J.J. Watt is the $100 Million Man — and sudden touchdown tight end. Andre Johnson will make $10.5 million this season and he carries the Hall of Fame credentials to go with it.
Arian Foster? He'll take home a somewhat superstar modest $6 million in 2014 and carry the Houston Texans the whole way.
Anyone who thinks Foster isn't worth it, that he's just another one of those devalued running backs, is seeing their theories get ground into useless dust. Running backs don't matter much in the NFL anymore — unless you have a running back like Arian Foster.
His feet (and hands, and shoulders, and legs) are all over the Texans' surprising 2-0 start. Watt may be the highlight maker. First-year coach Bill O'Brien may be the innovator. But Foster is the relentless heartbeat of these reborn Texans.
Through two games, Foster's racked up 270 total yards on 59 touches. He is the Texans offense.
He gashes the Oakland Raiders for 138 rushing yards, knocks the fight right out of the supposedly fearsome Black Hole long before the fourth quarter rolls around Sunday afternoon. It ends 30-14 Texans, but even before the turnovers begin piling up in the Texans favor, No. 23's left the Raiders punch drunk.
Afterwards, Raiders safety Charles Woodson — the former Heisman winner from Michigan who's seen it all — talks about being "embarrassed" by his team's showing. Woodson shouldn't be so hard on his teammates.
Arian Foster is just that good. In fact, with Adrian Peterson having taken himself out of the game with that scarily horrific child abuse "discipline" of his 4-year-old son, it's no big stretch to declare that Foster is the best running back in football still standing. He's certainly in the short conversation with LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles.
Through two games, Foster's racked up 270 total yards on 59 touches. He is the Texans offense. Everyone knows No. 23 is the key to everything the Ryan Fitzpatrick-limited Texans do. Yet teams still cannot stop him.
Not with eight-man fronts. Not with shadows. Not with the kitchen sink and them some.
Still think running backs are overvalued in today's pass-centric NFL? Then, you haven't been watching Arian Foster and one of the real compelling stories of the beginning of this NFL season.
"I hear that a lot, about the running backs being devalued and I do understand the point that’s being made," O'Brien says in his postgame press conference. "But I think it depends on each team and who your running back is."
In other words, O'Brien has Arian Foster and you don't. Bill Belichick would value running backs more too if he had Foster. Belichick and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft both oohed over Foster in a playoff game past. You win with your best players and the simple truth is the Belichick Patriots never had a running back who was even close to one of their best players.
If they had such a talent, they'd treat the tailback position differently.
This is why this idea that O'Brien wouldn't really value a running back like Foster always rang hollow. Yet it got repeated all offseason and through training camp. Some local sports talk radio hosts — particularly 610 AM's Sean Pendergast, otherwise known as Nick Wright's ghost writer — even absurdly suggested that Foster stood in danger of getting cut after this season.
Still think running backs are overvalued in today's pass-centric NFL? Then, you haven't been watching Arian Foster.
Of course, that was never happening. You don't cut one of the best offensive players in football to save a little cap space. Arian Foster's contract isn't outdatedly high. He's a relative bargain at $6 million next season and $6.5 million in 2016 too. Even if he's a running back, the position the league's not supposed to need stars at anymore.
McCoy will bank $9.75 million next season as part of a contract he signed after Foster's deal — and even in Chip Kelly's offense, he's not that much of a better player than Foster. There's a good chance Foster will prove the Eagle's not even as good as him this season.
Yet, Foster hears idiots talk about him being a future cut because it's "The Patriot Way."
Don't count on it. Not with this running back. Bill O'Brien knows what he has.
"I don’t really listen to people man," Foster says from Oakland in an interview broadcast on Houston TV. "Nobody really knows what they talking about."
The NFL's No. 1 Running Back?
With Foster, the talk is once again of dominance. Suddenly, the injury worries look more overblown than Miley Cyrus' forced attempts to hold onto her twerking fame. And O'Brien looks like a genius for wisely holding his lifeline tailback out of the entire preseason.
Foster rips off a 40-yard run on the first offensive drive of the game against Oakland. He has 93 yards just 24 minutes into the game. By the time, O'Brien lets rookie Alfred Blue take on a little more of the burden, the Raiders are long dead and done.
O'Brien's influence on this team is undeniable. It can be seen in the way the Texans' defensive backs are racing to recover after getting beat and punching out footballs for turnovers. D.J. Swearinger does it last week against the Redskins. Veteran Johnathan Joseph does it this week to the shell-shocked Raiders.
In both instances, the Texans turn bad plays into touchdown-saving turnovers going the other way.
O'Brien's team wins the turnover battle 4-0 this Sunday. They get that fun J.J. Watt touchdown (and the more traditional Watt Swat that leads to Brooks Reed's first career interception). They go 9 for 15 on third down with some nice, largely accurate Fitzpatrick passing.
But mostly they have Arian Foster.
"He’s a really, really talented guy," Fitzpatrick says in his own little postgame presser broadcast on CSN Houston. "He’s a very patient runner. He’s a lot of fun to watch. It’s fun to hand the ball off to him, even in situations where maybe we are running uphill and we don’t have the best numbers."
It's awfully nice to have a real, underpaid star.