2021 Franchise Focus: Houston Texans

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2021 Franchise Focus: Houston Texans

No team in the NFL is projected to be worse than Houston, which has the awful Deshaun Watson accusations hanging over the organization … in addition to Watson’s trade demands (he doesn’t appear to have much leverage).

New coach David Culley inherits an awful roster even with Watson on it, and it’s going to take a long time to rebuild this given how willingly former coach/GM Bill O’Brien traded away premium draft picks (and good players).

With Tyrod Taylor the likely starter, there isn’t much appeal for fantasy here. Most Texans are late-round flyers, and many will be available off the Waiver Wire in the event of an unexpected blowup.

Houston Texans Franchise Focus Companion Podcast

The Basics

Team FuturesOdds
Season Win Total (O/U)4 (-105/-115)
AFC South+2200
Playoffs (Y/N)+800/-2000
AFC Championship+10000
Super Bowl+20000

Season Prop Movement

  • Win Total: 4.5 (-110) in late March to 4 (+105)

  • Super Bowl: +10000 in early February to +20000

Premium 2021 Betting Preview from Tom Brolley found here.

Key Offseason Moves

AdditionsDraftDepartures
Tyrod Taylor (QB)Davis Mills (QB)A.J. McCarron (QB, Atl)
Jeff Driskel (QB)Nico Collins (WR)Zach Fulton (OG, NYG)
Marcus Cannon (OT)Brevin Jordan (TE)Nick Martin (OC, LV)
Geron Christian (OT)Roy Lopez (DT)Duke Johnson (RB)
Lane Taylor (OG)Garret Wallow (ILB)Randall Cobb (WR, GB)
Justin McCray (OG)Will Fuller (WR, Mia)
Justin Britt (OC)Chad Hansen (WR, Det)
Phillip Lindsay (RB)Darren Fells (TE, Det)
Rex Burkhead (RB)J.J. Watt (DE, Ari)
Mark Ingram (RB)Carlos Watkins (DE, Dal)
Anthony Miller (WR)Benardrick McKinney (ILB, Mia)
Chris Conley (WR)Tyrell Adams (ILB, Buf)
Andre Roberts (WR)Nate Hall (ILB, Car)
Alex Erickson (WR)Phillip Gaines (CB)
Ryan Izzo (TE)
Maliek Collins (DT)
Vincent Taylor (DT)
Jaleel Johnson (DT)
Roy Lopez (DT, UDFA)
DeMarcus Walker (DE)
Jordan Jenkins (OLB)
Neville Hewitt (ILB)
Kamu Grugier-Hill (ILB)
Christian Kirksey (ILB)
Joe Thomas (ILB)
Tae Davis (ILB)
Desmond King (CB)
Terrance Mitchell (CB)
Tavierre Thomas (CB)

Scott Barrett’s Fantasy Strength of Schedule

Quarterback: 13th-softest (+0.08)

Running Back: 15th-softest (+0.29)

Wide Receivers: 16th-softest (+0.53)

Tight Ends: 15th-softest (+0.02)

Pace and Tendencies

Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.7 (17th)

Plays per game: 57.3 (32nd)

When the game is within a score — Pass: 63.4% (3rd) | Run: 36.6% (30th)

When the team is ahead — Pass: 59.6% (1st) | Run: 40.4% (32nd)

When the team is behind — Pass: 65.2% (19th) | Run: 34.8% (14th)

Obviously, the Texans tendencies are set to drastically change with Deshaun Watson uncertain to play a down for the team in 2021. Houston had to keep their foot on the gas to have any chance of winning and that meant letting Watson chuck it early and often. That led to Watson throwing a career-high 544 passes last season. Looking forward, even though Houston cleaned house this offseason, OC Tim Kelly is back calling plays and will probably lean way more run-heavy with Tyrod Taylor under center.

Key Statistics

  • Deshaun Watson completed a ridiculous 71.6% of his throws, averaged 311 yards per game, owned a 27:4 TD-to-INT ratio, and added 32.2 rushing yards per game with his legs after the team fired HC Bill O’Brien.

  • Over his final 12 games, Watson scored 24.5 fantasy points per game — which would have ranked as the 11th-best QB season all-time just ahead of Tom Brady’s 50 TD season in 2007.

  • After O’Brien was canned, Brandin Cooks came to life for 71/1012/6 over his final 11 games.

  • Cooks’ 18.8 fantasy points per game from Week 5-17 made him the WR4 in this span behind Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, and Stefon Diggs.

  • David Johnson put up 18.8 fantasy points per game when Duke Johnson missed time and 12.5 FPG when Duke was active.

  • A large part of that came down to passing down work. He averaged 4.2 receptions/game when Duke missed and just 1.7 R/G when Duke was active.

Huber’s Scheme Notes

Offensive

If you are an unfortunate Texans fan, sincere condolences are in order for the spectacle you will be witness to during the upcoming season. That’s especially true during the first two weeks of the season when their only elite players on offense (Deshaun Watson — possible suspension, holdout, and/or trade) and defense (Bradley Roby — suspension) are inactive. Let’s just say that Houston’s CEO Cal McNair’s choice for his new President, Greg Grissom, GM, Nick Caserio, and HC, David Culley, are… um… interesting. Immediately following the hirings of these three individuals, an unbalanced dominoing cascade of transactions ensued. And it seems the age-old aphorism quality-over-quantity evaded their approach. WARNING: this entry into the Franchise Focus series will be accompanied by a few more personal pronouns than in previous installments.

Since I’d rather devote my time to more meaningful tasks, I will not be running the numbers. But I’ll still pass along some expectations I see as ominous, inevitable. One conclusion comes to mind whenever you see a literal unknown/longtime position coach hired as a new HC and that team is moving on from every conceivable asset and that HC hire is surrounded by both an OC and DC with significantly superior experience running a team: we have a scapegoat. Nobody in the great state of Texas expects Culley to succeed. In fact, nobody in the Texans’ front office wants Culley to succeed. After the dust settles from Houston’s twisted version of a fire sale and the front office begins to collect their first set of valuable draft pieces, Culley will be fired. His first taste as a HC will net him some valuable experiences, as well as a sub-30% winning percentage.

Nobody should be shocked to see Culley sign and anoint Tyrod Taylor as his starting QB. The pair previously adorned the Bills during their captivating 2017 playoff “run” that concluded with a 9-7 record. Yawn. A recent report suggests Phillip Lindsay is set for significant volume as the lead back, leaving David Johnson to fill Duke Johnson Jr.’s vacated passing down role. Nothing has changed with Mark Ingram II, he’s just lucky to still have a roster spot. Yawn. Since OC Tim Kelly somehow managed to be retained, we can continue to expect to see Houston use the league’s highest rate of Inside Zone blocking and a top-10 rate of Backside Pulls.

The ‘20 O-line was actually quite effective at protecting the pocket. But they were horrendous blocking for the run. Nick Martin and Zach Fulton are out. And Caserio used their salary numbers to rent Marcus Cannon, Geron Christian, Lane Taylor, Justin McCray, and Justin Brit. Yawn. Before we dip into the Texans’ passing “attack,” it’s important a reminder is passed along that, even with Watson under center, Kelly’s offense played at the slowest pace in the NFL (58.8 plays/game). I’ll admit that ‘21 third-rounder Nico Collins is quite the specimen. Equipped with 85th-percentile arms (34.1-inches), 66th-percentile speed (4.45 40-time), and a 76th-percentile 3-Cone (6.79-seconds). But I have zero dynasty investment in Collins for multiple reasons. First, his collegiate production never matched that athleticism. Second, in the games where he did well, in all but one instance, his production was gained at the expense of scrub defenses. The final reason is a question for you: when can we even expect this offense to be able to support a single fantasy receiver? Apologies to Brandin Cooks, the outlook is bleak.

If you’re waiting around for Watson to be cleared, it’s hard assuming Caserio will allow him to play another snap for the Texans. Consider that during this massive rebuild phase, J.J. Watt and Nick Martin were released outright, and Will Fuller V simply walked as an unrestricted free agent. And, to date, they’ve assembled all of a ‘22 fourth-rounder (acquired in trade with Rams for Cooks), a ‘22 sixth-rounder (Randall Cobb deal with Packers), and a ‘22 seventh-rounder (Anthony Miller deal with the Bears) to show for their “wheeling-and-dealing.” Just because it’s too damn easy: they also traded off a ‘22 fourth-rounder (Panthers), a ‘22 fifth-rounder (Miller from Bears), and a ‘22 seventh-rounder (Ryan Izzo deal with Patriots… wait, WTF?!?).

With the dead cap contract numbers listed in parenthesis: other than Laremy Tunsil ($35.9 million) — the guy who they traded off seventeen future first-rounders and the first born of eight front office executives in order to acquire, Zach Cunningham ($18.1 million), Cooks ($9.8 million), Roby ($2 million), and the youngsters they just drafted; the only guy on the roster with any remaining trade value is Watson. With all of that in mind, would you risk an injury to Watson? I… would… not. The second he is cleared, he would be dealt for as much draft capital as humanly possible. If it required bringing multiple teams into the deal and/or eating the entirety of the remaining $119 million on his current contract, so be it. This team is not going anywhere close to the playoffs prior to Watson becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2026. So all of that money is bantha fodder regardless.

As for a ‘21 outlook: they will be led by a QB known for his mobility, who doesn’t run enough to matter, refuses to pass to his RBs, and who happens to be responsible for propelling the term “conservative” into mainstream terminology. Don’t worry, if he is injured, ‘21 third-rounder Davis Mills will be ready to attack the NFL with 300 career high school ball dropbacks to his name. Unless Cooks and Collins figure out how to throw the ball to themselves, they’ll be fighting over Taylor’s 150 passing YPG average within Kelly’s reverse-tempo assault. Let’s not mince words, the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs would take this Texans team to the wire. Houston’s current business plan calling for the distribution of one million bucks to 87 guys in return for running in circles on a football field is not one I hope we see repeated anytime soon.

Defensive

Defense? The worst run defense? Check. The worst pass rush? Check. One side of the secondary literally holding their coverage responsibilities with both hands as they’re peppered with targets to avoid one of the very elite shadow corners in the game? Check. The highest rate of missed tackles in football? Check. Folks, we have the rare pleasure of the Quadfecta! J.J. Watt amassed nearly 50 QB pressures last season. And his simple presence contributed to an untold number of pressures for his surrounding teammates. Without Watt, will the Texans even manage to accumulate 150 pressures? Unlikely. The only pass-rushing hopes along the D-line for Houston will be EDGE Shaq Lawson and SAM Jordan Jenkins.

WILL Zach Cunningham is one of the hardest-working LBs in the game. Hyphenated MIKEs Kamu Grugier-Hill and Kevin Pierre-Louis are not. Bradley Roby limited his coverage to 0.69 yards/coverage snap (sixth-best) and 0.19 FPs/coverage snap (13th-best) last season. Apparently opposing QBs refused to check those numbers since they still attacked him with the 54th-lowest air yards/attempt. And it should be noted that the addition of Desmond King II to cover the slot was a solid transaction. But they’ll open the first two games of the season with Vernon Hargreaves III and Terrance Mitchell on the outside… queue the dramatic puking noises.

New DC Lovie Smith is likely in the best position to be named the new HC whenever Culley is fired as the scapegoat. Since he’s spent the last five seasons as the University of Illinois HC, predicting a coverage rotation might be considered an estimation. However, we need to keep in mind that Smith essentially created the Tampa-2. And, from my extensive viewing history of Illinois tape over the years, Smith used a high rate of that same Tampa-2 throughout his tenure with the Fighting Illini. He also sprinkles in a touch of Cover 1 for giggles. Tampa-2 is simple in design, tricky in recognition. And he’ll be reliant on free safety Justin Reid’s excellent cover skills alongside strong safety Lonnie Johnson Jr.’s improving game to protect the Tampa-2’s honey holes.

Even if Lovie had a clone of Roby to cover both sides of the field, this secondary would be destined to struggle. I’ve said it a thousand times: no coverage in football can succeed without a successful pass rush. And the Texans will literally field one of the worst pass rushes in at least a decade. No QB. No talent. No playoffs. No stockpile of draft picks. Far too few moveable parts with value. No future. No money. The Houston Texans’ franchise makes the tragedy of the Detroit Lions’ existence appear destined for greatness. Good luck, Coach Culley!

Projected Fantasy Contributors

Deshaun Watson (Proj: N/A | ADP: 177 | Pos ADP: QB26)

We know Watson is an elite-level QB, but we don’t know the most important piece of information: if he will play in 2021 and what team he will play for. He could be a top-5 fantasy QB, or he could sit out all season. We just don’t know.

Tyrod Taylor (Proj: QB33 | ADP: 366 | Pos ADP: QB58)

Tyrod Taylor has been one of the most sought after backup QBs in the NFL over the last few seasons. From a fantasy perspective, Taylor showed strong promise in his time starting in Buffalo, averaging 17.4 FPG. However, it’s crucial to note that his best two fantasy seasons came in 2015 and 2016, with Greg Roman as his offensive coordinator. In 2017 without Roman, Taylor averaged just 14.8 FPG in his 14 games as the starter. Taylor’s rushing ability helps secure his fantasy floor, as he averaged 5.6 rushing FPG in his 43 games with the Bills, but he’s never flashed an amazing ceiling, exemplified by his 0 career games of 30 or more fantasy points. With his only competition for starting reps being third-rounder Davis Mills, Taylor is the presumptive starter, but he’s far from a lock to start all 17 games, as a few poor performances could lead him to the bench. Regardless, Taylor’s ADP of QB58 is far too low, as he should be a low- to mid-end QB2 in the games he starts, and he’s the clear favorite to start the majority of games for the Texans. He’s not a player to draft for upside, as his high-end performances will be limited by Houston’s anemic supporting cast, but he does have a strong game-to-game floor, and that’s enough to make him a value in superflex/2QB leagues.

Davis Mills (Proj: QB38 | ADP: 439 | Pos ADP: QB65)

Davis Mills is arguably the only QB drafted outside the first round with a shot at starting a game in 2021. That may sound enticing from a fantasy perspective, but our Draft Guide sheds light on why he fell to Round 3: poor accuracy (a death sentence for a pocket passer), lack of effective pocket movement, and difficulty working through his progressions. Those are some big red flags, and with Houston offering the worst supporting cast in the NFL, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Mills. 2QB or superflex fantasy managers should certainly keep an eye on Mills to see what he does with his opportunity if it arises, but he’s not worth drafting in any format with Tyrod Taylor likely to start the majority, or all, of Houston’s games.

David Johnson (Proj: RB34 | ADP: 105 | Pos ADP: RB39)

David Johnson has never gotten close to recreating the 25.5 FPG (18th-most all-time) he averaged in his sophomore season in 2016 with the Arizona Cardinals. Even so, his 2020 season with Houston was the 3rd-best fantasy season of his career (15.0 FPG), and he recorded a career-high 4.7 YPC, so it’s clear the 29-year-old Johnson still has something left in the tank. Johnson actually dominated the Texans’ backfield last year, as he averaged an 81% snap share and 16.2 FPG if you exclude Week 9 — which he left after seven snaps due to injury. He’s the favorite to lead the backfield again this year, but the Texans did add Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay, and Rex Burkhead to their RB room, a significant increase in competition for David Johnson, who only had to fend off Duke Johnson for reps last year. That makes this a very difficult backfield to navigate for fantasy purposes. Johnson will lead the way, but by how much is anyone’s guess. It’s certainly fair to say he won’t see the snap or touch volume he did last year, but with an RB4 ADP, he doesn’t need to in order to provide value for fantasy managers — a recent ESPN report suggested he’ll play mostly on passing downs, of which the Texans will have plenty given how bad they are. Given what we know, Johnson’s a solid value at cost, but his ceiling in 2021 will be far lower than 2020 (when he finished as RB14) due to the significant increase in RB competition in Houston — especially Lindsay — and reduced scoring from a significant QB downgrade.

Phillip Lindsay (Proj: RB71 | ADP: 145 | Pos ADP: RB49)

The first three seasons of Phillip Lindsay’s career are about as good as you could hope for from an undrafted free agent. In his first two seasons in Denver, Lindsay averaged 13.7 FPG, 80.2 yards from scrimmage per game and 15.7 touches per game. Unfortunately for Lindsay, the Broncos opted to sign Melvin Gordon prior to the 2020 season, and Lindsay’s role was reduced, as he only averaged 6.0 FPG, 48.2 YFS and 11.4 touches per game. Nonetheless, Lindsay is a talented RB. He’s never recorded a PFF rushing grade worse than 77.7 and has a career 4.8 YPC — numbers that are impressive for any NFL RB, much less one who was never drafted. It should go without saying that Lindsay will be able to carve himself out a role now that he’s in Houston. How big that role will be is difficult to predict, as Lindsay faces a crowded RB room with David Johnson, Mark Ingram, and Rex Burkhead all competing for snaps. The high likelihood of a messy three-way, or even four-way committee crushes the ceilings of all of these rushers, but Lindsay apparently has the upper edge on early-down work, where he’s spent much of his time in the NFL thus far. He’s not a value at his current ADP, but he offers enough of a floor to warrant being selected near the end of drafts in most 12 team leagues.

Mark Ingram II (Proj: RB79 | ADP: 520 | Pos ADP: RB133)

Ingram is about to head into his 11th NFL season after spending the previous two years with Baltimore. Prior to 2020, Ingram’s fantasy outputs had been remarkably consistent, as he averaged no worse than 11.9 FPG from 2014-2019. The 2020 season, however, represented a concerning downtrend in more ways than one for the 31-year-old RB. Ingram averaged 4.2 YPC (his worst since 2012), 4.8 FPG (his worst ever), and an abysmal 55.6 PFF rushing grade (by far his worst ever). This significant drop-off in production and efficiency is quite concerning, as bounceback seasons from RBs of Ingram’s age are exceedingly rare. That concern, coupled with an incredibly crowded RB room of David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, and Rex Burkhead makes it unlikely Ingram will be able to maintain fantasy relevancy in 2020. He can be safely ignored in all but the deepest formats.

Brandin Cooks (Proj: WR44 | ADP: 93 | Pos ADP: WR39)

Cooks has bounced all around the league in his career, playing for four different teams over his seven career NFL seasons. Regardless of the team he’s played for, though, Cooks has almost always been a high-end fantasy contributor. Outside of 2019, Cooks has finished as the WR17 or better in five of the last six seasons. And in just the games without Will Fuller last year, Cooks averaged an absurd 22.5 FPG. He’s also flashed a game-breaking ceiling throughout his career, with six total games of 30 or more fantasy points. The Texans’ abysmal defense should secure plenty of passing volume for Houston in 2021, and given that Cooks will likely lead the team in targets by a wide margin, he’s a clear ADP value based on projected target volume alone. That’s not to say Cooks doesn’t carry risk — the likely absence of Deshaun Watson will surely hurt — but the market appears to be overreacting to that notion. Cooks offers some of the best game-to-game upside of any player being drafted in WR4 range, along with the added benefit of significant target volume, making him a strong value in the middle rounds of drafts.

Nico Collins (Proj: WR83 | ADP: 349 | Pos ADP: WR122)

As a 6’4” WR who exclusively played outside at Michigan, Nico Collins has an excellent chance to see some immediate playing time thanks to Houston’s subpar depth at outside WR. Despite solid athletic testing, some scouts have cast doubts on Collins’ ability to separate, as he both struggled to do so against better corners in college and lacks the sudden explosiveness typically needed to separate at an NFL level. Houston will be heavily incentivized to get him on the field after giving up the 109th, and 158th picks plus a 2022 fourth-rounder to move up to pick 89 to grab Collins. With his first training camp reportedly going well, Collins may very well emerge as the No. 2 receiver this year in Houston.

Keke Coutee (Proj: WR89 | ADP: 515 | Pos ADP: WR174)

Primarily a slot WR, Coutee has had a hard time staying on the field due to both injuries and being benched. In his three NFL seasons, Coutee has never exceeded nine games played, missing a total of 21 games due to injury, and another 4 due to being a healthy scratch. When Coutee does get on the field, though, he’s performed fairly well. On a per game basis throughout his career, Coutee has averaged 8.8 fantasy points and 5.1 targets per game. Those aren’t league winning numbers, but if ranked among 2020 WRs, Coutee would have been 67th in FPG and 63rd in targets per game. That comes with an important caveat, as Coutee was a non-factor in 2020 when fellow slot-man Randall Cobb was healthy, as the pair played together in just two games, and in those games Coutee averaged 5.1 FPG and just 3.0 targets per game. The Texans’ recent trade for another slot WR, Anthony Miller, suggests they may not have ample confidence in Coutee, and that could absolutely keep him from seeing significant playing time in 2021. Factor in a disastrous QB situation on top of Coutee’s playing time concerns, and it’s clear he’s not a player to reach for in drafts.

Anthony Miller (Proj: WR112 | ADP: 451 | Pos ADP: WR154)

It had been rumored since before the draft, but an Anthony Miller trade finally happened in late July, with the Bears sending a 2022 Round 7 pick and Miller for a 2022 Round 5 pick from the Texans. A former 2nd-round pick, Miller never quite lived up to expectations in Chicago, failing to exceed 700 receiving yards or 60 receptions in any individual season. With 79.8% of his career snaps coming from the slot, Miller’s primary competition for playing time in 2021 will be Keke Coutee. Who wins out between the two is incredibly difficult to predict, as neither player has been particularly efficient. Miller does seem to carry less season-long risk as he’s always played at least 15 games in every season, faring far better than Coutee, who’s never played more than 9 games in a season. Even so, Coutee’s presence on the roster limits Miller’s game-to-game and season-long upside, and with so many question marks surrounding the QB situation, it’s wise for fantasy drafters in normal-sized leagues to avoid Miller in 2021.

Jordan Akins (Proj: TE29 | ADP: 491 | Pos ADP: TE71)

Akins has never been a significant fantasy contributor, averaging 4.8 FPG throughout his career and never finishing higher than TE25 in any individual season. 2020 did mark the best season of Akins’ career from a fantasy perspective, as he averaged 6.4 FPG and 3.8 targets per game. 2021 has a chance to be even better, as Akins faces less competition for snaps than at any other point in his career with former teammate Darren Fells now in Detroit. Still, Akins has never demonstrated a ceiling worth chasing, as he has scored double-digit fantasy points in just six of his 45 career games.

Brevin Jordan (Proj: TE51 | ADP: 413 | Pos ADP: TE58)

Brevin Jordan is a bit raw as a TE prospect, but he offers the after-the-catch playmaking ability we love to see in rookie TEs. Incredibly, he’s the only TE to have more YAC in 2020 than Kyle Pitts, earning 353 yards after the catch last year. He also posted an elite forced missed tackles per reception rate of 0.2, making him come off, at least a bit, as a Jonnu Smith clone as Smith has always avoided tackles and gained yards after the catch at an elite level. The primary concern for Jordan is a sub-par athletic profile, as Scott Barrett notes his sub-70th percentile SPORQ score typically spells problems for TEs at the next level. That could limit his rookie impact, and Houston’s abysmal QB situation doesn’t help either. Even so, Jordan should absolutely see the field in year one, although it’s tough to see him being a relevant fantasy contributor this season with Jordan Akins unlikely to cede significant playing time. Outside of dynasty leagues, Jordan can be safely left undrafted this year and should be treated as a “wait and see” kind of player.

Hansen’s Final Points

First and foremost, while I’m no NFL insider, I do talk to a lot of dialed-in people, and my sense is Deshaun Watson will not be playing for the Texans this year, and that’s as of 8/10. No one truly knows how this situation will play out, but I do know this: I’m proceeding this season as if he doesn’t exist. If you want to take a flyer on him at 180 overall, have at it — but he’ll probably be one of the first players you cut during the season.

If you’re one to go bargain basement shopping at QB, then Tyrod Taylor has to be considered, given his unusually low ADP of 300+ and QB58. The QB58 makes no sense, since he’s a lock to open the season as the starter, which is why Tyrod is our QB33. Taylor’s a limited player, but he’s a scrappy veteran who will run a lot, so he’s got some value in leagues where every starting snap from an NFL QB means something. Eventually, the team will likely take a look at rookie Davis Mills, so I don’t think we can expect more than 10 starts from Taylor, so he’s a short-term option only for 2021.

It’s fair to say Davis Mills should have returned to college for another year in 2021, but he’s a Houston Texan, and he’s a guy they will likely give some starts to in order to evaluate him. Mills does have the talent to be an NFL starter, but he’s got a lot of work to do to improve his accuracy (it can be done), and he needs more work in terms of his ability to see the field and process information quickly. In leagues that go the deepest of the deep, like 16-team SuperFlex leagues, he’s probably worth a late, late pick. But that’s about it.

I’ve struggled with this backfield all off-season because I don’t like anyone here, but

David Johnson has been higher on our board than his ADP of RB39, which hasn’t sat well with me. It’s been largely a function of volume, since we’ve all handed him a large role. However, according to an ESPN report from 8/10, Johnson is expected to cede most of the early-down carries to Phillip Lindsay, essentially remaining in the old Duke Johnson role, which never amounted to much for fantasy in Houston. Adjusting Johnson’s projection and giving him only 120 carries (and 37 grabs), places him at RB36, which is his current ADP right now. If his overall ADP remains around 100, I’d see little appeal to Johnson. But based on this new report, I’d guess Johnson’s ADP will drop 20+ spots, so he might be a sneaky depth value later.

You have to give Phillip Lindsay a ton of credit for being an UDFA coming out of Colorado and earning meaningful snaps his first three seasons, even making a Pro Bowl in 2018. Well, it looks like he’s going to go 4-for-4, since he’s likely to lead the Texans in early-down carries, according to an ESPN report published on 8/10. Adjusting the Houston RB projections, Lindsay came in at only RB50, which was actually his 8/10 ADP, so we’ll see if that ADP rises. He’s a liability in the passing game due to his lack of size and effectiveness in that role, and David Johnson will handle most of that work, which kills Lindsay in PPR. But for the “zero RB” crowd, Lindsay suddenly has some intrigue with 170+ touches looking likely. There’s little upside to be had, but that’s always the case with RBs drafted around 165 overall, excluding some choice handcuffs and stash-and-hope guys.

I thought he looked great in 2019, but old RBs can fall off a cliff quickly, and it appears Mark Ingram has done just that. He’s completely off the radar because no one expects him to make the Texans roster. And if you can’t make this roster in 2021, your NFL career is likely over.

Assuming he makes the team as their third back, Rex Burkhead will probably have some value as a complementary jack of all trades. He can convert in short-yardage and he can play well in the passing game, but durability is obviously a concern, and he’s probably not going to collect more than 6-7 opportunities a game unless there’s an injury. He’s not being drafted anywhere, so he’s a potential WW guy only.

As a former Brandin Cooks apologist, I’ve actually undersold him lately because he’s been a little frustrating and underwhelming, and I may be doing that again this year, since we have him at WR44 and his ADP is WR39. As underwhelming as he’s been to me, the guy is the WR17 or better in five of his last six seasons, and he’s done this playing on four different teams, which is impressive. His durability/concussion issues have been a key reason why I’ve been less high on him, but he’s actually missed only three regular season games the last six seasons. There’s less upside and more downside this year for sure, but our Cooks’ ranking is more about the other quality options at WR, and there are plenty of them. But there’s a lot to be said about his pedigree and opportunity.

The Texans depth chart at WR is certainly still fluid as of this writing on 8/10, but rookie Nico Collins stands out as the top young WR in Houston who could bust out at some point in his rookie season — or is at least their best long term prospect on the roster. At a 6’4” he gives them needed size, and if he can earn a decent number of targets, his lack of quickness and separation ability may not be a big problem, since he could get solid volume. He’s a free pick with an ADP of 300+ this summer, so I’d consider him in deep leagues as a late, late flyer.

I’ve been looking at Keke Coutee for months as a possible deep sleeper, and the trading away of Randall Cobb earlier this month certainly helps his chances. Injuries have been a major problem, as Coutee has never played more than nine games in three seasons. But he’s also flashed very intriguing potential from the slot. The Texans did trade for another slot WR in Anthony Miller this summer, but they may be simply making a dart throw for some upside, just like we do in fantasy drafts. The Bears discarded Miller for a reason (mostly off the field), so I’m not expecting him to make an impact. Coutee shouldn’t be drafted in most redraft leagues, but I’m not forgetting the fact that this guy has some big games on his small NFL resume, including an 8/141 performance last December.

Why would the Bears, thin at receiver in 2021, trade away a 26-year old wideout who they used the 51st overall pick on in 2018, and in the final year of his rookie deal? They would because they didn’t want him around, so while Anthony Miller may be embracing the “fresh start” in another city, his NFL location isn’t the problem. From what I’ve heard, Miller’s basically a pain in the ass, so I’d advise against drafting him. If he’s getting a lot of snaps and targets early in the season and producing decent totals, fine, he’s a viable WW pickup. But we’re not there yet.

The Texans have been a nightmare at the TE position for about a decade, and it’s not for lack of trying. They’ve used several picks on the position in recent drafts, and they’re still looking for a clear starter and impactful player. Jordan Akins remains their best option, and while he did flash last year, he’s also frustrating because he doesn’t command the ball, and he’s too inconsistent to rely on. No one cares about his existence, as evidenced by his 400+ ADP, but we do have him at TE29, so if you’re looking for a value in Round 30, he is that.

If there’s a young receiver in his first or second season on this team who makes an impact this year, it’ll likely be WR Nico Collins or fellow rookie Brevin Jordan at TE. He’s raw, but he’s got some RAC juice, a la Jonnu Smith. He was only a fifth round pick, and the Texans will be terrible, so he’s a dynasty stash only.

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