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Adrian Peterson vs. Arian Foster

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Adrian Peterson vs. Arian Foster

Normally, I’d avoid talking about the No. 1 pick in the draft. The reason is only one owner in our league will make this decision. Ergo, this article is only pertinent to less than 10 percent of our readers. But as stated in the preview, I was forced to make this decision in our current Fantasy Sharks draft (in an ironic twist of fate I also have the No. 1 pick in my 20-year league; don’t ask). Here is my evaluation as I prepare to make my decision.

For years my criteria for selecting players in the first round has been based on five major factors: 1) talent; 2) team talent; 3) coaching staff /offensive system; 4) offensive line; and 5) injury prone status. As I ready to my selection I’ll simply go down my checklist.

Talent

Just so we’re clear, I define talent as a player’s God-given ability to score fantasy points. Talent always carries the greatest amount of weight in my decision making process. When it comes to evaluating talent, both Foster and Peterson are premier NFL players. However, I believe the edge must go to Peterson. The guy is a physical specimen as a modern day gladiator. This was no more evident than his 2,000-yard season after a devastating knee injury late in the 2011 season. Few players even return to the field, let alone become the NFL MVP.

Peterson 1, Foster 0

Team Talent

If you’re new to fantasy football, team talent is a team's ability to keep the defense honest with other offensive weapons. I think we can all agree Foster has the advantage in this category. Although Matt Schaub has yet to elevate to QB1 status, his production level is far superior to the sporadic play of Christian Ponder. I’ll also give the slightest of edge to Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels and DeAndre Hopkins over Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and Cordarrelle Paterson.

My evaluation of team talent also extends to the defensive side of the football, in which the Texans are a dominant unit led by J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, Brooks Reed, Whitney Mercilus, Jonathan Joseph, Ed Reed and Danieal Manning (let’s not forget defensive coordinator Wade Phillips). A defense’s ability to keep their opponents off the field equates to a greater number of opportunities for a running back to score fantasy points. Yes, please.

Finally, when assessing each player’s handcuff, I’d prefer Ben Tate over Toby Gerhart. Tate has proven he can play at a high level. Should Foster miss action, we would have a viable fantasy starter in the wings.

Foster 1, Peterson 1

Coaching Staff/Offensive System

Coaching staff is a huge factor in our evaluation, which includes the offensive system and play calling. Foster again gets the edge as I believe Gary Kubiak has a superior offensive mind to Bill Musgrave. Amongst the pioneers of the zone-blocking scheme, Kubiak is able to develop running lanes allowing Foster to get downhill. Furthermore, Kubiak is also a master getting Foster the ball in space through the passing game.

Foster 2, Peterson 1

Offensive Line

That brings us to the offensive line. Often overlooked and continually underrated, evaluating a team’s offensive line with our early-round selections will prove to be critical (also the reason I’m high on Jamaal Charles). While the Minnesota Vikings have a solid front seven capable of playing power football, the Texans get the advantage in both talent and scheme. Furthermore, Foster is a perfect fit for the classic zone-blocking scheme that has seen many great runners prosper (a smoother version of Terrell Davis).

Foster 3, Peterson 1

Injury Prone Status

Normally this would be a no-brainer. Any player who suffered a devastating knee injury in his career and admitted to playing with a sports hernia the year before would be the clear choice. This is the same reason Peterson burned me, and about 25 million other fantasy owners last season. But even after a miracle season, I’m still siding with Foster. I can’t let myself forget that Peterson missed games in 2010 and 2011 during the critical fantasy postseason. I realize Foster has had a few setbacks, but he’s only missed two games in the past three years, Weeks 1 and 3 of the 2011 season.

That brings our final score to Foster 4, Peterson 1. Before you throw tomatoes in my face, I must state that Peterson has the higher reward simply based on talent, and could very easily become the top scoring fantasy running back. But with the No. 1 overall pick we are banking our entire season on this single decision. For my hard-earned money I believe Foster the better bet to finish the season amongst the top-3 in running back scoring, while being around for the postseason. With the first pick in the Fantasy Sharks Draft, I’m taking Arian Foster. Bring on the hate mail.