By Ryan Skolrud
News came down last week that the oft-injured running back, Arian Foster, suffered a groin injury and will require surgery. At this point, he is looking to miss the first 10 weeks of the season on the Injured Reserve list with a designation to return. This also means that he may not come back at all if his leg cannot heal properly. This makes him un-draftable. He not even worth a stash pick, as he may never get healthy enough to come back.
So who’s draft stock rises with Foster’s injury? Within the Texans’ organization, these are the two leading candidates.
Alfred Blue, RB – HOU
Blue was the primary backup RB for Foster last season. While he had one game of 36 carries for 156 yards, it was against a CLE defense had trouble stopping a lot of running backs last year. Blue is known more for being a smooth runner than a burner considering his combine 40 time of 4.63 seconds. He also finished with an unimpressive 3.1 yards per carry last year. If Blue can win the starting job in HOU, he could be a mid to late round flier instead of going undrafted or handcuffed to Foster.
Chris Polk, RB – HOU
Alfred Blue may be the lead horse right now in the RB battle with Foster out due to his familiarity with the system. However, Chris Polk could give him a run for his money. Known more as a “one-cut runner” Polk does have a little more shiftiness in his running than Blue, as well as a little more speed. Polk was the second overall career rusher in at the University of Washington when he graduated. In his pro career, Polk averages 4.7 career yards per carry. He has only 76 career touches due to being buried on the depth chart behind LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles in PHI the last few years.
Houston had enough interest in Polk that they considered trading for him after the Eagles acquired DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, but they managed to sign him after he was cut by PHI. Coach Bill O’Brien has stated that Polk could be a “good three-down back”. Talking about Chris Polk on Twitter, ESPN’s Dianna Marie Russini stated, “Look for him to be the first one to see if he can hold down the fort while Foster is out.” Polk has also been used as a kick returner in PHI averaging over 30 yards a return, including a 102 yd TD. He will probably remain undrafted if your league drafts early in the preseason. However, if you draft during the last week, this is a RB situation to keep an eye on for a late round flier or early waiver pickup.
Outside of the Houston Texans, these two players should see their draft stock rise as well:
CJ Anderson, RB – DEN
Anderson’s stock has already been going up this off-season with the hiring of Gary Kubiak in Denver. Kubiak has gotten 1,000 yard rushing seasons out of Terrell Davis (who also had a 2,000 yard season), Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns, Steve Slaton, Arian Foster and Justin Forsett. Five of those eight RBs did it at least twice under Kubiak’s watch as Head Coach or Offensive Coordinator.
CJ Anderson was one of the most productive backs in the NFL over the last 8 weeks of the season. Not only did he run the ball well, he has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. With this and Kubiak recently saying he believes in using a “Bell-Cow” RB, CJ could very well move to being a mid-first rounder behind Charles, Lacy, Bell, Peterson and Lynch. Do not wait to draft CJ! If you try to grab him in the second round, he will most likely already be gone.
Justin Forsett, RB – BAL
Last year, Justin Forsett finished in the top 5 in rushing yards. He also finished with 44 catches out of the backfield. Now, Forsett has Mark Trestman as his OC. This is the same Trestman who gave Matt Forte 102 and 76 receptions out of the backfield the last two seasons. Forsett could be a PPR monster this season after his breakout season from last year, and possibly DOUBLE last year’s catch total.
Many people see Forsett’s season last year as a fluke. He had been a career journeyman that never had a fulltime, starting role. Now he is 29 and nearing the RB age of death. However, Forsett does not have nearly the wear and tear on his body that most RBs his age do. He has less than 750 career touches compared to over 2,200 for Lynch, Peterson & Forte and 1,500 touches for Jamaal Charles & LeSean McCoy. Look for Forsett to climb up the draft boards as we get closer to the season. He will not stay at his current ADP of late second round.