Friday, November 16, 2012

Is Arian Foster a Legit MVP Candidate?

With his team at 8-1, Houston Texans running back Arian Foster has put forth another exceptional season to date. The Pro Bowler has rushed for 872 yards and a league leading 10 TDs while hauling in 17 passes for 92 yards and another two touchdowns. In the past, the league leader in TDs playing on the best team in the NFL was almost always a surefire front-runner in MVP discussions. Then how come Foster is seldom mentioned with the league’s elite and overlooked as a serious contender for MVP?

Foster has been overshadowed in 2012 as an MVP candidate largely because of the position he plays. As recent as five years ago, running backs were very important pieces to a team’s offense and served as the focal point of many offensive attacks. However, due to slew of rule changes that favor the passing game, quarterbacks are putting up astronomical stats and have virtually taken over the bill of postseason awards. With records falling and points being scored as a furious pace, QBs have further solidified their place as the most important position in all of sports.

If the MVP ballots were cast today, occupying the top of most lists would be QBs Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan. The next tier of candidates would probably include the likes of QB Drew Brees and RB Adrian Peterson and maybe somebody like WR Calvin Johnson or QB Tom Brady.

Foster gets lost in this mix because gone are the days where multiple running backs are in this discussion. Unfortunately for Foster, Peterson holds a significant lead in the rushing yards category over Foster (3rd) and has nearly scored as many TDs (7), all while coming off an ACL injury last December that would have most players sidelined well into this season. Peterson’s numbers are very good, but his story makes them great. Factor in that Peterson is doing all of this on a subpar offense with few weapons around him and he is the clear choice as the NFL’s top running back this season over Foster and everybody else.

The last unfortunate hurdle Foster would have to overcome to be a serious MVP contender is the fact that he isn’t having the best season of any player on his own team. The argument could be made that through the first half of the season, DE J.J. Watt has a better shot at bringing home a league MVP than Foster does. Watt is on a very short list for Defensive Player of the Year, and his dominance has been highly noticeable. Right now, Watt is the best player at his position in the league, leads the NFL in sacks, and causes mayhem in every which way, from attacking the quarterback to swatting down passes at the line of scrimmage to clogging holes in the run game.

In the end, Foster probably isn’t a serious MVP contender right now. Running back is no longer a premier, award-winning position and at the moment, Foster isn’t the top player at the position. Foster also isn’t the top or most important player on his team right now. This isn’t to say Foster can’t climb back into the discussion, but he’ll need to improve on his stats with the help of his linemen. The telling stats for Foster is his 3.9 yards per carry, which is 29th in the NFL and the worst average of his career. If Foster can get back around his 4.5 YPC for the remainder of the season, he will have a chance to close the gap on Peterson, should continue his TD scoring pace, and can rejoin the MVP conversation. Until then, Foster is stuck in a tier of very good, Pro Bowl caliber players on the outside looking in on the MVP race.

Dan Benton

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