Deshaun Watson again finished in the top five at the quarterback
position in 2019, although his statistical output waned some from
2018. His interception rate was up and his completion percentage
was down; he also rushed for less yardage. Nevertheless, he had
a very solid season and led the Texans to a victory in the playoffs.
If there is a reason to not blame Watson for his slight dip,
it is that the Texans’ offensive line was very poor at protecting
him. For the second straight season, Watson was at the top of
the league in sacks, taking 44 in the regular season and another
11 in the playoffs. The fact that he has consistently been excellent
despite very poor protection is impressive.
A few things will change this season for Watson. First, Bill
O’Brien will apparently no longer be calling plays. Offensive
coordinator Tim Kelly, who will be in his second season in that
role, will call the plays. How that will change the overall offense,
and specifically the run/pass ratio, is to be seen.
Second, the Texans’ best receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, is
gone. This certainly hurts Watson, since the two had built a nice
rapport and he must now work to build that same chemistry with
two new receivers (Cooks and Cobb) – despite limited offseason
Third, the backfield has changed. Though Duke Johnson is still
around and will likely continue flanking Watson on passing downs,
David Johnson is now likely to be the primary back instead of
Lamar Miller or Carlos Hyde. If David Johnson returns to his form
of a couple seasons ago this could be a positive for the offense
as a whole.
To this point in his career, Watson has been incredibly durable.
If the sacks continue, however, you’d have to assume that
will catch up with his body at some point. The Texans will likely
look to limit his rushing to some degree to keep him healthy,
even though the rushing ability is a key part of his fantasy value.
I’d expect him to take a small step back without Hopkins,
but overall I think he’ll finish very close to the same
place in the QB rankings during 2020.
It’s been an interesting ride for David Johnson. He entered
the league as a workout wonder from Northern Iowa, with many folks
unsure whether his skills would translate to the NFL. He excelled
right out of the gate as a special teams player and a passing
down back, and was given 125 carries as a rookie. He was so successful
that he was made the starter in 2016 and took the league by storm,
scoring 20 touchdowns and putting up over 2,100 rushing and receiving
In 2017 he was the first overall pick in a majority of fantasy
leagues, but unfortunately broke his wrist in Week 1 and missed
the rest of the season. In 2018 he appeared to be a shell of his
former self, rushing for only 3.6 yards per carry. However, many
attributed his lack of dynamism to a poor offensive scheme under
Mike McCoy. With the new offense Kliff Kingsbury brought to town
last season, many expected a resurgence for Johnson, and he was
again a first-round pick in most fantasy drafts. However, he appeared
slow and out of sorts, rushing for only 3.7 yards per carry. The
Cardinals benched him and traded for Kenyan Drake mid-season.
The Texans traded for Johnson (giving up Hopkins in the deal),
and are stating they expect a resurgence. Johnson will be 29 years
old this season, and did not appear to have the same quickness
last season that he displayed early in his career. However, Bill
O’Brien believes he still has enough in the tank to be a
lead running back. Last season, Carlos Hyde was effective, and
the Texans’ offensive line led the league in power blocking
success, according to Football Outsiders. So, I’d expect
any running back could have success on runs up the middle in this
offense, particularly with the threat of a running quarterback
also in the backfield.
How successful Johnson will be from a fantasy perspective likely
depends on two things: how much the Texans use him in the passing
game and how much he really has left physically. If his slow past
two seasons were due mostly to nagging injuries and poor coaching,
we could see a resurgence, and he could return to being one of
the top backs in the league. The flip side is also true, making
him a risky pick in the early rounds of your fantasy drafts.
Duke Johnson remains a useful PPR back, even though his receiving
numbers have decreased a bit from his early years in Cleveland.
He received 62 targets for the second consecutive season, catching
44 of them in 2019 for 410 yards and three touchdowns. He saw
his rushes double from 2018 to 2019, carrying the ball 83 times
for 410 yards (4.9 yards per rush). That efficiency is the reason
many Duke Johnson fans have been saying for years that he deserves
a larger share of his team’s rushing load. However, it is
difficult to judge how much of his healthy yards-per-carry average
is due to teams defending against the pass when he’s on
Both Cleveland and Houston have used Johnson in the same ways,
so we can probably assume his role will be similar - passing down
back with a few carries per game thrown in to keep the defense
off-balance. He is effective in the role, and may see a few more
targets this year, since Hopkins is out of town and since Johnson
has the ability to line up all over the field.
However, the opposite argument can also be made since David Johnson
has far more skill in the passing game than does Carlos Hyde.
It is possible that if we do see a David Johnson resurgence in
2020, Duke Johnson is relegated to a pure backup role and sees
far fewer touches. However, I expect that O’Brien and Kelly
will run the offense in a very similar fashion to the past few
years, and that Duke will remain a usable, if unspectacular, PPR
Knowing the concussion history of Cooks, it is amazing that he
has only missed a handful of games in his career. He has now had
at least five documented concussions, including two in a short
span last season. After his second concussion, many were calling
for him to retire, or at least take the rest of the season off,
but Cooks was adamant that he would play.
Concussions aside, Cooks has been productive as a receiver so
far in his career. He had four straight seasons with at least
65 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards, and that was despite
playing for three different teams during that span (Saints, Patriots,
and Rams). However, last season he took a large step back, posting
on 42-583-2 on 72 targets in 14 games. The slide could have been
due to the concussions, or perhaps he simply could not get in
sync with Jared Goff in a struggling offense.
Either way, the Texans are counting on him to return to his productive
ways, and would love him to seamlessly take the place of DeAndre
Hopkins as the primary receiver on the outside. He is not nearly
as skilled as Hopkins, but he has speed, and has certainly upgraded
at quarterback in moving from Goff to Watson. I expect Cooks to
approach 70 receptions and 1,000 yards if he stays healthy, but
that is a giant if. His injury history should rightly push him
down considerable distance draft boards.
Speaking of injury history, Will Fuller could be the poster boy
for a player with huge potential that has been limited due to
injuries. When on the field, Fuller has been dynamic, even with
Hopkins soaking up so many targets. Fuller has a ridiculous amount
of speed and athleticism, and routinely burns corners to get wide
open. But in his four-year career, he has missed 22 regular-season
games due to injury. That is just a killer for fantasy owners,
who never know when he will be ready to go or when he might get
injured during a game.
Along with high risk often comes high potential reward, though.
If Fuller ever did stay healthy for a whole season, he could be
a top-12 receiver in the league. He is the type of player who
could score double-digit touchdowns without even receiving 100
targets. In fact, in 2017 he scored 7 touchdowns on just 50 targets
and 28 receptions!
Since no one can bet on him to stay healthy, he is a mid-round
dart throw at this point. There is certainly a chance that a healthy
Fuller becomes the No.1 option in the passing game, since he already
has a rapport built up with Watson while Cooks and Cobb are new
to town. If he stays healthy and has such an explosion, he will
be a league-winner, and one of the best picks made in drafts this
year. Although that is not an outcome anyone can plan on due to
his past, it is fun to daydream about what a healthy Fuller could
do with 140 targets.
After a down 2018 with the Packers in which Cobb struggled with
health and produced only 38 receptions for 383 yards and 2 touchdowns,
he had a resurgent year in 2019 with the Cowboys. He played in
15 games and had 55 receptions on 83 targets, for 828 and 3 touchdowns.
Now he arrives to Houston to help fill the void left by Hopkins.
The Texans have been looking for a consistent slot receiver for
a number of years, and their inability to find one seems to be
the reason they were eager to add an aging Cobb to the roster,
even though they had to guarantee $18m at signing. Yes, Cobb is
on the downhill side of his career, but he still possesses the
quickness in and out of breaks that makes him difficult to cover
in the slot. He has good hands and good after-the-catch ability.
He should be effective in this offense, particularly since Watson
is often in need of quick outlet options with the poor offensive
Cobb should continue his resurgence in Houston, soaking up some
of the targets that went to Hopkins and others that went to the
tight ends. He should produce at similar levels to his one-year
stint with the Cowboys and be a productive player in this offense.
Fells had the best season of his career in 2019, at 33. He was
a steady option for Watson up the middle and in the red zone,
and caught 34 balls on 48 targets. He had 341 yards and an impressive
7 touchdowns, showing his value to the Texans when they needed
a big catch.
They also used Fells quite a bit on quick screens and on run-pass
option plays, and he was effective in that role. Although he is
not as gifted physically as most tight ends in the league, the
Texans scheme does rely on tight ends for both blocking and for
a few receptions per game, making Fells a good option for the
role. He was re-signed on a two-year deal this offseason, meaning
they liked what they got out of him and want him to continue in
If you are in a TE-premium or best ball league where most tight
ends are owned, Fells is certainly a name to keep in mind as a
late-round option, and could provide surprising upside if his
efficiency in the red zone continues.