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Fantasy Football: Arian Foster Can Be a Top-5 RB in 2014

Arian Foster Houston Texans

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Last year was a lost season for Arian Foster after being placed on IR due to a back injury midway through the campaign. At present, Foster is usually being taken somewhere in the No. 8 to No. 12 RB range in the second round of mock drafts, though I’ve seen him intentionally passed up in quite a few mocks. Here’s why you shouldn’t hesitate to draft Foster in fantasy football this year if he’s there in the early second round.

There seem to be two main concerns regarding Foster heading into the 2014 season. The first is whether he is and will stay healthy, and the second is how having Ryan Fitzpatrick under center will affect his performance and fantasy production. Here’s why neither of these issues should scare you away from drafting Foster.

Foster underwent microscopic lumbar discectomy surgery last November to correct the lower back issues that were troubling him last season. He was medically cleared this past March, and Foster should be a full participant in training camp and preseason. The only question that remains is whether he has fully recovered from his surgery.

Per Stephania Bell over at ESPN, Foster’s history of chronic hamstring issues may well have stemmed from the bulging disc in his back, which this surgery corrected. The micro discectomy he underwent has also become more routine in recent years. A prime example of a quick rebound from such a surgery is Steven Jackson, who rushed for 1,200 yards and six TDs in the season following his procedure in 2010.

I’m not a medical professional, so I will have to take her word for all of this. But it sounds like Foster’s injury shouldn’t be an issue heading into 2014. In fact, even while playing through his injury during the first six games of the 2013 season, Foster was on pace for about 1,400 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving.

So what about his QB play? Should that be a topic of concern for Foster’s performance? I honestly can’t discern why everyone thinks that Fitzpatrick is a huge downgrade from Matt Schaub.

The last full season in which Schaub started for the Houston Texans, he threw for just over 4,000 yards and 22 TDs. As the starting QB of the Tennessee Titans following Jake Locker’s injury last year, Fitzpatrick averaged 235 yards and 1.3 TDs per game. Averaged out to a full season, Fitzpatrick’s stats would have totaled around 3,800 yards and 21 TDs. Foster’s yardage totals shouldn’t take a huge hit from the QB change in Houston.

The only real concern is Foster’s potential TD production. Fitzpatrick does tend to turn the ball over more than Schaub. Moreover, Foster may not see as many red zone carries if the passing offense stagnates during games. However, Foster has shown time and again that he has the game-changing talent to make something out of nothing and break for long TDs regardless of the situation.

I’m not worried about Foster’s fantasy production this coming season. New head coach Bill O’Brien has already stated that he plans to use Foster heavily in all aspects of the game, and it’s clear that the offense in Houston will still run through the RB. Don’t be surprised if Foster bounces back from his injury-riddled season last year and goes off for 2,000 yards from scrimmage and eight total TDs in 2014.

Meng Song is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ms0ng, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your Google+ network.