Fantasy impacts for Ajayi and Foster

Dec 28, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans running back Arian Foster (23) scores a touchdown during the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 28, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans running back Arian Foster (23) scores a touchdown during the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The addition of Arian Foster to the Miami Dolphins puts a damper on Jay Ajayi‘s fantasy value. What can fantasy owners expect to see from the Dolphins duo backfield in 2016?

In an article yesterday, I wanted to know if Dolphins fans wanted Arian Foster in Miami. Well, shortly after, Foster completed his scheduled workout and the Dolphins signed the veteran to a one-year deal. Based on the terms of the deal I’d say the Dolphins did well in adding Foster to their backfield.

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The Dolphins contract for Foster is as close to a “prove-it” deal as it can get. Foster gets $400,000 as a signing bonus with a base salary of $1.5 million for one-year. Per the deal, Foster can also collect an additional $2 million in incentives. If Foster is not on the roster by week 1, the Dolphins will only be out the $400k they gave him at signing. For a team near desperation to add veteran leadership to their run game, the risk is assuredly worth the reward.

The majority of Dolphins fans are likely feeling cautiously optimistic about the addition of Foster. While he’s been one of the top running backs in the league when healthy, Foster’s injuries have plagued him the past few seasons. He hasn’t completed a full season since 2012. The good news though is that Foster won’t be given the heavy workload that he received in Houston.

In Houston, Foster averaged almost 20 carries a game and was consistently involved in the passing game. He was the definition of a bell cow. Jay Ajayi should still be the lead back in Miami so Foster won’t see 20 carries a game, unless the Dolphins want to see him on the sidelines sooner rather than later.

Much of Foster’s history of injuries can be blamed on the heavy workload he received in Houston. Coach Adam Gase and the Dolphins will be smart in not committing the same mistakes as the Texans. Especially when you have an up-and-coming back like Jay Ajayi already penciled in as the starter.

So what does Foster’s addition do to both of their fantasy values? For starters, Ajayi’s stock value goes down but it’s not a massive plummet. No longer a free agent, Foster’s value has risen but in no way should he be declared a top 10 running back. Or top 20 for that matter. Projecting where each will fall in fantasy drafts could be difficult, particularly with Gase expected to implement a committee approach.

Fantasy players hoping for Ajayi to have a breakout season may not feel the same way now with Foster added into the equation. Questions have lingered all off-season about Ajayi’s abilities in the passing game, even though he recorded 50 receptions in his final season at Boise State. Gase likes to use his backs heavily in the passing game, and Foster has no problem in that category.

For leagues using PPR formats, Foster may be the more ideal back even with Ajayi named as the starter. Don’t expect Foster to come in only on 3rd downs though for passing situations. Gase doesn’t like to alter players in between downs, meaning whoever starts a series should be the every down back for that series.

Ajayi has much to improve at this level and only rushed for 187 yards in a limited rookie season, but he should still be rated higher than Foster in fantasy formats. Foster may have the resume as a top fantasy running back but the injury history cannot be ignored. The Dolphins were smart in taking a risk on Foster but fantasy owners should be more hesitant. Ajayi could still have the breakout season some have imagined. Many believe it’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ Foster will get hurt again in 2016. Should that happen, Ajayi will be the Dolphins bell cow for the remainder of the season.

Foster averaged just 2.6 yards a carry last season on 63 rushes and it looked as though the injuries were catching up with him. He still managed to score a total of 3 times in just 4 games and racked up 55 and 77 fantasy points in standard and PPR leagues, respectively. He’s proven to come through for owners even in games where he seemed to play poorly.

Ajayi is my preferred option of the two given his age and because he’s had some time now to learn under Gase’s system. However, I am not as high on him as I was before Foster got in the picture. I don’t mind stashing Foster on the bench either because we’ve seen what he can do. Even if Foster only plays 3-4 games all season, they could be monster games like we saw from him last year.

While I like both backs in their respective ways, I don’t recommend drafting both to your team. Using one as a handcuff to the other could be confusing because it’s tough to tell who would actually be the handcuff. Only time will tell how either player pans out this season. As of right now, both players should be viewed as low-end RB2, high-end RB3 options. If either player is given the job outright for whatever the reason, then sky’s the limit.