We asked our readers to tell us whether or not Arian Foster had cracked the ranks of the elite.  The answer was thatFoster had not only cracked the rankings, but that he was the top fantasy football running back entering 2011.

The poll question: Arian Foster is posting elite numbers which begs the question; is Foster among the elite?  How do you rank Foster right now for the 2011 draft?

The poll results…

Foster is #1, ahead of both Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson   45%
Foster is #3, behind both Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson29%
Foster is #2, behind Adrian Peterson      10%
Foster is not a top three running back8%
Foster is #2, behind Chris Johnson   7%

We found it interesting that voters generally thought Foster was either  number one, ahead of both Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, or  the third best back behind both of them.  Only 18% of voters thought that Foster was the number two back.  It will come as a surprise to some that of the votes for Foster as the number two back, more voters favored Peterson as the lone back ahead of Foster than Johnson.

Let’s take a look at why the voting went the way have gone the way  it did and try to come to a conclusion as to who should be the top ranked fantasy football running back entering 2011.  Here are the current stats for each player;

PlayerAttemptsYardsYPCRecYardsTDsFantasy PtsPPR Fantasy Pts
Arian Foster245122855047915255305
Adrian Peterson23311234.83333212217240
Chris Johnson23610264.3291199163192

Last season, Chris Johnson amassed a staggering 2,509 total yards.  He made it look easy, averaging 5.6 ypc and finding the end zone 16 times.  This year has been a different story.  Running room has been much harder to find for Chris Johnson, who ranks just seventh among running backs in fantasy points on the season.  Quarterback instability has been a factor and his offensive line, ranked 17th by Yahoo entering the season, has not done him any favors.   Johnson has been stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage on 25% of his carries, only Seattle and Detroit have worse run blocking efficiencies.

The Titans have struggled to develop any other weapons.  Kenny Britt has been brilliant at times, but just as he was maturing and beginning to realize his huge potential he suffered an injury which has sidelined him since week 8.  Randy Moss has been a non-factor and the complimentary players in Tennessee are blatantly average.  Defenses are essentially preparing to stop Chris Johnson and daring the Titans to find a way, any other way, to beat them.

Chris Johnson is the smallest of the three backs we are examining and his 408 total touches from a year ago may also enter the equation.  We have seen time and time again that running backs on the receiving end of 400 plus touches see diminishing returns the following season.  As an undrafted free agent who was not given much of a shot in his rookie season, Arian Foster has comparatively little mileage on his legs.  The 6’1, 227 lb rusher’s professional touches add it up to a grand total of 358.  Contrast that number with Chris Johnson’s total of 967 touches over his three year career and Adrian Peterson’s workload of 1,264 combined carries and catches and you can see how he may be less banged up.  Hits from the massive,  stellar athletes that man NFL defenses have a cumulative effect.

Adrian Peterson’s offensive line has not been as strong as the front men of the Houston Texans, but they have provided more push that the group in Tennessee.  In 2009, the Vikings were surprisingly ineffective at run blocking, finishing twentieth in rush blocking efficiency.  FootballOutsiders.com maintains a very interesting, and revealing stat, called Adjusted Line Yards which assigns responsibility to the offensive line based on a proprietary formula which weights runs by different yardage “buckets”.  According to their stats, Peterson’s offensive line is better than average at number twelve overall on the season, but not close to the Texans big men who come in at number three.  Chris Johnson labors behind a group that pulls up the read at thirty.

Not only does Arian Foster have the best blocking of the trio in question, but he has the most stability at the QB position and a much more feared passing game.  The Vikings and Titans have huge question marks at the quarterback position for 2011.  Will it be Tavaris Jackson in Minnesota?  Is that more of handicap than a benefit?  Who will be under center for the Titans?  Can Kenny Britt mature enough emotionally to be a reliable NFL wide receiver for a full season?  Randy Moss is unlikely to return to the Titans in 2011.

Matt Schaub may not be an elite QB, but he is better than what the Titans and Vikings have on their roster at this moment.  The Vikings at least have the kind of receiving targets that will demand attention from safeties, again, however, Foster has the edge.  He will benefit from playing on the same side of the ball as all-world talent Andre Johnson.

There are dozens of factors, known and unknown that will need to be taken into account before a decision on who will be the top ranked back entering the 2011 season is made.  Strength of schedule, healthy of the player and team existing preseason football, coaching changes, and more.  None of that should stop us from starting the debate right now.  A quick glance at the score card at this point indicates that our voters are on to something in their opinion that Arian Foster is the lead dog, followed by Adrian Peterson as we enter the closing stretch of 2010 and cast our glance toward the 2011 season.

If we were ranking pure talent, these results may be quite different.  It’s hard to argue against the body of work of either Peterson or Johnson in that respect.  But, alas, we are not comparing these backs based strictly on talent.  Football is a team game and one back has a clear advantage in supporting cast.

Again, thing can change quickly.  The Titans will have an entire off season to address the offensive line and quarterback position.  They may even have a new coach and offensive philosophy.  We can only speculate as to what the team will look like when the 2011 season kicks off.  The Vikings may or may not have Tavaris Jackson behind an improved offensive line.  One of these two teams may have a QB like Kevin Kolb or another signal caller that proves to be equal or better than Matt Schaub.  No one knows what the off season will hold, but our final analysis upholds the opinoins of  the FFSpin.com readers.  If we were drafting right now for the 2011 season, Arian Foster is our #1 overall pick.

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3 Responses to “Wrapping Up the Latest Spin Poll. We Dive Deep Into the Question of Who Should be #1 in 2011 Drafts…”

  1. So how does Ben Tate factor into this next year? does that bring some of Foster’s value down?

  2. Great question on Tate! He is the reason why I didn’t buy into Foster earlier. Until Tate went down for the year I was sure the Texans would have to give a 2nd rd draft pick like him a shot. We will have to see how it plays out in the off season, but I am pretty confident that the Texans know what they have in Foster. A larger concern for me might be what a coaching change would mean. That zone blocking scheme is sweet for running backs and Foster clearly thrives in the current offensive system.

  3. The Tate factor is something consider. There are more than just these three backs to consider at #1 though. MJD and Hillis have to enter the conversation now.

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