I’m not sure I’m ready to sell you on the fantasy
value of Davis Mills. But I am going to tell you that there’s
something there. And that is sort of the story of his career to
date. Once a highly touted recruit, he never really popped, and
while he found his way to the starting spot at Stanford and made
himself a 3rd round draft pick, there’s usually something
that holds people back.
In terms of physical tools, it all looks good. He’s got
good size on a solid frame, a strong, but not overpowering arm,
and rarely throws a bad ball. As you might expect from a Stanford
student, he’s smart and processes info quickly, he’s
technically sound with great mechanics, and incredibly accurate,
even on the run on short and intermediate throws. The best part
is he showed some serious mental and physical toughness stepping
into the starting role as a rookie on a team that didn’t
offer much of a supporting cast, and held his own. In fact, he
showed real progress over the course of the season.
Consider this. He completed 68.7% of his passes over his last
five starts, and averaged over 9.0 yards per attempt in two games
during that span. He posted at least 300 passing yards in three
of his last seven games and had five multiple-touchdown games
in 11 appearances. The better news is that most NFL players see
their biggest improvements from year one to year two
While Houston is far from an NFL juggernaut, veteran Brandin
Cooks returns, second-year receiver Nico Collins is a developing
talent, and rookie John Metchie has a chance to be a playmaker.
With a couple new starters on the o-line and some help in the
run game, Davis could find himself in consideration for a low-end
QB2 role and certainly bears watching.
The last time Mack was an NFL starter was in 2019 when he posted
over 1,000 rushing yards and eight TDs for the Colts. Since then,
he’s battled injury and Jonathan Taylor for playing time.
He figures to be the RB1 to start this season now that he’s
He’s an aggressive, physical, between the tackles runner
with the size and strength to challenge second and third level
defenders, and can break the long run once he finds open space.
The problem is, he has not developed much as a receiver and could
be limited to two-down work.
As the bell cow on early downs, he may rise to a valuable RB3
position, but he’s susceptible to committee work with players
like Rex Burkhead and explosive rookie Dameon Pierce in the fold.
He should pop early in the season in this run-first attack, but
keep an eye on how the carries start to shake out around mid-season.
Burkhead took over as the Texans starting running back late in
the 2021 season, flashing with a 149-yard, two-touchdown game
against the Chargers in Week 16. But he averaged less 3.0 yards
per carry in five other contests where he had double digit carries.
His 2021 season average of 3.5 yards per tote was a half yard
less than his career average. Though he’s a tough and versatile
competitor, at 32 he’s probably not much of a fantasy factor
unless Marlon Mack and Dameon Pierce both go down with injuries.
Taken with the 107th pick in the draft, Pierce was never a starter
in college, though he flashed when given the chance in his final
season in 2021, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and cashing in for
13 touchdowns. He’s a strong, physical runner who can run
through tackles, and he holds up well in pass protection, which
could ultimately be the thing that gets him on the field and keeps
him there on 3rd down.
It won’t happen early in the season, but he has a chance
to develop into the RB1 in Houston by the end of the season. Stash
him on your bench or on your watch list.
All Cooks has ever done during his professional career is get
the job done. Even with rookie Davis Mills at QB a season ago,
all Cooks did was post his second consecutive 1,000-yard campaign
(the 6th of his career) with six touchdowns and four 100-yard
games. He is the clear and unchallenged WR1 in Houston.
A former winner of the Fred Biletnikoff Award winner as the best
college receiver in the country, Cooks has reliable hands, quick
feet, and is an excellent route runner with the vision to find
space in zone coverage, the speed and strength to beat man coverage,
and the elusiveness to make the first defender miss on a regular
basis. He can align all over the field, and that versatile skill
set is probably the thing that has allowed him to step in and
excel immediately in stops at New Orleans, New England, Los Angeles
Mills will be a better QB in year two, but this will be a run-heavy
attack that now features an emerging Nico Collins and talented
rookie John Metchie in the receiver room, which could cut into
Cooks’28% target share from a season ago (6th amongst all
NFL receivers), but he is still a solid WR2 in 10 and 12-team
Collins is a big, imposing receiver at 6-4, 215 and has deep
speed that can take the top off a defense. He also has a unique
ability to position himself and box out defenders to make the
contested catch, and once he has the ball, he’s a load to
bring down for defensive backs. He accumulated 62 targets (2nd
on the team to Brandin Cooks) while playing just 60% of the Texans
offensive snaps in 2021, but that number should grow as he becomes
more comfortable in the offense and competes for a starting spot
opposite Cooks. Right now, he’s a big play dependent flyer
for fantasy purposes until he can show that he can do more than
just get deep.
Metchie is a talented receiver with a versatile skill set who
struggled to find a bigger role in the Alabama passing attack.
That’s understandable considering at various times he played
with or behind the likes of Henry Ruggs, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta
Smith, Jerry Jeudy, and fellow rookie Jamison Williams.
He’s an elusive catch and run receiver who averaged almost
17.0 yards per catch his last two seasons at Bama, but suffered
a torn ACL in the 2021 SEC Championship Game. There’s a
good chance he starts the season on the PUP list, and once fully
back to action, is no better than the third receiving option in
a run-first offense. He will not be a factor out of the gate.
Jordan flashed with 20 catches in nine games in 2021 and had
at least four targets in four of those nine contests. Word out
of Houston is that he is the likely starter at TE out of camp
this year, and the short and intermediate passing game off play
action could be a significant part of this run-first attack. That
could mean some volume targets for the second-year project, and
if Nico Collins doesn’t develop as hoped, Jordan could become
a No.2 option in the passing game. Still, he’s outside of
fantasy consideration to start the season.
Given a bigger role in 2021 coming off his moderate success during
the 2020 season, Brown disappointed, not only as a receiver, but
as a blocker, which figures to be the biggest part of his role
in this offense. Still, Houston figures to run a lot of two-TE
sets, so Brown will be on the field, but he’s not a fantasy