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Timeshares are becoming more and more common in NFL backfields these days, as teams move away from the idea of a single workhorse back. That has made running backs less valuable overall for Fantasy purposes, but it has also had the effect of creating more Fantasy-viable running backs overall. The bar to reach “Fantasy viable” has been lowered, making it easier for more players to sneak over it.
It has also made it impossible to avoid timeshares as you prepare for your draft. With arguably close to half the league looking to split carries, there are only so many true No. 1 backs available; you are going to have to snag a few backs with workload questions.
One timeshare I won’t have any shares of is the one developing in Miami. Second-year back Jay Ajayi and veteran Arian Foster are on opposite points of their career, but as we get closer to the start of the season, it looks like both are going to end up in the same place; the fringes of Fantasy relevance.
Foster obviously enters the season with huge question marks, coming off a ruptured Achilles suffered early last season. That injury isn’t necessarily a career-ender for a 30-year-old, but it is certainly a tougher one to come back from than, say, a torn ACL — something we’ve seen a lot more backs get back from. Achilles injuries are notoriously difficult to overcome, though we don’t have much historical evidence for running backs coming back from that specific injury either.
Given the uncertainty, I wanted to see Foster knock off the rust and impress in the preseason, but he has certainly not managed that so far. Foster has seen very limited work through two games, logging just 22 snaps, but hasn’t done much with them; he has 5 yards on seven rushing attempts, and his 1.0 yards per carry after contact ranks just 139th out of 144 backs with at least five carries this preseason. It’s a small sample size, obviously, but it’s all we have to go on here.
Of course, Ajayi has hardly been notably better, rushing for just 36 yards on his 15 carries through three games. The bigger issue overall might just be the play of the Dolphins‘ offensive line, however, as Dolphins’ backs — including Isaiah Pead, Damien Williams and Daniel Thomas — are combining to rush for just 3.3 yards per carry — 3.0 of which has come after contact. It’s just the preseason, but the Dolphins’ offensive line has been routinely beaten so far.
This may all amount to nothing. We’re still talking about just three games, with starters and reserves being mixed together freely. It doesn’t necessarily mean the Dolphins will struggle to run the ball come the regular season. However, the Dolphins did grade out as the worst run-blocking team in the NFL in each of the last two seasons, per ProFootballFocus.com. The addition of Laremy Tunsil may not be enough to fix what ails this line.
Lamar Miller managed to be productive behind those lines thanks to his exceptional ability to make defenders miss, as he ranked ninth in yards per carry after contact in 2015. Ajayi and Foster both may have that ability, but it seems fair to be skeptical given their injury concerns and, in Ajayi’s case, lack of track record. Add in the fact they will be splitting work, and it’s just hard to get excited about this group.
The good news for Foster is, his all-around game should lend itself to a larger workload. However, if he can’t return to something like his former form, it might not mean anything running behind this line. Neither Foster nor Ajayi will cost you much on Draft Day — they carry No. 69 and 94 ADP’s across the injury, currently — which is the only thing standing in the way of me calling them full bust candidates.
Still, despite the name recognition Foster brings with him, it’s hard to see this combination actually providing much in the way of value. Unless Foster can return to pre-injury form or the offensive line takes a large, unexpected collective leap forward, this backfield may just be no man’s land for Fantasy players.
Source: CBS Sports / Fantasy Football Bust Alert: Arian Foster, Jay Ajayi trending down