Last updated: August 8th at 4:30pm ET.
Texans Offensive Profile Under Bill O’Brien
2014-2018 Pass Attempts Rank: 30th, 9th, 14th, 23rd, 27th
2014-2018 Rush Attempts Rank: 1st, 5th, 6th, 11th, 4th
2014-2018 Play Volume Rank: 8th, 1st, 5th, 12th, 7th
2014-2018 Yards Per Play Rank: 24th, 31st, 31st, 20th, 17th
Unaccounted for Targets from 2018 (Rank): 120 (15th)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2018 (Rank): 151 (9th)
Projected Starting Lineup
QB: Deshaun Watson
RB: Lamar Miller
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins
WR2: Will Fuller
SLWR: Keke Coutee
TE: Darren Fells
LT: Matt Kalil
LG: Tytus Howard
C: Nick Martin
RG: Zach Fulton
RT: Seantrel Henderson
Texans Passing Game
Deshaun Watson followed up his historic Weeks 2-8 run as a rookie – his 28.2 points per game in that stretch dwarfed Patrick Mahomes’ 26.9 from last season – by finishing as 2018’s QB4 with the NFL’s 11th-most passing yards (4,165) and third-most QB rushing yards (551). Watson took a league-high 62 sacks, however, and gutted out a partially collapsed lung and broken rib suffered in Week 5. The Texans dialed back Watson’s pass and rush volume for the next month-plus, costing him fantasy production. Watson’s supporting cast was also damaged by Keke Coutee (hamstring) and Will Fuller’s (ACL) 19 combined missed games. Both are due back healthy, and the Texans spent first- and second-round picks on offensive linemen. Benefiting from coach Bill O’Brien’s up-tempo attack – Houston has finished top 12 in offensive plays in five straight years – Watson’s dual threat, passing aggressiveness, and dynamic weapons place him atop my QB1 rankings. The Texans go from facing last year’s softest Opponent Win Totals-based schedule to this year’s toughest, notable since Watson’s career yards per pass attempt spike from 7.4 when leading to 8.7 playing from behind, and his yards per carry elevate from 4.8 to 6.2.
DeAndre Hopkins continued to state his case as the NFL’s best receiver in 2018 with career highs in catches (115) and yards (1,572) while finishing top five in yards per route run for the second straight year. One of the most durable skill players in the league, Hopkins has started 95 of a possible 96 career games (99%). Hopkins does average 1.6 fewer targets and 1.8 fewer receptions per game with Fuller in the lineup, however, and Fuller is on track for Week 1. Coutee could command a larger target share than most expect as a high-percentage slot weapon. Although Hopkins remains entrenched in my first wide receiver tier, these were my deciding factors when ranking him behind Davante Adams as overall WR1.
Will Fuller’s third NFL season was destroyed by injuries, first pulling a hamstring at the end of training camp that lingered for weeks, then tearing his ACL in Week 8. Fuller still flashed his prolific playmaking ability with three 100-plus-yard games and has a 45/782/11 receiving line in 11 career starts with Watson, good for an 1,137-yard full-season pace. Per Next Gen Stats, Tyler Lockett is the only receiver in the league who’s created separation at a higher clip than Fuller over the past three years. As Fuller is a 4.32 burner who spaces the field and makes a difference even without the ball, Watson has averaged 7.2 more fantasy points per game and 1.5 more yards per pass attempt with Fuller in the lineup. Fuller’s ACL recovery and injury propensity increase his risk, but he’s going to be an every-week WR2/3 whenever he’s active for games.
Keke Coutee was limited to six regular season games by a recurring hamstring injury as a rookie, but he was a major factor whenever on the field. Coutee played 30-plus snaps in five games including the playoffs, registering stat lines of 11/109/0, 6/51/1, 3/33/0, 5/77/0, and 11/110/1 on robust target counts of 15, 7, 5, 9, and 14. Fuller did miss the latter two games – freeing up opportunity for Coutee – but Coutee added a new dimension to Houston’s offense on quick hitters in the middle of the field, critical for Watson as his pass protection struggled. As the Texans’ offensive line still projects as one of the worst in the league, Coutee is one of my favorite late-round wide receiver picks in PPR leagues. I also like him as a Dynasty buy and acquired him myself from PFF’s Scott Barrett in an offseason Dynasty trade.
Texans tight ends have lacked fantasy relevance since C.J. Fiedorowicz retired, and that doesn’t figure to change this year. Blockers Darren Fells and Jordan Thomas sit atop the depth chart with rotational receiving specialist Jordan Akins behind them. Thomas narrowly out-snapped Akins 475 to 409 in 2018, and both should feel pressure for snaps from third-round pick Kahale Warring, a sure-handed pass catcher out of San Diego State who runs 4.67 with a 36 ½-inch vertical. A capable in-line blocker in his own right, Warring’s arrow is pointing up after he played only one season of high school football yet quickly became a Division-I starter and parlayed eight of his 51 career catches into Aztecs touchdowns.
Texans Running Game
The Texans finally put legitimate heat on Lamar Miller by acquiring Duke Johnson in early August after Miller finished 35th among 47 qualified backs in rushing Success Rate (44%) last year. Miller did average 4.6 yards per carry – his highest mark since Miami – and ranked 12th among 56 backs in yards after contact per rushing attempt (3.23). Miller has never offered more than replacement-level passing-game chops, however, and that is where Johnson shines. The trade knocked Miller down nearly ten slots in my running back rankings, lowering both his floor and ceiling. I’m not saying it’s likely, but the Texans could save $6.2 million in salary cap space by releasing Miller before Week 1.
The Texans can offer Duke Johnson more than the passing-down role to which he was limited throughout his Cleveland tenure. Houston has the NFL’s ninth-most unaccounted-for carries after parting with Alfred Blue and cutting D’Onta Foreman, and the trade compensation the Texans gave up for Johnson — a fourth-round pick that can easily improve to a third-rounder — suggests they indeed view Johnson as more than niche player. It’s the most any NFL team has surrendered for a running back since Trent Richardson was sent from the Browns to the Colts. Johnson left Miami as the Hurricanes’ all-time leading rusher and leads all running backs in yards per touch since entering the league. Criminally underutilized by the Browns, Johnson set a career high in yards per touch (7.2) last season yet received a career-low 5.4 touches per game. He is a much better floor and ceiling pick than Miller on a 2019 Texans team that is going to play in shootouts.
The final two backs to watch in Houston are undrafted rookies Damarea Crockett and Karan Higdon. A product of Missouri, Crockett’s calling card is his Speed Score with 4.4-flat jets at 5-foot-11, 225. Higdon is an undersized (5’9/206) Michigan alum who struggles in the passing game.
2019 Vegas Win Total
The Texans’ Vegas Win Total is 8.5 games, a number they’ve eclipsed in four of Bill O’Brien’s five years as coach. Last year’s team was an easy over bet facing the NFL’s softest schedule with Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt back from injuries. This year’s team draws the league’s toughest slate, lost top CB Kareem Jackson and FS Tyrann Mathieu, and didn’t do enough to fix its porous offensive line. Houston also showed signs of organizational dysfunction when GM Brian Gaine was fired after the draft. The Texans currently do not have a GM. Even as Houston’s offense should be incredibly fun to watch, I’m taking the under on 8.5 wins.