DAVIE, Fla. -- It was the first day of practice in pads for the Dolphins and already there were running back injuries.
None to Arian Foster.
Jay Ajayi, the second-year bruiser expected to be a significant factor in the ground game, was out of practice with an ice wrap around his left knee. Isaiah Pead, the guy who started team drills in the first-team offense because Ajayi was out, left practice with what looked like a muscle cramp.
So you'd think this would be the grand opportunity for Foster to get a lot of experience with the starters and establish himself as the Dolphins' best option at running back.
Didn't happen. Foster, fresh off the PUP list, was sprinkled in throughout 11 on 11 drills but never played more than two snaps in a row. He looked able-bodied but didn't have much of a chance to show any flash. By the end of the day he watched as
Ajayi Pead Kenyan Drake took on some extra work with the starters.
"Any time you can keep that group working together, the better. But this is the National Football League, right?" Dolphins coach Adam Gase said after practice. "This is what happens. Next man up."
Ajayi's injury isn't considered serious -- he extended his left knee the day before and came up with a bone bruise -- but it underscores the issue that's making Fantasy owners freak out. Between his knees (remember, Ajayi had a significant knee issue coming out of Boise State) and Foster's track record of muscle strains and tears, who will be the most reliable running back in Miami?
That can't confidently be answered now. All we can glean is that if another running back had the bone bruise Ajayi has, most of us would shrug it off and anticipate him coming back soon. Unless that running back was Foster -- then we'd all be scared out of our wits to draft him.
But in the first few days of camp, Gase has been emphatic about Foster's skills as a route runner and pass catcher. How excited is Gase? When asked about easing Foster into practice, Gase started talking using him during the season.
"The guy, his resume speaks for itself," Gase said of the soon-to-be 30-year-old back. "I don't think there's any questions why we brought him in here. He's going to be working with the ones the whole training camp. He's playing this year. Whether or not he's the guy that's on the first snap of the game, I don't know. Time will tell. But he's going to be rolling with the (starters)."
So if the running back is going to be a factor in the passing game, just as it has in Gase's previous stops where they hauled in around 20 percent of the receptions, then one could figure Foster could eventually be tasked with a good workload from week to week.
And not for nothing, but the very first two Ryan Tannehill passes in practice on Monday went to the running back (in this case, Pead). It's a point of emphasis.
This is where you're supposed to read about Foster becoming a great Fantasy Football pick. But you know why you won't read that here? Foster, for all off his positives, carries significant injury risk. He played four games last year, 13 the year before that and eight the year before that. The Dolphins know it or else they would have been more willing to give him extra practice snaps with Ajayi out. No question they're taking it easy with him.
Foster's not worth a top-60 pick given your other options at that point in the draft. He's not even worth a top-80 pick given the risk involved. But past 80th overall, you're taking risks with your selections anyway, so if older injury-prone running backs are your thing, who's to say it's wrong? No one has ever lost a Fantasy league because of a bad pick after 80th overall.
Ajayi isn't worth a top-60 pick either, by the way. He's closer to that 80th overall mark than Foster is, but a second-year back who has proven nothing and seems destined to split reps doesn't exactly seem safe. His ADP of around 60th overall is nuts.
Even earmarking Round 7 and 8 picks for Ajayi and Foster seems a little dicey. That's the time in the draft where quarterback and tight end bargains are found. Are you sure that's when you want to dedicate two picks to two Dolphins running backs who seem unlikely to be in an every-down role?
This offense has the potential to be very good. The receivers are very solid, the offensive line should be a strength, the quarterback ... well, we'll see on Ryan Tannehill. It's too bad there isn't a smart way to go get these running backs in Fantasy drafts.
Outside of falling into your lap past their current Draft Averages, you're probably better off chasing after another team's rushers.