(Each week during the season, Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com breaks down five of the biggest fantasy storylines of the week.)
1. Arian Foster arrives
When everyone was drafting last week, no one considered Arian Foster a first-round pick. Heck, when I drafted in July, before Ben Tate was injured, I was able to nab Foster in the 13th and 14th round of some leagues. Tate was supposed to be the solution to a longtime problem for the Texans, and Foster was a fantasy afterthought, despite showing some promise late in 2009. Foster was very impressive in the preseason, though, and may even have held off Tate's push for a starting job even if the rookie was conceivably healthy.
Foster officially leaped into fantasy stardom on Sunday, with a record-setting 231-yard, three-TD performance in a statement win against the Colts. Not only did the Texans serve notice that they will no longer be kicked around by Indianapolis, they also finally have appeared to establish a strong running game. Foster startled even the most ardent fantasy optimists. He demonstrated terrific vision, strength and determination, and even made tacklers miss. The Texans did some terrific run blocking and controlled the clock as most teams can only hope to against the Colts. Somewhere, Domanick Williams (a.k.a. Domanick Davis) was smiling.
Naturally, Foster will now become the most talked-about player in fantasy football. Everyone who has him will wonder if they should sell high, and those who do not will mull over how to acquire him. For all of them, the big question is whether or not this is as good as it gets. Is Foster a true standout, or is he destined to be an even bigger tease than Samkon Gado once turned out to be? The answer: Foster will certainly be an elite RB2 going forward, but opposing defenses now will treat him with even more respect when formulating their game plans. So another 150-yard plus outing is likely not coming any time soon. Still, Houston has such outstanding balance on offense, Foster cannot be keyed on at all, so more fun fantasy outings await.
As for the trade talks: If you have him, don't mess with success. Spare yourself the second-guessing, keep Foster in most cases, and pat yourself on the back for making a fine draft choice. If you don't have him, wait a week or two on making an offer. Foster's value may never be higher than it is today.
2. Matt Forte begins to forget
There is nothing Matt Forte wants more than to put the 2009 season behind him. In a controversial victory over the Lions, Forte started to erase any memories he or any of his fantasy owners might have left over from last year. Forte caught seven passes for 151 yards, the second-best total by a RB in franchise history. He scored on receptions of 89 and 28 yards, and added 50 rushing yards for good measure.
Forte is suddenly drawing loose comparisons to Marshall Faulk as a Mike Martz centerpiece, but his owners should temper their enthusiasm just a bit. The Chicago offense still needs Jay Cutler to connect frequently with his wide receivers to succeed every week, and other than Devin Aromashodu, no one really stepped forward in the opener. Even Aromashodu dropped what seemed to be a sure TD pass. Forte is healthy and ready to enjoy a respectable rebound season, but he will complement the WRs and TEs in the Bears passing game going forward, not carry the offense as a receiver like he did this week. That performance, friends, will be remembered as a rare treat later in the year.
I am not suggesting Forte won't have a good season overall. Reality is simply being invoked. Before Matthew Stafford went down Sunday, the Lions were in control of the game, and after he left, Shaun Hill sputtered and the defense became overworked and was playing on its heels. Forte took advantage of Detroit's aggressive approach on defense, and future opponents will watch the film and account for Forte as a flat and short pass option in weeks to come.
The Bears will have to adjust and use their WRs and TEs to continue to keep defenses loose for Forte to regularly stand out. That could be a tall order on a consistent basis. The Martz offense is sure to sputter at times in the games ahead, as the Bears' offensive line has trouble maintaining their blocks on Jay Cutler's deep drops, and some of the WRs may exhibit growing pains as they grow accustomed to a very deep playbook.
Forte averaged less than three yards per carry on Sunday, and was also denied a short TD run as Detroit's defense made an emotional and promising goal-line stand at one point. Forte obviously is not going to bust loose every week. While there will be some more quality outings for his owners to enjoy, there will also be some clunkers as the luster of Week 1 quickly fades away.
3. August heroes, September zeroes
Rookie RBs Jahvid Best and C.J. Spiller were two of the summer's biggest stories, as they displayed all the promise and electricity that their new teams could hope for, while increasing their fantasy draft stock with some owners. When play began for real, though, Best and Spiller quickly realized they were no longer facing the vanilla looks and less-intense approaches of preseason defenses.
Best did score twice, but the bigger concern was that he was held to 20 rushing yards on 14 carries. He also totaled only 18 receiving yards. Best was not able to display his customary zip anywhere but near the goal line, and there should be immediate concerns about how effective he can be on a regular basis. Best has huge upside, yet the idea that he may not be cut out to handle the workload or responsibilities of a featured RB already is a legitimate question to raise. Best may struggle to pile up yards on days where he cannot break loose for a big play. He could be a boom-or-bust option every week.
Spiller, who outshined Best and nearly everyone else in the preseason, was an even bigger opening week failure. Spiller was held to 14 total yards from scrimmage, a total that seemingly was his average per play during the preseason. Opponents have already calculated that Spiller loves to bounce to the outside, and they will seal off the edges as much as possible. Spiller also becomes easier to defend when it becomes apparent the Bills do not have much else to offer on offense, and it's a lot to ask of a rookie to carry a moribund unit. Defenses will continue to swarm Spiller until the Bills prove they can beat them in other ways, and the Bills do not appear capable of threatening the opposition in other ways anytime soon.
4. Unheralded WR stars
Fantasy owners will be racing to the free-agent list this week to pick up a number of receiving standouts who may be available, while also considering the promotion of some bench players to the starting lineup. Mark Clayton made an immediate impact with the Rams, catching 10 passes for 119 yards. Clayton is worth adding, because he is St. Louis' most decorated WR (that is not saying much), but keep in mind he has teased fantasy players with the occasional big game in the past. Brandon Lloyd caught five passes for 117 yards, and has worked with Kyle Orton in the past. Like Clayton, add Lloyd, but he could also disappear quickly. Austin Collie caught 10 passes for 131 yards and a TD, and could continue to increase in value if Pierre Garcon struggles with drops like he did Sunday. Steve Breaston, who seemed to be off the fantasy radar in the preseason, caught seven passes for 132 yards. With Larry Fitzgerald being bracketed and double teamed all year long, Breaston should receive regular starting consideration when the matchup is right.
5. Running into trouble
Michael Turner led a list of disappointing RB performances. He rushed for 42 yards on 19 carries, showing none of the spring in his step that was advertised during the preseason. Still, Turner should be motivated to bounce back quickly. Jerome Harrison carried nine times for 52 yards and yielded a lot of field time to Peyton Hillis. Harrison is not cut out to be a featured RB and, bluntly, is very overrated. Joseph Addai carried 10 times for 44 yards, obviously because the Colts were playing from behind, so there should be no worries about his value. Not much was expected from Brandon Jacobs, who was held to 44 yards on 12 carries and looked very tentative. Keep Jacobs reserved until he stops doing his Ron Dayne impression. Justin Forsett carried seven times for 43 yards. Seattle appears set to use a true committee approach, and truly needs a more physical presence to complement Forsett. Keep him on your roster, but also keep him reserved until you see some more promise again.