The Texans ended 2019 (10-6) as the 14th ranked team in terms of points scored. This season they are without star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins as he has been traded to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for RB David Johnson. This trade should not change the way Bill O’Brien runs his offense. This Houston team likes to use a blend of deep vertical routes and empty back sets. In fact the Texans led the league in the amount of empty back plays ran in 2019. This offense kind of gives itself up in that aspect because opposing defenses know that when the backfield is vacant the short and intermediate field is going to be targeted as the production can’t sustain for that long. Speaking about the protection this offensive line finished as the 20th ranked according to PFF. The line was much improved from years prior with the acquisition of Larmey Tunsil, from the Dolphins. The Texans aren’t all about the passing game, as Bill O’Brien has shown that he likes to have balance, so the Texans do run the ball. Last season alone Carlos Hyde rushed 250 times so the team will look to do that with Johnson in 2020 as well.
DeShaun Watson (QB)- Deshaun’s style of play is one that can back fire at times. Deshaun has been criticized at times for his holding onto the ball too long. Watson also has the tendency to move in and out of the pocket when he doesn’t need too, which does his offensive line no favors. These tendencies lead to sacks and unnecessary hits, which Deshaun has seen plenty of over his career. The addition of Cooks this season gives the Texans a lot of speed to stretch the field, which in turn could mean more rushing yards for Deshaun this year as he finds more space to utilize his running ability. We don’t think Bill O’Brien is creative enough to incorporate designed runs for Watson, but he has shown the ability to create and adapt on his own.
*Fantasy Spin: The loss of Hopkins does kind of knock Watson done a little but in reality he still has many quality options to target in this offense. Watson will be fine as he still can pile points with his legs. With those factors in consideration we view Deshaun as a high end QB1 in redraft and dynasty leagues. We have him as our 6th ranked quarterback in redraft and our 5th ranked quarterback in Dynasty.
David Johnson/Duke Johnson (RB) – one thing that David Johnson has working in his favor in this move to Texas is that fact that Bill O’Brien loves committing to one back. The volume that Johnson will likely see will be what makes him productive in this offense. Last season in this offense Carlos Hyde saw his first 1,000 yard season as an NFL runner. David Johnson is also very good at catching the ball out of the backfield. The concern we have in that aspect of his game is that Watson typically doesn’t check down to his backs, as he is more prone to pull the ball and run. Before David Johnson went down last year with his various injuries he actually looked fine as a runner. The thing we have to keep in mind with Johnson is he has never really been known for explosion as he never has been one to force a lot of missed tackles, it’s just not who he is. Duke Johnson is also in this backfield and is known as a pass catching specialist, so it will interesting how the team splits those duties between the two. The brining in of David Johnson shows that the team didn’t trust Duke to be the guy to carry the rock 250 times as Hyde did last year. Duke has little upside when David Johnson is healthy. When you look to last year Duke typically takes snaps when the team is in shot gun formation, and is most productive in this formation.
*Fantasy Spin: David Johnson if able to remain healthy should be able to put up solid production in this offense making him a RB2. The injury concern is there for him and it’s a real concern. In terms of the early round picks in fantasy we always want to look at one thing in particular and that is if the players best football isn’t behind him then it’s a solid pick. With that thinking in mind Johnson doesn’t fit the bill as a top round pick. We currently have Johnson ranked as our 24th back, which would have being taken in the 5th round which is fair value in redraft leagues. Duke Johnson comes in as our 32nd ranked running back putting him that RB3 category. In terms of ADP Duke offers better value late then David’s ADP of 48 which seems just a little high for us. Typically in that range we are targeting upside wide receiver two’s such as Chark, Woods, and Sutton who are more appealing than David Johnson.
Brandin Cooks/Will Fuller/Kenny Stills/Randal Cobb/Isaiah Coulter (WR) – Will Fuller is entering 2020 on the fifth year of his rookie deal. Fuller no doubt will be motivated in what is shaping up as a massive prove it year. The thing that Fuller has proven thus far in his NFL career is he has immense upside, but also very unreliable as he is often injured. Since entering the league in 2016 Fuller has missed a total of 22 games due to injury. This injury history is why it is highly unlikely Fuller returns in 2021. The team went out and drafted Isaiah Coulter this past draft who figures to be the Fuller replacement. The kid is very talented but is raw and will need time to develop, according to the organization. Coulter finds himself behind Fuller, Cobb, Stills, and newly acquired Brandin Cooks in a deep wide receiver stable. This stable is not only deep but they are fast. When the team looks to go deep vertically opposing defenses will be lined up against Cooks, Fuller, and Stills and that will be challenging for defenses to matchup with. Cooks as a Ram last year lined up as the teams X receiver, and will likely be the X for the Texans this season. It is clear that O’Brien wants speedy receivers who are able to stretch the field to create space. There is indeed some concern that accompanies Cooks as like Fuller, has grown injury prone the last few seasons. Cooks has been battling concussions, which is not good. Kenny Stills is probably going to be more of a rotational player as Cobb was specifically targeted by O’Brien to bring in as the teams slot receiver. In theory the Texans could safe close to 7 million in cap space by letting Stills go. However, O’Brien has always been a play now type of guy, meaning he is always in the win now mindset, and Stills fits that thinking as a win now type of player.
*Fantasy Spin: This wide receiver group screams upside for fantasy, but the injury concerns for the top fantasy options knocks them down our board. We have Fuller highest as our 49th ranked wide receiver, making him a WR4. Brandin Cooks comes in as our 48th ranked wide receiver making him a WR4 as well. Cobb comes in as our 73rd wide out in redraft. Stills is our 88th ranked wide receiver. As far as dynasty Coulter makes for an interesting prospect, but will need time to develop into a viable fantasy option. Currently in dynasty we have Coulter ranked as our 84th receiver.
Darren Fells/Jordan Thomas/Jordan Akins (TE) – this group, with the exception of Akins, are more possession type receivers as they are not great run guys. Akins appears to be the tight end that offers the most potential out of this group, but he needs more development to truly be looked at as a solid NFL tight end.
*Fantasy Spin: This tight end group leaves a lot to be desired and really no fantasy value in normal 12 team leagues. We have Fells and Akins ranked as our 33rd and 30th tight ends in redraft.
Defense – Anthony Weaver comes in and takes over a defense that ranked 19th in points allowed last season. The loss of the aging JJ Watt due to injury last season had a lot to do with the mediocre play, as they ranked in the bottom six in terms of sacks (31) last season. The play in the secondary was also an issue especially in the turnovers department, as the unit only produced 12 interceptions which ranked bottom 12 in that category. The team has two former first rounders at corner back in Gareon Conley and Vernon Hargreaves who were both cast off from their drafted teams rather quickly. The unit will look to be more competitive in the Weaver defense. Weaver has said he wants a defense that is tough and resilient, which represents the city of Houston. Weaver says the defense will be more creative then it’s been under Romeo and his zone and cover 4 schemes. Look for the Texans to become more exotic especially on third down as they were terrible last season in getting off the field on third downs.
*Fantasy Spin: We like targeting this defense when our fantasy players are going against them. Years prior this defense was always a pretty solid fantasy option. However we don’t see them being a top 15 unit in the NFL this season let alone fantasy. We have the Texans defense ranked as our 26th defense coming into 2020, which should tell you there are far better options to target.
Strength of Schedule
The Texans wide receiver corps will face the 10th toughest schedule this fantasy regular season. Their playoff schedule is much better as they have the 6th easiest during weeks 14-16. The Johnson’s will be looking at the 13th toughest schedule during the fantasy regular season. The backs will then have the 9th toughest schedule during the fantasy playoffs. Watson will face the 9th toughest schedule during the fantasy regular season, and the 4th easiest during weeks 14-16. The tight ends will face the 14th toughest fantasy regular season schedule, but will face the 3rd easiest playoff schedule from weeks 14-16.