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Running Backs Movin' Up - Week 17
Tim Van Prooyen
December 29, 2009
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Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Movin’ Up

Breakdown: The season of fantasy football is coming to an end.  With that in mind we realize that, minus the opportunity that may arise due to injury, the players with something to bring to the table this fantasy season are pretty much well known to all.  Therefore our perspective must change a bit, leading us to look beyond just this season but to next season as well.  Whether for keeper league purposes, trade purposes, or whatever other purposes may be pertinent, we’ll be taking a weekly look at players and situations that fantasy owners should be aware of in order to be on top of their game moving forward.

Brandon Jackson (GBP) – If you’re still playing heading in to this coming week, congratulations.  If you’re playing and looking for help on the waiver wire, best of luck to you.  However, one name you might be taking a look at is Brandon Jackson from Green Bay after his three touchdown performance last Sunday.  Knowing he’d be a hot item this week I felt it would be good to take a look at his situation and help owners know what his value may or may not be moving forward.

Jackson, who has been in and out of the doghouse in Green Bay, was out of it at least for one week, and had a day any fantasy owner would be ecstatic about, however, whether or not it signifies him moving up is another matter altogether.  Here is a look at things as we know them at the moment.  The Packers are relatively thin at running back.  After Grant they pretty much have Jackson and Ahman Green.  Green is at the end of his career and likely will retire or at best get one more year of spot duty.  Jackson has a history of injuries that so far have appeared to keep him from reaching his potential, and his frequent trips to the coach’s dog house are not to be overlooked.  However, the team seems to be giving him a good look in the last few weeks of the season to see what they are looking at should they decided to keep him in their plans.  He’s had a consistent number of receptions week in and week out, not a lot, but about two a week on average, and he’s stayed relatively healthy since returning for the teams fifth game of the season from an ankle injury.  His average per carry though has been less than exciting for a running back.  He’s only getting three yards a carry on average, not enough to make anyone get too excited.

What this all points to is really someone that fantasy owners should probably avoid looking beyond this week, and even then he should only be an option for the most desperate of teams – teams that shouldn’t really be playing this week anyway without a huge streak of luck.  It is likely that Jackson will continue to have simply the type of role he’s been playing this year, whether in Green Bay or elsewhere, but it would be very surprising to see him have another day like he did last Sunday again in his career.

Arian Foster (HOU) – What a difference a year makes.  At this time last season no one would have thought that Steve Slaton wouldn’t be the main guy in Houston at this point in the 2009 season.  However, the Texan’s running game has been plagued by, well, by a little bit of just about everything bad you can think of for a running game.  There have been nagging injuries, fumblitis, missed reads, dropped catches, the works.  Ryan Moats has had a go, Chris Brown has had a go, Slaton had things pretty well in hand, until he started coughing up the ball himself.  Enter Arian Foster, an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee.  After an initial solid outing three weeks ago, he also got a case of the drops and ended up on the bench, but responded with a very good showing last Sunday.  So, where does that put fantasy owners looking forward to this week and beyond into next season – that’s what we’re here to figure out.

At 6’1”, 215 pounds, Foster has good size for a running back no question.  He is a good bit bigger than Steve Slaton, so could be more durable, and while he isn’t as big as Chris Brown, that could also make him more durable – in the other direction.  Meanwhile, he can be a bruiser more so than the smaller Slaton, and therefore could be a goal line option in lieu of Chris Brown.  So, in those areas he’s a plus.  In the short term, as in this coming week, he’s the starter, no doubt.  If you’re in a redraft league and need help and can get him, go for it.  He’ll be playing the Patriots, so won’t have an easy time but should put up a few points and a possible touchdown, and he’ll be at home in a must win game for his team, all intangibles that point in his favor.

However, what about next year?  Does he have a long term good prognosis?  It’s tough to say with the limited amount of action he’s seen, but here are some things to think about.  First, both Moats and Brown are free agents after this season, meaning at least one, if not both, could sign elsewhere.  They both have a couple good years left and will want to go where they have the best opportunity to play, whether that is in Houston or elsewhere.  However, the likelihood of them both staying is slim, as this is a crowded backfield.  Slaton is signed for a couple more years, but even during his breakout season last year there was still a lot of talk about him not being built to carry a full load year in and year out, and it appears that these fears have been relatively well founded.  Slaton is explosive though, and will figure into the team’s plans if he can quit fumbling.  Foster makes a lot of sense to be a complimentary back to Slaton, but instead of just a goal line option, he can make things happen from anywhere on the field, which could be very helpful to a team that is known more for its passing than rushing.  The downside here is that Foster’s durability has some questions as well, but we haven’t had long enough to see how he does in the NFL, so we have to give him the benefit of the doubt there.

Bottom line, if you are in a spot where you have room for a gamble in your keeper league for next season, this is one that is very attractive, especially with the premium at the position.  You could do worse as far as gambles go, because the situational facts point in the direction of a lot of opportunity to grow for Foster.

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