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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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