Trent Richardson Over Arian Foster? Yes Please.

Let’s assume fantasy football is like a nice restaurant. While gazing over the menu, you realize you can’t decide between the hot new item on the menu or the old classic that you already know you like. While the classic has been consistently good, you feel it’s just about time you moved on before you get sick of it. Therefore you consider going for the hot new item because you are excited for what it may bring. When the waiter/waitress finally makes it over to your table, however, you get tongue tied. It is hard to choose the unknown over something that’s already proven to be enjoyable. What a sticky situation.

Did you understand my metaphor there? If not, let me spell it out: Arian Foster is the classic and Trent Richardson is the hot new item. If I were your waiter, here is what I would suggest: order the Cleveland running back. While Arian Foster may have been the in-style flavor in year’s past, it has gone out of style. In fact, it is borderline stale.

Do I still consider Arian Foster a top ten running back in fantasy? Absolutely. Do I consider him much higher than the number ten overall running back in fantasy? Absolutely not and let me tell you why. There are some serious warning signs with the career trajectory of the 26 year old. His career yards per carry are shaped like a bell curve and are headed in the wrong direction. Here are the YPC by year:

Starting from 2009: 4.8, 4.9, 4.4, 4.1

Aside from YPC, the absurd amount of touches he received last year (391) has to catch up with him soon. Players with 300+ carries in 2/3 seasons don’t usually survive too much longer afterwards. It seems we may already be seeing the catch up in effect because this summer he suffered a “pretty good calf strain.” Heading into a year injured as a NFL running back that takes a beating play in and play out is worrisome. If he takes one hit before it fully heals, it’s back to square one (or worse). Even beyond that, did anyone realize that his touchdown numbers completely dropped off the table in the second half of 2012? In games 1-8 he scored 10 TD. Games 9-16? Five touchdowns. Was that just a coincidence? Very possibly, but it also could be a sign of things to come. Ben Tate is also a very capable back, and if the Texans look to ease Foster’s workload this season, Tate will see a fair share of Foster’s would-be carries and touchdowns. All in all, Foster should be productive yet again, but there is enough downside to be wary.

On the other hand, did you see the news that came out today about Trent Richardson? He came out today and said he “is in no pain” and that he’ll be “full-go right from the get go in training camp.” If you were worried that Trent Richardson was about to fall under the Ryan Mathews injury prone category, think again. Last season, Richardson didn’t really have a chance to be healthy from the start last year after needing microscopic knee surgery right before the season. Yes, it was the same surgery he had gone through before, but it didn’t exactly effect his play: he scored 12 total TD in 15 games with 1300+ yards. Do you think he was 100% in any of the fifteen games he played through? Now, with a whole offseason to recover, he will come into next season as healthy as he’s been in years. Even playing through injury at Alabama, his play netted him the fourth overall pick in the draft. So what are you worried about? Cleveland’s plan on offense is simple: give Trent Richardson the ball. Why do I say Foster’s large amount of carries are a bad thing and Richardson’s aren’t? Simple, Richardson has one season of pro ball in his 22 year old legs while Foster’s injured 26 year old legs have four (with serious workload). Richardson is the healthiest he’s been and Foster is nearly in the worst position he’s been in. Next season, we’re looking at as talented of a runner as we have in the NFL coming into a situation where he will touch the ball every down including goal line situations. His YPC last season were a mere 3.6 but I fully expect those to go up in year two. Part of his quote from today was “I’ve been doing sprints, a lot of plyometrics (jump-training) and a lot of quick-twitch work. It’s a lot of muscle-memory stuff designed to get the explosion back.” I’m willing to bet with healthy legs, he averages over 4.0 YPC (with the whole explosion thing back) and easily gets back into double digit touchdowns. While Foster may have a career of consistency, Richardson has the potential to go absolutely crazy this year. I hate to give football players a ceiling and a floor because honestly one hit and their season could be over. Assuming Richardson is healthy, however, I actually think his floor is higher than Foster’s. If he scored 11 TD as an injured rookie, just imagine what he can do as a healthy sophomore.

“So what will you be having tonight? Oh you want some Trent Richardson. Excellent choice. It comes with a side of touchdowns and fantasy championships. I’ll include those at no extra cost,” says I (your waiter). Now sit back, relax and enjoy your meal.

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