET) Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham, who missed the Week 15 win at Cleveland with a toe injury, practiced fully Thursday, reports ESPN.com. He's on track to start Monday against the Broncos.

With Tyler Eifert still trying to come back from an elbow injury he suffered in the season opener, Gresham is the team's only pass-catching tight end. Gresham has 50 grabs for 378 yards and three touchdowns.


DeAngelo Williams could play Sunday wearing a cast
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:38 pm ET) Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams is getting fitted for a cast he'd wear if he returns to action Sunday against the Browns, reports ESPN.com. Williams fractured his right hand in the Week 13 loss at Minnesota.

Williams was limited in Thursday's practice. He hasn't caught passes, and the team is concerned about how the injury will affect his blocking, the report said.

But if Williams returns, he'll cut into the sizable workload Jonathan Stewart has received the past two weeks when he averaged 21.5 touches.


Jaguars announce QB Blake Bortles will start Thursday night
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:21 pm ET) Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, who was questionable with a mid-foot sprain, will start Thursday night's game against the Titans, the team announced. It will be Bortles' first primetime appearance.

Bortles made a quick recovery from the injury, but how effective he'll be remains to be seen. He's thrown 10 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. Tennessee will start quarterback Charlie Whitehurst following injuries to Zach Mettenberger and Jake Locker.

Jacksonville is favored by 3.5 points -- the first time it has been favored in 43 games.


Edelman, LaFell, Vereen still limited for Patriots
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:20 pm ET) The Patriots received limited participation in practice from Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and Shane Vereen on Thursday.

All three players were limited on Wednesday, so there was no change in their status. Edelman is battling a thigh injury and a concussion. LaFell has a shoulder issue. Vereen is dealing with an ankle injury. The team will release a final game status for each player following Friday's practice. 


Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle) practices fully
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:14 pm ET) Broncos tight end Julius Thomas practiced fully Thursday as the team readied for Monday night's game in Cincinnati. It's a positive step for Thomas, who was limited last week due to his ankle injury.

Thomas played 29 snaps and caught a 30-yard pass in the Week 15 win at San Diego. He could be primed to return to his normal workload Monday.


Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles practices in full Thursday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:59 pm ET) Ankle and knee ailments could not prevent Chiefs standout running back Jamaal Charles from putting in a full practice Thursday. He was limited in the Wednesday session.

Charles in a roll. He has 515 yards on 86 carries in the last six games for a 6.0 YPC average.


DeMarco Murray increases workload in Thursday's practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:53 pm ET) Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray was listed as limited in Thursday's practice, but he said he did a lot more than he was able to do Wednesday, reports the Dallas Morning News. Wearing a special glove with padding to protect his surgically-repaired left hand, Murray participated in some team drills.

"It’s good," Murray told the paper. "I feel good."

Murray was asked if he'll play Sunday against the Colts, if the decision is left up to him. "I’m a very competitive person and I want to help this team out as much as I can," he told the paper. "I’ve had two good days and we’ll see how it goes."

Owner Jerry Jones said he was encouraged that Murray, the NFL's leading rusher, is "so aggressive in his thinking about playing."

Murray underwent surgery Monday to fix a broken bone in his hand. If he sits out, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar would rotate at tailback. Dallas is favored by 3 over the Colts at nearly every sportsbook.


Lions new CB Josh Thomas: Jets coaches didn't help me
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:46 pm ET) Cornerback Josh Thomas, who has hooked on with the Lions after being cut from the Jets, had some pointed words for his former team. He was let go after having his playbook stolen from a New Jersey hotel.

Thomas said the stolen playbook was not mentioned when he was told of his forced departure. But he added that the Jets never tried to improve his game.

"I feel like I wasn't given the attention necessary as far as being engaged from the coach-to-player standpoint and know the things I need to work on," Thomas told ESPN. "It became where I was there as a player and wanting and desiring some feedback that wasn't given. So sometimes I may have been standing there with a [deer-in-headlight] look in my eyes trying to figure out what I needed to do."


Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph unable to practice again
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:31 pm ET) Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle, knee) missed another practice Thursday as the team prepared for Sunday's visit to Miami. Rudolph set season highs with seven catches for 69 yards Week 15 at Detroit.

If Rudolph can't play, Chase Ford would start.


 
 
 
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