Is Steve Slaton a pick-up this week, since being released from the Texans?
I should never want to defend Steve Slaton again, but it is critical to the chain of events of why we would endorse this gamble Fantasy Football waiver pick-up for this week. Explaining how we were wrong in 2010, is important in this article. Rewind the tape back to the 2009 season...
The Houston Texans have a disappointing 2009 season led by a disappointment from their major RB Steve Slaton. In the season prior, Slaton had a monster rookie season -- 1,282 yards rushing, with 50 receptions, and 1,659 yards in total and 10 TDs...not a bad NFL debut.
Slaton instantly becomes Fantasy Football gold after the huge 2008 season...a top-5 Fantasy player overall going into the 2009 preseason, only it doesn't go as well in 2009 as it did in 2008. Slaton fumbles 3 times in the first two games, rushing for fewer than 2.0 yards a carry on 26 carries...and the "boo-birds" are out in full force.
In the following 5 games in 2009, Slaton averages 106.8 yards per game (better than his rookie season pace)...but still Slaton is not running the ball effectively (averaging just 3.5 yards per carry). Worse, Slaton fumbles the ball 3 more times in those 5 games, and loses all 3 of them. Not good...
Now seven games into 2009, Slaton has fumbled 6 times, and lost 4 of them. In Game #8, Slaton loses another fumble very early on...and is yanked from the game. He plays sporadically in the next 2 games, with mediocre results (but no fumbles). Slaton has a bit of a renaissance in Week-12, with 106 total yards...but then gets hurt. Neck surgery is required, good-bye 2009. Possibly, good-bye Steve Slaton's career.
Very late in the 2009 season, the Texans interject unknown UDFA RB Arian Foster into the lineup. Foster has back-to-back 100+ yard rushing games, and the season ends quietly for the Texans.
The 2010 off-season is filled with RB activity for the Texans. Will Steve Slaton ever play again? Is Arian Foster that good, or just lucky in late/meaningless games?
The Texans potentially answer their RB questions in the NFL Draft, maneuvering to take Ben Tate in the 2nd-Round of the 2010 Draft. It is now assumed that Tate will be the main-line RB, Foster a fluke late-season RB of interest, and Slaton must be done.
Enter the 2010 preseason, Tate is injured quickly...gone for the year. Steve Slaton is cleared to play, but questions abound on whether he is the "old" Steve Slaton...or is the "Foster kid" good enough to handle the load. Foster and Slaton duel in the preseason, Foster wins the duel...and we know how that worked out.
The entire 2010 preseason, we bet against Arian Foster...and leaned more toward Steve Slaton. For two reasons:
1) Arian Foster registered mediocre in our computer scouting analysis coming out of college. Good players with college injuries can throw our computer analysis for a loop. The injured players don't test well at the NFL Combine/Pro-Day (or don't test at all). Based on what data we had, Foster was mediocre. We also took a cue from the Texans...how high was the Texans management on Foster anyway, if they moved up to take Ben Tate early in the NFL Draft (Tate was an RB that we did have elite computer ratings on)?
2) When we watched the 2010 preseason tape, Slaton looked as fast as ever...and went into the preseason games with reckless abandon. Slaton had cut weight, and looked fine off his neck surgery. Slaton also had the history of success in the NFL, Foster just a nice cup of coffee. We bet on Slaton, or a split...thus advised against Arian Foster (in the immortal words of Bob Uecker from the move Major League..."just a bit outside").
What's important to note about our 2010 "bad call" -- We watch a ton of tape, and we watch players at certain positions back-to-back-to-back-to-back, one right after another. No commercials. We have a greater ability to see patterns, or something off...on tape. We watched a ton of tape on RBs and Steve Slaton in the 2010 preseason, and Slaton looked fine...beyond fine, really good. Why that is important....
Many people theorize that Slaton just "ain't right" since his neck surgery. It's a logical thought. However, he looked great to us in the 2010 preseason. Perhaps, you factor in that we are complete idiots and don't know what we are looking at...that's cool. However, the Texans must have felt strong enough to (a) keep Slaton on the roster, and (b) felt strong enough about his health that they had him as a primary kick-returner (the most physically dangerous position in the game, supposedly). Not only, a dangerous position, but one that would require speed (you would think). Unless they wanted to torture Slaton physically, they let him return 39 kicks in 2010 for a 19.7 average return. He must have had something left in the tank?
What didn't happen in 2010, is Slaton being used heavily in the offense anymore. Slaton had 6 carries in the 2010 opener, and between 2-5 carries in the next 4 games (and NO fumbles all season)...then never to touch the ball (as an RB) the rest of the season. While the Texans ran Foster into the ground with 327 carries, and virtually all their carries the rest of 2010 (some occasional relief from Derrick Ward).
The 2008 rookie sensation, the 2009 starter, the 2010 fight back from neck surgery...gets Slaton not even one carry or target late in any blow-out game (or otherwise) in the final 11 games of 2010. If I'm Steve Slaton, I'm ticked off. The Texans don't owe him anything, but put yourself in Slaton's shoes...
If you were your company's top salesperson as a rookie, then considered the key salesperson for your organization the following year...but your sales start out a little slow, then you get a fluke illness and miss some work time. Not only do you miss time, but another salesperson fills-in and does as well/better, and then takes your standing as the lead salesperson for the company the following year...after you clawed your way back from the illness. Not only do you lose your top salesperson status in one year, you lose the best territory...you are now given the crap sales territory (like returning kicks). Ultimately, the company doesn't even invite you to the high-level sales meetings anymore (a la no more carries/targets at RB in he last 11 weeks of the season).
The company doesn't owe you anything per say. They pay you...and the company can use you any way they want to. You can't fault them for going with the "hot-hand"...but you also can't be faulted for being ticked off after being a big producer, to suddenly ignored. If you weren't ticked, something would be wrong with you. I think that's where Slaton is at.
Why I think that is where Slaton is at, mentally? I just watched the Week-3 game from Sunday of Houston vs. the Saints. Slaton got 4 carries in that game, a nice 6-yard run early...and then 3 unemotional runs off-tackle where Slaton ran into a clogged hole and fell forward for virtually no gain. No attempt to juke, no attempt to create something...just a perfunctory run to where he was supposed to go. Either Slaton was reacting to a coach telling him to just "hit the hole", or Slaton ran like a person who could not care less about their job...or the outcomes/results for the team/company. Have we not all been there?
If the Texans thought Slaton was "washed up", why did they allow him to return kicks in 2010?
If the Texans thought Slaton was "washed up", why not release or trade him before the 2011 season?
If the Texans thought that Slaton was "washed up", why did he get two carries in the 1st-quarter a couple of days ago? Why did they not have Chris Ogbonnaya up from the practice squad instead of running Slaton?
Either the Texans realized Slaton "quit" (and I don't mean that as bad as it sounds) and are angry, and/or the Texans finally relented to give Slaton (who they too had "quit" on) a chance at a fresh start, seeing his disinterest in the current situation.
What happens to talented people, who feel slighted by their old company or girl/boyfriend? Usually an upgraded effort and output very soon after with their fresh start employer/"rebound".
The situation just doesn't add up to a "Slaton just doesn't have it any more" synopsis. That's just too easy. You'll see it commented on (if at all) by the mainstream, I'm sure -- "Steve Slaton released, what a shame that he never recovered from his neck injury"... That's lazy journalism.
Slaton could have attitude problems, although I've never heard him spout off about being benched for almost 2 years now. Slaton could have "lost a step"...I'm not sure how? It's no sure thing to bet on Steve Slaton right now...but I'm willing to make a cheap bet on Slaton, right now...not knowing what team (if any) he will be on this time next week. However, I think I do know what team he will be on...
We wrote/said it in the preseason, and I'm betting it comes true now -- the perfect marriage of Steve Slaton and an NFL team -- is the Arizona Cardinals. I know Kevin Kolb prefers a check-down, quality receiving RB in the passing game...hello, Steve Slaton of the 94 catches in his first 11 games of his career (8.5 catches per game average). I will bet on the come of Slaton in Arizona.
If Slaton goes to Seattle, Miami, NY Jets, Cincy, Kansas City, or St. Louis...I am less excited about some of them, mildly excited at others. A waiver pick-up this week on Slaton, is a pure bet on Slaton to Arizona.
If Arizona was willing to try-out Chester Taylor off waivers, and give 20 touches to UDFA Alfonso Smith this week (who hadn't had close to 20 touches in a game since his Freshman year of college in 2006)...then I'm thinking they will give Slaton a try. Those in a PPR-league, this could be nice.
Keep in mind this is just a cheap gamble, and we were not right about Slaton last year...so what do we know anyway. Good Luck.
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