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Don't overreact to Arian Foster injury

8/29/2011

Although I didn't actually tweet this past week, trying to enjoy a vacation that ended early thanks to angry, bitter Hurricane Irene, I did, of course, check Twitter. (Hopefully, my East Coast brethren are safe.) We get loads of information -- and entertainment -- from social media these days, including the thoughts of injured Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, who created some unwanted attention in the fantasy world with this short Sunday missive:

"4 those sincerely concerned, I'm doing ok & plan 2 B back by opening day. 4 those worried abt your fantasy team, u ppl are sick"

I'm no psychologist, but Foster seems a tad angry to me, maybe even bitter. In truth, it means little to me how he feels about the great game known as fantasy football, which in turn feeds interest in the great game of real football. He's entitled to his now-public thoughts. I just want to know how his balky left hamstring feels. Whether I'm sick or not, well, I guess that depends whom you ask!

Look, it's Monday morning. I'm trying to be positive, but there's always time for perspective. The reality is millions of people are without power and/or have flooded basements. Fantasy football doesn't compare. But let's face it, football fans and fantasy owners do want to know what's going on with the athletes, and it certainly doesn't necessarily label them sick, selfish or uncaring about someone's health. Call us inquisitive. Just don't call the Texans offices, please! That doesn't make anyone look good.

At this point, I feel Foster's sore hammy isn't a big issue. In fact, if your draft is quickly approaching and you're holding a top-three pick, I say you go ahead and pretend he's perfectly healthy and there's nothing to worry about. That is not entirely the case, of course, but we should view this realistically. To me, the first-round depth this year isn't exactly strong. In fact, I struggle to find 10 players my gut considers actual top-10 draft-day options, at least in standard leagues. Foster was fantasy's top player last season, its top running back by a monstrous 81 fantasy points. Absolutely he could do it again. Until Foster reinjured his hamstring this week, I had him tabbed as my No. 2 player overall, tucked neatly between Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. Should this injury -- not the last line of Foster's tweet -- drastically change things? I'm just not there yet, though injury news in the next week could adjust that stance, of course.

What if Foster does miss Week 1? Well, those of you ready to exalt Ben Tate to top-30 running back status are likely erring. Texans coach Gary Kubiak has had multiple chances to discuss his running back hierarchy, and enticing Tate is not even second on the depth chart; Derrick Ward is. Yes, the same Ward who once upon a time topped 1,000 rushing yards as a New York Giants reserve, though he has disappointed since. Yes, Tate was the first Texans running back selected in ESPN average live drafts a season ago before suffering a season-ending injury. And yes, Tate ranks fifth in the league in the rather meaningless preseason rushing yards so far -- he has averaged a cool 7.4 yards per tote -- and Ward has done little. Still, I don't think Foster will miss time, so Tate is merely a borderline standard-league pick.

My main issue with dropping Foster down in Round 1 or even out of it altogether is the lack of other reliable choices. I'm serious. It's the same with currently absent Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson. He's a risk, too. He and his "lowly" contract might opt to sit Week 1. In fact, I think it's more likely Johnson will sit than Foster. But the season is longer than just September, folks, and these fellows should be among fantasy's best again. I can't bypass them at, say, the fifth or sixth overall pick for lesser -- and still flawed, I might add -- running backs. I can't definitively say the surgically repaired left knee of Jacksonville Jaguars star Maurice Jones-Drew is 100 percent healthy, and we're not likely to know for sure this preseason, either. I can't drop Foster or Johnson below Jones-Drew, and I certainly don't want to go all the way down to Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, Darren McFadden or Peyton Hillis territory. Those guys all feel like second-round picks to me.

If drafting today, Peterson and Charles are the first two players off my draft board. Don't sell Charles short. Yes, Thomas Jones is still there and Matt Cassel will find a challenging schedule hardly to his liking, but Charles is a dynamic player. Foster and Johnson are next, coming in at Nos. 3 and 4. Perhaps in the next week or so, the Baltimore Ravens' Ray Rice and Philadelphia Eagles' LeSean McCoy will pass them, but they're not free of risk, either. They certainly could see goal-line opportunities infringed upon by former Miami Dolphins Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, respectively. Bottom line is there's risk everywhere in Round 1, including with a certain Eagles quarterback many choose to throw in there.

So, for those who have asked (and even if you haven't), here's my updated (yet constantly changing) first-round rankings: Peterson, Charles, Foster, Chris Johnson, Rice, McCoy, Jones-Drew, Rashard Mendenhall, Gore, Michael Turner. Take Michael Vick in the first round if you prefer, or a wide receiver such as Andre Johnson or Roddy White, but I'm sticking with the running backs, even the ones who aren't 100 percent healthy (or happy, in Johnson's case).