Arian Foster Will Hope to Emulate Corey Dillon, and Not Most Other Backs that Declined at Age 29

By Jason Lisk

Some moments make you feel old, and hit hard when it comes to perspective. Seeing Arian Foster moving on from Houston and trying to revitalize his career is one of them. One of the first things I wrote for this site back in 2010, in my first week on the job, was how previously unknown Arian Foster was going to have a monster year after his breakout performance against Indianapolis.

Even I could not have anticipated how Arian Foster’s career would turn out. Over a five-year span between ages 24 and 28, he ranks 15th in yards from scrimmage since the merger, with 8,000 yards. He’s just behind Edgerrin James and Walter Payton, ahead of Eddie George, Ricky Watters, and O.J. Simpson at those ages. He also happened to be undrafted out of Tennessee. The only other back to rush for over 5,000 at ages 24 to 28 while not being drafted was Willie Parker, all the way back at 5,622.

I think, if anything, Foster is underrated, and his entire career has been about overcoming the odds.

But now he tries to defy the odds again. Most backs that suffer injuries and see steep declines at the same age struggle to get back. Not all, though.

From the 60 guys who had at least 800 fantasy points between ages 24 and 28, here are those who dipped below RB#24 in the fantasy rankings at age 29, and returned to play the following season. (Marshawn Lynch joins Neal Anderson, Jamal Anderson, and Maurice Jones-Drew in retiring; William Andrews and Joe Morris missed all of age 29 and 30 in the NFL before trying unsuccessful comebacks from injury).

Corey Dillon–who switched teams at age 30 and joined New England–had a monster bounce back year. Fred Taylor finally shed his fragile label. Marcus Allen bounced back, as did Wilbert Montgomery with the Eagles. Chris Johnson was on his way to a redemption season last year with Arizona before injury struck. I doubt Foster can get back to where he was, but I’m not fully writing him off either.