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Foster prays for good health in Miami

Foster prays for good health in Miami

Arian Foster‘s emergence as a star was almost as sudden as his (likely) exit. An undrafted free agent in 2009, Foster rushed for 100 yards in his first start — in week 17 of the ’09 season. Then, in 2010, he led the NFL in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, beginning a five-year stretch of dominance.  A ruptured Achilles tendon ruined Foster’s season in 2015, and he signed with Miami yesterday; at 29, it’s fair to wonder if Foster has much left in the tank.  A one-year, $1.5M contract is a sign that the NFL isn’t too optimistic about his future.  But that doesn’t make his past any less incredible.

From 2010 to 2014, Foster played in 70 games. But in two of those games in 2013, injuries limited him to just 9 combined snaps. And in the season finale in 2014, a hamstring injury caused him to exit after 10 snaps. In those three games, Foster had a total of 9 carries for 34 yards.

In his other 67 games, including playoffs? His median rushing game was 100 yards! Foster averaged 97.5 rushing yards per game and 4.56 yards per carry. In those 67 games, he scored 68 touchdowns. Perhaps most incredible is that with 34 100-yard rushing games in that 5-year period, Foster set the record for hitting the century mark by an undrafted free agent. Priest Holmes had 32 such games, Willie Parker had 26, and no other player since 1960 had more than 16.1

During this five-year period, Foster rushed for 100 yards in 34 games, most in the NFL. Marshawn Lynch had 30 such games, but LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson were tied for third at a distant 23 games. Even after signing with Miami, it seems almost certain that we’ve already seen the last of the Foster we remember during his prime. He will always be in the discussion among the great undrafted free agent players, but not among the great running backs. Currently, he ranks “just” 72nd in career rushing yards. But he ranks 25th in career VBD and 41st in yards from scrimmage over worst starter, which are better measures of Foster’s dominance in his prime.

Please leave your Arian Foster thoughts in the comments. Foster will be remembered as part of the Mount Rushmore of undrafted running backs, with Holmes, Joe Perry, and …. well, there’s still one spot left on that mountain.

  1. Foster holds the record with 35 games of at least 100+ rushing yards, once you include his week 17, 2009 performance. []
  • sacramento gold miners

    Foster was terrific, and so was another underrated star who played before him. Robert Smith of the Minnesota Vikings has had his rushing records erased by Adrian Peterson, but was an excellent back in his own right,

    • I always thought Robert Smith was underappreciated. He didn’t do it for a long time but he was really, really good for a few years at the end of the ’90s.

      Also, a very interesting guy. He quit football to pursue medicine, and before he played in the NFL, he was lead singer for a Gothic rock band in the ’80s.

      • Tom

        I can’t believe I didn’t get this when I first read it. And I’m even a fan of (spoiler alert) The Cure…

        • Heh… Yeah, might have been too obtuse a joke. Subtlety doesn’t play well online.

          • It went over my head, but only because I had never heard of that Robert Smith. I guess that’s a good reason for it to go over my head 🙂

            • It is most definitely not a good reason! That Robert Smith>>football Robert Smith.

    • From age 25 to 28, Robert Smith averaged over 5.0 yards per carry and over 100 yards from scrimmage per game. The only players to do that during those ages? Jim Brown (5.17, 130), O.J. Simpson (5.07, 126), Barry Sanders (5.06, 120), Adrian Peterson (5.04, 114), Lenny Moore (5.72, 112), Jamaal Charles (5.13, 107), and Smith (5.00, 105). Smith did it over 57 games, too, while Moore (49) and Charles (48) did it for less than 50 games. It was a pretty remarkable run if you want to focus on a couple of key numbers.

  • I’ll suggest Marion Motley for the last spot on the MRoURB.

  • Clint

    There weren’t any undrafted guys on this list, but I did find some players drafted in the 8th or later (in the NFL draft). Terry Allen, Earnest Byner and Leroy Kelly may be deserving.

    For some reason the system wouldn’t perform a search for the undrafted guys.. but off the top of my head, you could throw Marion Motley, or Fred Jackson on there.

    • sacramento gold miners

      Timmy Brown would have to be on the list of lower drafted NFL stars at the RB position. Drafted in the 27th round by Green Bay, Brown turned up later with the Eagles, and was one of the most versatile backs of the 1960s. He was a better, more productive Reggie Bush. Alas, Philadelphia struggled during most of the 60s, so Brown isn’t remembered as much today.

  • Josh Sanford

    The 68 TDs is incredibly impressive. For instance, if you take one of my favorite all-time RBs, Barry Sanders, his best 5 year stretch he only got 50. Marshall Faulk, who was a TD machine, only bested Foster by 2 over his best five year span–and with more games. For your Mt Rushmore analogy, you have to use Foster, Holmes and Perry–and then you just put whoever the is current best undrafted RB–I mean, isn’t that how TR got on the mountain?

    • Richie

      ” Marshall Faulk, who was a TD machine, only bested Foster by 2 over his best five year span”

      I’ve got Faulk with 50 rushing TD and 25 receiving TD from 1999-2003. That only gets Foster to within 7 of Faulk. But, still impressive. I really don’t remember anybody being as scary of a scoring machine as Marshall Faulk in 2000-2001.

      • I have Faulk with 55 and 25 from 99-03, giving him 80 overall and a 12 TD lead on Foster.

        • Richie

          Yep, agreed on 55. My math sucks.

          • I have to take off my shoes and socks to count on my fingers and toes.

  • I got into a heated argument with a friend about four years ago, in which I averred that the Texans should trade Arian Foster because Ben Tate was clearly the better back going forward.

    Yes, I’d like to have that one back, but at least I learned my lesson about extrapolating a career based on half a season’s worth of carries –oh, and the missing Mt. Rushmore guy is clearly Thomas Rawls!

    • Clint

      I don’t know what happened to Ben Tate. Started off doing really well in Cleveland. Had some injuries, but the running game fell apart in general. Was never on him. Mostly cut him because West and Crow were about as productive and they saved money. He was the best of the bunch though. Could’ve worked out dramatically different.

  • Pretty impressive rushing numbers for a guy who might have been more notable for his receiving contributions. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/tiny/yKEUH

  • Richie

    Dolphins to Super Bowl: confirmed

  • LightsOut85

    I’ve always wondered what his production would have looked like in another rushing system (ie: not the outside zone/stretch/Kubiak/Shanahan/Gibbs system that generally has let certain backs over achieve), since it seems to be responsible for a lot of undrafted Cinderella stories.