After three straight stellar seasons in which Arian Foster was able to remain mostly healthy (three missed games in three seasons from 2010-2012) despite a massive workload, he finally succumbed to the injury bug in 2013. Foster scored only 2 TDs and totaled only 725 combined yards in eight games before landing on injured reserve with a back injury. Before the injuries really took their toll however, Foster was a relatively productive fanasty option in the first six weeks of the season.
While there is little reason to believe Foster will not be healthy and ready to for the start of the season, he is still a 28-year-old RB with a lot of mileage on his body coming off of back surgery. He is far from a guarantee to make it through the entire season healthy.
What would the fantasy impact be should Foster go down with injury?
None. A Foster injury hurts the passing offense as teams will be able to bring more pass rush pressure on QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and focus more coverage on WRs Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. With no clear backup RB at this time, there is a chance a Foster injury would simply lead to a running back by committee with no real fantasy impact. However, if over the next few weeks of preseason action either Jonathan Grimes or Alfred Blue is able to establish himself as the clear #2 RB, then that runner would probably qualify as a "buy." The Houston line is talented enough that even without Foster, it should be able to produce RB2 type numbers if one RB is getting the majority of the carries. For now though, the default assumption probably should be a RBBC until we see some indication that there is real separation between Blue and Grimes.
Andre Johnson- While Ryan Fitzpatrick often hurts his team's chances of winning with poor decisions, he has not been too much of a negative for his top WRs in terms of numbers. Were Foster to go down with injury, the team would likely become a bit more dependent upon the passing game and pass attempts might rise by 2-3 per game. The pass offense would also likely take a bit of an efficiency hit as teams could focus more on pass defense without the fear of Foster in the run game. Overall, the increased attempts and decreased efficiency should mostly even out for the receiving targets in terms of fantasy production.
DeAndre Hopkins- Hopkins has created some positive buzz in camp and is firmly entrenched as the 2nd option in the passing game behind Andre Johnson. If the Texans are forced to focus more on the passing game should Foster go down, Hopkins could see slightly higher targets. He also could see a bit more attention from opposing defensive coordinators, so he would remain a "hold."
Alfred Blue- With the recent release of Andre Brown, the backup RB job is an open competition with Blue and Jonathan Grimes the two leading candidates. While the more experienced Grimes currently sits ahead of rookie Alfred Blue on the depth chart, Blue has the talent and pedigree to win the starting position if Foster were to go down. The athletic 6'2, 222 pound Blue was drafted in the 6th round out of LSU despite limited production as a senior while being stuck behind 2nd round pick Jeremy Hill. Due to his limited usage in college, Blue has flown a bit under the radar for fantasy owners. That should not be the case for the player Les Miles called, "an absolute steal." Blue has been impressing observers and his coaches since early on in OTAs with head coach Bill O'Brien saying in late May, “He’s doing pretty well. He’s a guy that came in here as a talented young player that has shown us early on — very early now, OK? So we’re not sending him off to the Pro Bowl just yet, but he’s able to learn and he’s got some instincts and he so far he seems like a good team guy. I’ve enjoyed being around him.”
The pre-draft scouting report on Blue from NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki reads, "Blue looks the part and would have been the No. 1 back at most schools given his combination of size, speed, power and competitiveness. Is a second-round talent on physical ability alone, but injury and a stacked stable of LSU runners limited Blue’s opportunity to shine. Scheme-versatile runner who is a prime candidate to elevate his stock prior to the draft and be a far more productive pro than college player."
If Foster were to get hurt, Alfred Blue would be a priority addition.
Jonathan Grimes- Grimes is a 3rd year runner who was undrafted out of William & Mary. He has bounced around a bit as the Texans are his 3rd team after short stints with the Jets and Jaguars. Grimes did get a shot at some carries late in the 2013 season, notching 73 yards on 21 attempts for 3.5 YPC. Grimes is a solid receiver out of the backfield and runs with good pad level. He has good vision and running instincts and was a player the previous coaching staff really liked:
Coaches love RB Jonathan Grimes, an undrafted FA from Bill an Mary. Fits this downhill running style.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) July 30, 2012
It remains to be seen whether Grimes can hold off Blue and remain the backup RB in Houston. If he can, he would certainly be worth an add if Foster were to go down.
Texans Defense- If the Texans offense can run the ball effectively, the Texans defense should be an attractive fantasy option. The combination of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney could wreak havoc on opposing QBs. However, should Arian Foster be lost to injury, the Texans would likely be forced to be more reliant upon the passing game. With Ryan Fitzpatrick's turnover prone tendencies, that would be a real negative for the Texans defense which would likely be facing quite a few short fields as opposing offenses take over in Texans territory.
Ryan Fitzpatrick- Even with Arian Foster to draw the focus of opposing defenses Fitzpatrick is a poor fantasty option. Should Foster be lost to injury, any value Fitzpatrick might have had would likely lessen somewhat dramatically. Left to carry the Texans offense without Foster, Fitzpatrick would likely struggle mightily. As seen in Foster's absence last season, the Texans offense just is not the same without Foster.