The Texans believed they had solved their quarterback issues
when they traded for Brock Osweiler and gave him a big pile of
money after the 2015 season. Unfortunately, Osweiler wasn’t up
to the task as the Texans became one of four teams to finish last
season averaging less than 200 yards of passing offense despite
averaging over 36 passing attempts per game. Houston jettisoned
Osweiler and now enter the year with Tom Savage leading the charge.
A former fourth round draft choice by the Texans in 2014, Savage
has played in a total of five games during his brief career. He
hasn’t done anything to make fantasy owners believe he will magically
transform the offense into a high scoring unit but there are enough
weapons around him to allow fantasy managers to use him as a matchup
dependent fill in throughout the bye weeks. Houston is hoping
Savage will do enough to keep the job but his leash won’t be too
long with highly touted rookie Deshaun Watson waiting to take
over as the quarterback of the future.
Houston fans and fantasy owners alike haven’t had a reason to
get excited over a Texans quarterback since they were named an
expansion franchise back in 2002. Watson oozes potential as a
runner and passer but it won’t come without some growing pains.
He threw 17 interceptions in his final season at Clemson and more
than a few talent evaluators have described him as a player that
tries to do “too much” on a given play. That might not be a bad
thing considering Watson’s ability to extend plays, gain yards
on the ground and DeAndre Hopkins’ freakish ability to turn bad
passes into touchdowns. The Texans simply need more from their
quarterback, which is why they selected him with the 12th pick
in the 2017 draft. Houston isn’t expected to use a funky two-quarterback
system so fantasy owners shouldn’t expect to see the him until
the second half of the season.
That doesn’t mean he can’t be valuable in redraft
leagues. In the six games between Week 9 and Week 14, the Texans
have four favorable matchups for fantasy quarterbacks (IND, @BAL,
@TEN, SF). Consequently, Watson may be worth the gamble for those
owners needing more from their quarterback position as they push
for the playoffs.
Lamar Miller’s signing prior to last season had many fantasy
owners thinking the next coming of Arian Foster awaited them.
Although the workload fulfilled those expectations the production
lagged far behind as Miller barely rushed for 1,000 yards on his
268 carries. The good news is that the team’s offensive
scheme will continue to lean heavily on the ground game and Miller
is the clear front runner for carries. The team may decide to
reduce Miller’s workload, but fantasy owners should still
be able to count on RB1 level upside. The fact that Miller carried
a 4.0 YPC in a year where he consistently faced stacked boxes
should give fantasy owners enough confidence in making him a high
selection once again this year. Whether Miller returns RB1 or
RB2 production will be a result of his ability to find pay dirt.
Last season he found the end zone only five times on 15 carries
inside the ten-yard line. The year before he scored five touchdowns
on eleven similar attempts with the Dolphins. The team could easily
look for other options on the ground or via the pass should they
ultimately decide Miller isn’t getting the job done when
they need it most. Though his job security and work in the passing
game offsets some of the scoring deficiencies, a lack of touchdown
potential makes him a risky bet if drafted to be your squad’s
top running back in 2017.
When the Texans drafted D’Onta Foreman in the third round of
the 2017 draft, they had hoped they might have found a solid between
the tackles runner ideally suited for HC Bill O’Brien’s offense.
Foreman’s skills could help him earn short yardage duties where
he could become a touchdown vulture. Unfortunately, Foreman has
failed to impress the coaching staff. Poor conditioning and off
the field allegations of drug related matters have not made it
easy for the youngster. At this point, he is likely behind Alfred
Blue in the pecking order but he could still work his way into
the number two spot by the time the season opens. Expect him to
be worked into the offense slowly and be the favorite to see carries
should Miller miss any time with injury during the year.
Houston’s backup running back for a few years now, Alfred
Blue’s days with the team seem numbered. A free agent after
the season, Blue will battle Akeem Hunt and D’Onta Foreman
for a share of the backup duties in Houston. Blue’s experience
will surely help his cause but the door is open should one of
the other backs impress during the preseason. The team will want
to give Lamar Miller more rest after he wore down a year ago so
fantasy owners will want to keep tabs on this situation throughout
Tyler Ervin will be used primarily on special teams. His role
in the offense will be too limited for him to make much of a fantasy
splash. Akeem Hunt will need to outplay Blue and Ervin to retain
a roster spot. Hunt has done well in small doses during his first
two seasons with Houston, however but he lacks the size of Foreman
and Blue and doesn’t offer as much upside on special teams
as Ervin. Needless to say, things are crowded behind Miller and
fantasy owners will need to wait until deep into the preseason
to see how things finally shake out.
Perhaps no other player was hurt more by the Texans’ poor
quarterback play last season than DeAndre Hopkins. Last year,
the team seemed more concerned with eating as much clock as it
could rather than utilizing Hopkins’ play making abilities
to muster up something worthy of a highlight reel or fantasy points
for that matter. The only games in which Hopkins reached double
digit fantasy points were the four games he found the end zone,
making him a fantasy bust last season. The good news for fantasy
owners in 2017 is that if Tom Savage can’t get the ball
to Hopkins, then Deshaun Watson will see the field sooner rather
than later. The team isn’t going to let their superstar
wideout decay as their quarterback repeatedly flounders over the
entire fantasy campaign.
Barring an injury, the twenty-five-year-old receiver is a lock
for 150 targets. His hands are good enough to catch 100 passes
in any given year and his down field attributes give him elite
yardage potential as well. Tom Savage’s only hope at remaining
the starter this season lies with his ability to get Hopkins the
ball and Watson’s scrambling ability will force defenses
to cover Hopkins even longer. Hopkins might not reach his true
potential in 2017, but both situations point to a borderline WR1
that is currently being drafted in the third round.
Will Fuller’s 2016 rookie campaign started with a bang
and ended with a resounding thud. After storming out to three
double digit fantasy games over the first month, Fuller couldn’t
get off the sinking ship that was the Texans passing attack. He
failed to score more than six fantasy points in a single game
the rest of the way. As a starter playing opposite of a player
frequently getting double teamed, Fuller should take a step forward
in his second pro season. Known for being an excellent route runner
and having great speed, Fuller needs to work on catching the football.
Five drops and a catch rate of 51-percent do not instill much
confidence in quarterbacks. Fantasy owners should be very cautious
about how big of a step Fuller can take within the current offensive
system. The passing game should be improved but the coaching staff
isn’t about to let Tom Savage or Desahun Watson throw the
ball all over the field with a top-rated defense keeping the team
in games. As a result, he is best valued less as a potential breakout
player and more as a WR 4/5 in 12+ team leagues.
Update 8/2/17: Fuller broke his collarbone
and is expected to miss 2-3 months. He will go undrafted in most
redraft leagues but could be valuable waiver wire pickup in-season.
Houston doesn’t have much depth at receiver and the two
guys fighting for the third and fourth spots have yet to get through
a full season healthy. Braxton Miller should have the edge in
this battle as the more consistent overall player and will likely
spend most of his time in the slot. Meanwhile, Jaelen Strong is
working his way back from minor ankle surgery and should take
on a bigger workload early in the season while Will Fuller (collarbone)
is out with an injury. Houston isn’t going to use many three
or four receiver sets this year so is difficult to get excited
about anyone in this group outside of DeAndre Hopkins.
After Week 3 of 2016, C.J. Fiedorowicz racked up at least six
targets in all but two games to close out the regular season.
By seasons end he was ranked in the top ten for targets at his
position. With two inexperienced quarterbacks atop the depth chart,
Fiedorowicz should continue to see more passes than the average
tight end. If the team has better luck moving the ball this season,
the six-foot six-inch Fiedorowicz should see an improvement on
his four touchdowns from last year, yet a late season concussion
gives him added risk heading into 2017. Slight improvements on
his first year as the starter should make him a viable option
in two-TE formats.