Opening arguments: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, all summer, I’ve been admonishing the masses against taking Arian Foster first overall. But in my recent mock drafts, I’ve never had to practice what I preach – until Monday night in a MyFantasyLeague.com mock draft. I had to go ahead and take Ray Rice first overall in a RotoExperts.com mock draft (for the 2012 Xclusive Edge Fantasy Football Package!)
I tell this jury today, I was reluctant to do it. That’s only because I don’t want to make a mockery of this mock draft!
[The gallery gasps and discussions break out all over the courtroom before the judge finally slams his gavel down and calls order to the court.]
What I mean is, I didn’t want the draft to lose any credibility. When writers get together and do a draft, and someone makes a rebel pick to start it off, usually everyone groans and fusses because readers might see it and immediately discredit the mock, thinking 12 owners think Rice is better than Foster.
But that’s not the case, your honor. It’s just me. I’m the only one that would take Ray Rice first overall – and I’D DO IT AGAIN!!!
[Voices rise again in disbelief in the courtroom. A woman faints in the back row and has to be carried out. The judge looks at the bailiff, who looks at the stenographer, who looks at her watch, wondering if she can make it to the next bathroom break. She had an uncharacteristic two cups of coffee that morning.]
Evidence to Support Taking Ray Rice First Overall
EXHIBIT A: Health
Over the past three years, Rice has not missed one game for the Ravens. True, that means he has more mileage on his legs, but with all things being equal, I’d rather have a perpetually healthy running back than someone coming off a season in which they missed three games with a hamstring injury.
EXHIBIT B: Hands
Rice is better in the passing game than Foster. The Ravens’ back has 10 games with five or more catches, whereas the Texans tailback has six games with five or more grabs. Rice also had three games with seven or more grabs compared to just one for Foster. Only Darren Sproles was thrown to more than Rice, who had 104 targets (6.5 targets per game). Foster was targeted 71 times (which is still a healthy 5.5 targets per game).
EXHIBIT C: Backup RB
Over the past two seasons, Baltimore has used Rice more than Houston uses Foster. Rice has 737 touches (598 carries and 139 catches). Foster has slightly fewer touches at 724 (605 carries and 119 catches), but remember that he was without his backfield-mate Ben Tate, while the latter was down with a season-ending injury.
EXHIBIT D: Money
Foster got a shiny new $43.5 million contract this past spring, including $20.5 million guaranteed. Foster will make $18 million in base salary in 2012 – plus incentives. He made just $525,000 last season.
The Ravens are currently in contract negotiations with Rice and his agent, but for now, they have the franchise tag on him.
Actually, this argument could go against both of these players once Rice gets paid. Memories of Chris Johnson’s 2011 disappointment will make some owners cautious of any big-money players. That makes LeSean McCoy, who I have ranked third, a possible top pick!
EXHIBIT E: O-Line
The Texans lost their entire right side of last year’s offensive line to free agency this past spring. They were the top unit in the league last year, and now they are down 40 percent. A zone-blocking scheme like Houston employs relies on continuity, and with G Mike Brisiel and T Eric Winston gone, they’ve lost that. Baltimore, meanwhile, has four returning starters, and their tackles, Bryant McKinnie and Michael Oher, underperformed, which means they have room to get better in 2012.
EXHIBIT F: Veggies
Last week, Foster made this announcement:
Officially a vegan now. We'll see how this goes. But week one down. So far, so good. Feels wonderful.
— feeno (@ArianFoster) July 6, 2012
Remember when Prince Fielder decided to go vegan before the 2008 season? He started that season with six homers in his first 53 games. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this earth, it’s that meat is our friend.
EXHIBIT G: Talent
Rice is just plain better than Foster. The former Rutgers star rushed for 4.7 yards per carry last season (seventh in the NFL among the 19 RBs with at least 200 carries), with an inferior offensive line. Foster rushed for 4.4 yards per carry (10th).
So as you can clearly see, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the evidence is clear. You should take Ray Rice first overall over Arian Foster and you should not feel one ounce of guilt. (Although, the MUCH smarter move would be to trade the No. 1 pick to the guy with the No. 2 overall pick, so you get more value for that No. 1 pick.)
I rest my case.
David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.