By Christian S. Kohl
With Kickoff Weekend just a few short weeks away, fantasy draft season is now in full swing. While I personally recommend delaying drafts until the preseason ends to avoid as many costly injuries as possible, circumstances often don’t allow for such fantasy prudence. To that end, the question remains, if one is to be blessed with the #1 overall pick in a fantasy snake draft, should Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster come off the board first?
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First, I must advise that drafting a running back #1 overall becomes progressively less of a no-brainer with each passing year. Even with Adrian Peterson’s superhuman performance last year, he still managed to finish as the seventh overall scorer in conventional fantasy formats, with six QB’s finishing ahead of him. Since running backs carry such inherent injury risk, it is well worth considering drafting an elite quarterback such as Rodgers or Brees before taking a running back, allowing yourself some measure of injury and quality insurance that a high volatility pick like a running back may not. If participating in a 2 QB league, taking an elite quarterback early is all but mandatory. That said, Foster and Peterson are both jaw-slackingly consistent and almost irresistible to take right away. So, which to draft first?
This year, all signs point to taking Peterson before Foster. In the first place, Foster is battling multiple injuries both above and below the waist, with unclear timetables for his full recovery. While Peterson and Foster both sport checkered injury histories, Peterson’s resume sports a far more comfortable type of injury than Foster’s list. Foster wears down, constantly banged up from overuse until his body ultimately gives out. Peterson, conversely, is an absolute carries machine who suffered one major structural injury as a byproduct of his ludicrously aggressive style. Moreover, his recovery was nothing short of a medical marvel, and he produced record numbers just months after suffering that injury.
Because of the beating Foster takes, Houston is also looking to diminish his workload this season, and rightfully so. Fewer carries means fewer TD’s, and it also means fewer shutdown yardage opportunities in the 4th quarter when the Texans lead and wants to close out the ballgame. On the flip side, Peterson is such an integral part of the Minnesota attack (some may argue the only part), that the Vikings cannot afford to bench him when they so frequently trail in the fourth. Houston will also abandon Foster to a large degree in hurry-up and emergency situations if they trail late, meaning generally a fantasy owner gets only three quarters (albeit fantastic ones) from a healthy Foster instead of four from Peterson.
Foster also does not factor in sufficiently in the passing game to consider taking him over ADP in PPR formats, either. Last year, he registered only 2 receiving touchdowns, and never logged 40 yards receiving in a game. Those receiving numbers are superior to Peterson, but not sufficient to consider him more worthwhile as a #1 overall pick.
Winning that pick in the draft is enormously valuable, but picking #1 overall is not just about drafting the player with the highest points ceiling. That pick is also about finding a high-producing pick with appropriate risk mitigation. Jamaal Charles has enormous potential, but carries many question marks, as does Dez Bryant or Matthew Stafford. Let those later drafters wrestle with those issues. Adrian Peterson offers a fantasy owner the perfect storm: he produces consistently on average, registers many explosive week-winning performances, and carries with him as low an injury risk as is possible in today’s brutally violent game. Foster is a fantastic top 5 option, but not quite worthy of #1 overall this year. Take ADP all day long, follow his lead, and never look back.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.