Plenty of people will tell you that fantasy football analysis is an inexact science. I respond by calling that an oxymoron. There is nothing inexact about science. When it comes to analyzing the merits of different NFL players based on their fantasy potential, there are plenty of “scientific” ways to determine which guy will best help you win your fantasy league in the 2013 season — age, strength of schedule … which shoe they put on first. Lots of sensible factors like that.
Which is why we’re bringing you a new series for the offseason — This or That. Every Thursday, we’ll pick a pair of NFL players that you could be forced to choose between on draft day and break down who is the best bet for 2013. Because as Black Sheep told us many years ago, you can get with this or you can get with that. But you can’t get with both, because that means you shortchanged someone a draft pick … or something like that.
So without further ado, we begin with the two men likely to be at the top of draft boards all around the country.
This or That: Arian Foster or Adrian Peterson?
Age: The good news is that both guys are still a little ways away from the dreaded running back age of 30. Peterson is just a couple of weeks away from his 28th birthday, while Foster will blow out 27 candles early in the 2013 season. However, Peterson has been a workhorse since he first stepped on an NFL field, averaging 292 carries per season in his six years. Sure, he looked great in his 348 carries last season, but he’s got a few more miles on him than Foster.
Injury: Although both players have been pretty healthy during their careers, neither has fully escaped the injury bug. Peterson famously returned from major knee surgery and looked better than he ever had — which is saying something. But not to be outdone, Foster dealt with a hamstring injury that was “anti-awesome”. Considering how both players rebounded from their injuries, it’s almost like they never happened.
Rankings: Since Foster became a full-time starter in 2010, he’s been a top five fantasy running back every season, including being the top scorer in his first season as a lead RB. During that same stretch, Peterson has landed in the top five twice. Granted that when AD missed that plateau in 2011, he missed four games with an injury and still finished seventh at his position. If he had played a 16-game season, it’s likely he might have passed Foster in the rankings. And if I was a billionaire, I’d probably be married to Janet Jackson. Sometimes life isn’t fair.
Offensive help: In 2012, the Texans had the NFL’s seventh-most productive offense. Certainly Foster had a lot to do with that, but it helps to have Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels to help relieve some pressure and back defenses off just a little bit. As for the Vikings? Once Percy Harvin went on injured reserve, there were no other legitimate threats in the Minnesota offense. That lack of help made Peterson’s 2,097-yard season that much more impressive, but that’s no way to run a railroad (or an offense).
Schedule: On paper, things set up well for Foster and the Texans. Houston has the league’s sixth-easiest schedule in 2013, facing a slate of teams that finished 14 games below .500 last season. What’s more, Foster has the second-most forgiving schedule for fantasy running backs — going up against teams that allowed an average of 18.66 points per game in 2012. Contrast that with the Vikings, who have the 10th-toughest schedule while battling teams who gave up the second-fewest fantasy points to RBs in 2012. Not exactly the stuff fantasy dreams are made of.
Nickname: Peterson can boast a couple of different nicknames — notably AD, All Day or Purple Jesus. Meanwhile, Foster was forced to break the cardinal rule of nicknames and make up his own. And it’s not even a good one.
Acting chops: Foster has had a few nice turns on some television commercials, but Peterson dated Brooklyn Decker on a episode of The League. Game over.
Words of Wisdom: While there is plenty that can be gleaned from Peterson’s childlike wonder at being presented an orange peanut, Foster actually had a series of blog posts titled “Weekly Words of Wisdom with Arian Foster“. On top of that, he was arguably the most interesting athlete on Twitter. Sadly, Foster has announced he’s shutting down his Twitter account, but his previous body of work is good enough to earn him a victory here.
When it’s all said and done, it turns out that it’s not even close. Arian Foster is the winner of this week’s This or That by a fairly wide margin. You can thank me when you’re picking him with the first overall selection in your drafts this fall.
— Marcas Grant
Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG