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Former Fantasy Studs - Chance For Greatness Again?

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Expect big things from Arian Foster this year. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.
Expect big things from Arian Foster this year. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Arian Foster and Ray Rice were consensus first round picks in 2013. Their poor showings cost a lot of fantasy owners big time, undoubtedly many of them missing the playoffs. This season however, their expectations have had the floor dropped out from under them, with Foster being drafted at the end of the third round and Rice lasting all the way until Round 6. Both of these backs have shown the ability to dominate in the past, but which would you rather have this year? Is there any value left for these two? Let’s take a look at each to see who has the best chance to deliver this season.

Ray Rice has had a rather eventful year. Not only is he coming into the season with an expected committee approach to the Ravens backfield, but he also is dealing with the fallout of the domestic violence incident with his wife. This will likely result in a suspension for the first few weeks of the season. Are there any positives left for Rice? Why is he even being drafted as early as he is?  It's expected that the offense won’t struggle as much as it did last year. Dennis Pitta is healthy again, and the addition of Steve Smith should return to the Ravens much of what was lost with the departure of Anquan Boldin. The offensive line was an issue last season, and as of right now doesn’t look much stronger.

Now let’s take a look at Foster. We all know the story. Undrafted out of Tennessee, signed as a free agent by Houston, monster 2010 season. We also know about his injury history, but he’s seemingly healthy after offseason back surgery.  The opportunity for Foster is there this season with Ben Tate’s departure to Cleveland. New Texans coach Bill O’Brien has already stated that he thinks Foster will have a heavy workload.

Here's how their schedules play out.

Baltimore Ravens Schedule

        Houston Texans Schedule

 Opponent /2013  Def. Rank vs. RB

  Opponent /2013  Def. Rank vs. RB

Wk 1  Cincinnati/3rd Wk 1  Washington/28th
Wk 2 Pittsburgh/20th Wk 2 Oakland/27th
Wk 3 Cleveland/16th Wk 3 NY Giants/14th
Wk 4 Carolina/2nd Wk 4 Buffalo/15th
Wk 5 Indianapolis/13th Wk 5 Dallas/32nd
Wk 6 Tampa Bay/6th Wk 6 Indianapolis/13th
Wk 7 Atlanta/22nd Wk 7 Pittsburgh/20th
Wk 8 Cincinnati/3rd Wk 8 Tennessee/29th
Wk 9 Pittsburgh/20th Wk 9 Philadelphia/11th
Wk 10 Tennessee/29th Wk 10 Cleveland/16th
Wk 11 New Orleans/10th Wk 11 Cincinnati/3rd
Wk 12 San Diego/12th Wk 12 Tennessee/29th
Wk 13 Miami/21st Wk 13 Jacksonville/23rd
Wk 14 Jacksonville/23rd Wk 14 Indianapolis/13th
Wk 15 Houston/19th Wk 15 Baltimore/7th
Wk 16 Cleveland/16th Wk 16 Jacksonville/23rd

The story is that Rice should expect to miss 2-4 weeks with the suspension, which is a bit of a blessing since he will miss both the Bengals and Steelers for certain, and possibly also the Panthers. That leaves what should be some decent matchups towards the latter half of the season.  As long as he gets the opportunity, Rice should be able to produce. Just don’t expect a rebound as there are much better options, with more upside, to be taking at that position. As for Foster, with 10 matchups against teams in the bottom third of the league from a season ago, he should be in line for some huge games at pivotal times for his owners. It’s likely that Foster will be one of the most sought after trade targets throughout the season. With a steady defense, and better QB play than a season ago (see: not Matt Schaub), look for him to have a season comparable to his best ever.  At his current ADP, Foster will end up being a steal.