One of the first things fantasy owners think of when it comes to Arian Foster is his injury history. His list of past ailments is lengthy. He underwent three surgeries in college at Tennessee. The injuries didn’t stop once he entered the NFL. Foster tore his hamstring in 2011, required season-ending back surgery midway through 2013, suffered a calf strain last summer, missed one 2014 game with another calf injury and two with a groin issue. Our friends at SportsInjuryPredictor.com had Foster listed as one of its highest-risk players, saying they expected Foster to miss multiple 2015 games.
It only took one padded practice at Texans training camp for Foster to suffer a “major” groin injury that is expected to require surgery and land Foster on I.R./designated to return, costing him at least the Texans’ first eight games of the season. There’s hope Foster will be able to play the second half of the season, but we can’t bank on that with Foster’s past and him turning 29 later this month.
Prior to getting hurt Tuesday afternoon, Foster was drawing rave reviews for how good he had looked this offseason. When on the field, few are better. He’s the definition of a workhorse and foundation running back. Foster’s averaged 23.5 touches per game the past five seasons as a top-end RB1. He was being drafted as the overall RB6 this year, and many viewed that as a bargain. The one thing you knew with Foster was that as long as he was on the field, he was going to put up numbers.
Now with Foster staring at a lengthy absence, the Texans are in scramble mode. Alfred Blue was one of the least effective running backs in the league as a 2014 rookie, and Houston did very little to upgrade the position in the offseason and protect itself in case of a Foster injury. But here we are. Blue, Chris Polk, Jonathan Grimes and seventh-round rookie Kenny Hilliard round out the depth chart. Houston is also bringing in veteran free agents Pierre Thomas, Joe McKnight and Ben Malena for workouts Thursday with the hope that Thomas impresses and earns a contract. The Texans have also reportedly discussed veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
If Thomas signs on, we’d fully expect a committee approach in the backfield with Blue, Grimes and Polk competing for early-down and short-yardage work, while Thomas handles a role similar to what he did in New Orleans as a catch-first running back. Currently, none of these guys are worth more than a late-round flier in fantasy drafts. The Texans will have to funnel their offense through DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins was already a sneaky candidate to finish top-five in targets, but now he’s in the mix to lead the league. Unfortunately, Hopkins is all Houston has, which means defenses can shade coverage his way. It also sounds like Browns castoff Brian Hoyer is the front-runner in the Texans’ quarterback competition. Hoyer was Pro Football Focus’ least-accurate passer in 2014.
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In Other News…
Browns beat writer Mary Kay Cabot considers Terrelle Pryor a “lock” for the 53-man roster. “He can do this,” said Cabot. Pryor has made a seamless transition from quarterback to receiver and has even been sprinkled in with the first-team offense at the onset of camp. Coach Mike Pettine is already talking about a package of “special plays” for Pryor this season, a sign that Pryor not only will make the roster, but also be involved on offense. He’s easily the best athlete on that side of the ball in Cleveland. Pryor is worth a late-round flier in deeper best-ball drafts.
One of the biggest values in fantasy at the moment at his 7th-8th round ADP, Rashad Jennings is looking “big, strong, fast and quick” early on in Giants camp. A young 30 years old with plenty of tread left on his tires, Jennings is over last season’s knee and ankle injuries. Jennings was averaging over 20 touches per games the first eight weeks of last season before he started to break down. Although he might not get quite that workload again, Jennings is still the best back in an underrated offense. Shane Vereen is only an option as a pass-catcher, and Andre Williams was a slug as a rookie.
The Bills handed Charles Clay a blank check as a free agent and ended up making him one of the league’s highest-paid tight ends. One would imagine they’d have big plans on offense for Clay. But through four days of camp, Clay has yet to see a pass-game target. Things can obviously change, but we’ve been skeptical of Clay’s potential usage in Buffalo from the start. This is going to be the league’s worst passing offense, and the Bills signed Clay more for his Swiss Army knife ways as a do-it-all player who can line up in multiple spots and create mismatches than for him to actually put up numbers in the box score. He figures to be a 4-50 or 5-60 guy on a weekly basis with a few TDs.
Quarterback & Running Back Quick Slants
Coach Ken Whisenhunt threw some praise David Cobb’s direction, saying he’s been pleased with the rookie running back despite his early struggles in pass protection. … The Rams made it clear Tuesday they are taking a “long-term” approach with Todd Gurley (knee), who has been limited to individual work at training camp. … Free agent Ray Rice admitted he contemplated suicide during his year away from football last season. He’s still aiming for another shot. … The Broncos plan to run the ball more in the red zone this season. … The Chiefs want to give Jamaal Charles more rest this season. Expect him to average 16-20 touches per game in 2015, keeping him locked in as an RB1. … Coach Mike Pettine called rookie RB Duke Johnson’s (hamstring) absence from practice “disappointing”. He’s expected to be sidelined a couple weeks. … LaMichael James has drawn praise for his work in pass protection from coach Joe Philbin. … Joique Bell (ankles, Achilles’) doesn’t have a timetable for return. … Terrance West may be “on thin ice” in Cleveland due to maturity issues. … Johnny Manziel has upped his play since the Browns opened camp. … Jay Ajayi has been a “bit of a disappointment so far” at Dolphins camp. … The Eagles are talking extension with contract-year QB Sam Bradford. … Stepfan Taylor has been working behind Kerwynn Williams on the Cardinals’ backfield depth chart.
Wide Receiver & Tight End Quick Slants
Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell doesn’t expect suspended WR Justin Blackmon to play another down in the NFL. … Undrafted rookie WR Jordan Taylor, aka “Sunshine”, has been impressing at Broncos camp. … The Rams expect Brian Quick (shoulder surgery) to play in preseason games. … Browns rookie WR Vince Mayle has had a case of the drop-sees so far during camp. … Eagles waived UDFA WR Devante Davis. He’s a height-weight-speed freak at 6’3/220 with 4.57 wheels. … Brandon Coleman is expected to make the Saints’ final roster. … Patriots waived/injured TE A.J. Derby. … Third-round WR Ty Montgomery has caught the eye of onlookers at Packers camp. … 49ers WR Bruce Ellington is again battling an injury, this time a left leg issue after missing much of spring with a right hamstring problem. … Patriots WR Brian Tyms was carted off the field with an apparent arm injury Tuesday. … Kevin White (shin) remains without a timetable for return, but is scheduled to ramp up his running program. … The Cardinals want rookie WR J.J. Nelson (5’10/156) to bulk up. … WRs coach Ken O’Keefe expects DeVante Parker (foot surgery) to be part of the Week 1 game plan. He’s still 3-4 weeks away from practicing. … Allen Hurns has been running as the first-team wideout opposite Allen Robinson, ahead of Marqise Lee. Robinson continues to look like a legit No. 1 receiver after his strong spring has carried over into the summer. … Cody Latimer is making “catch after catch” at Broncos camp. … Andrew Quarless has missed the start of training camp after grieving the loss of his newborn daughter, who passed upon delivery. … Albert Wilson has been clicking with Alex Smith at Chiefs camp. He’s battling for snaps behind Jeremy Maclin. … Ladarius Green is seeing more work with the starting offense. … New Bucs OC and ex-Falcons play caller Dirk Koetter compared Austin Seferian-Jenkins to future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. … Kendall Wright projects to lead the Titans in catches. … Beat writer Jimmy Kempski expects a “big season” out of Jordan Matthews. … Jimmy Graham expects to be blocking 75 percent of the time with the Seahawks. That’s an exaggeration, but Graham’s targets are going to take a sizable hit from New Orleans to Seattle.