Arian Foster is out.
Whether we want to believe it or not, we all have to come to terms with the fact that the Houston Texans Pro-Bowl running back is going to miss a solid amount of time with a groin injury. It’s tough to know how much time he will miss at this point, but it could be as much as half of the season. Nobody wants a teammate to be injured, but this does present second-year player Alfred Blue with an excellent opportunity to prove himself as Foster’s heir in Houston.
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Blue knows what it is like to have to sit behind an extremely talented player, as he was held to only two starts in his senior season at LSU due to the presence of last year’s breakout rookie, Cleveland’s Jeremy Hill. Now in the NFL, Blue has once again been sitting behind a star, but he may use the injury to Foster to make his own name.
He had a decent rookie season last year, getting three starts due to Foster injuries and totaling 528 yards and 2 touchdowns on 169 carries. This included a stellar game in Week 10 against Cleveland in which he ran for 156 yards on 36 carries but also eight games where he averaged less than three yards per carry. He showed some flashes of brilliance, but also some real struggles that leave many in doubt as to whether or not he can take over Foster’s role.
The team is also expected to use Chris Polk at running back, but he hasn’t done much to make people think that he’s ready to be a workhorse back. He only has 57 career carries and has never had more than 11 carries in a single game. No, despite what some people have been saying, it seems unlikely that Polk will do much other than in a change-of-pace type role. Unless things change drastically, it will be Alfred Blue getting the majority of the carries for the Texans.
Luckily for him, there will be a lot of carries to go around in Houston this season. The team still does not have a starting quarterback, and even if it did they would probably be run-heavy anyway. Last season the team was 24th in passing yards but 5th in rushing yards, and it seems likely that this is indicative of the Texans’ overall strategy under head coach Bill O’Brien.
The Texans will continue to rely on their defense, the running game, and controlling the ball to win games, and that means that Alfred Blue will get a lot of carries. He will have to be a bit more efficient this season than he was last year though, as he only averaged 3.1 yards per carry in 2014. After his team’s first preseason game, Blue claimed that he felt different about his play than he did the year before:
"“I would say I felt a difference,” said Blue (via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle) “I had the patience and let the blocks develop. You let it come and don’t be too fast out there when you see the first thing and you think that’s the hole. We call it ‘false daylight’ in the backfield, so you’ve just got to let the play develop and be patient.”"
Alfred Blue is currently being drafted as the 37th running back (97th overall) and isn’t even owned in 25% of ESPN fantasy leagues. As a player who will likely get the majority of the carries on a run-heavy team and who seems to have improved from last season, this seems way too low.
Players being drafted ahead of him include Darren McFadden, C.J. Spiller, and Tevin Coleman: all players not expected to get the majority of carries on their team. Alfred Blue, however, should get most of the carries for the Texans, at least for the first several weeks of the season.
He may lose some of his value once Foster returns, but with Arian’s injury history, Blue could be called upon at any time to be the team’s lead back. Also, in many leagues it would be possible to draft both Blue and Foster, giving you the production of the Houston offense for the entire season.
It’s unlikely that Alfred Blue will break into the top-5 fantasy running backs, but he should have the talent, team, and workload to crack the top 15 and be worthy of a start in most fantasy leagues. Certainly in deeper leagues, Alfred Blue is a must-grab player in every fantasy draft. If he can improve upon a decent rookie season, Blue could be one of the best fantasy values in the NFL this season.