2020 Fantasy Preview: Houston Texans

Houston Texans

 

The 2019 Houston Texans season ended almost exactly like the season played out, with soaring highs and plummeting lows. The team pummeled the Falcons early in the year, beat two playoff teams in the Chiefs and Patriots, but lost badly to the Panthers and Broncos led by young, unproven quarterbacks. They were unable to solve their pass protection woes, yielding 49 sacks a year after surrendering 62. Opponents outgained and outscored the Texans, yet they managed ten wins and a division title for the 4th time in five years. The team decided to move on from a dominant receiver on offense and bring in talented but risky replacements. Houston has overperformed their expected value for most of last season, before bowing out of the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion. Could this be the year the team takes a step forward or will the mediocrity finally catch up to them? 

 

Quarterback

 

DeShaun Watson

ADP: 68.4, QB6

With back-to-back Top 5 QB finishes, DeShaun Watson has cemented himself as the cream of the crop for fantasy owners. Although Watson’s production was slightly down from 2018, Watson carried the Texans to a division title and playoff victory. Watson threw 26 touchdowns for the second straight season and topped 3,800 yards passing. He was among the best in the league in deep-ball attempts and accuracy, air yards, and deep completion percentage. Heading into the season the biggest question will be how he performs without star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins earned a nearly 30% target share, and though the team did add veteran playmakers, it will be hard to replace the lost production. Watson is certain to add rushing value with another year of 400+ yards as a ball carrier. The Texans have surrounded Watson with downfield playmakers and it’s not out of the question for Watson to finish as the QB1. However, it is more likely Watson finished at the end of the top QB tier.     

 

Best Case Scenario

The replacement weapons in the passing game are enough to supplement and propel Watson to the best finish of his career. Watson’s dynamic playmaking is too much for the league to handle. He maintains his rushing production but tops 30 touchdowns and 4,200 yards for a QB1 finish. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

The Texans offense struggles to protect and the older offensive players lose significant time with injury. Watson has his least productive season and finishes as the QB12.  

 

2020 Projection: 3,748 yards passing, 24 passing touchdowns; 513 yards rushing, 5 rushing touchdowns

 

Running Back

 

David Johnson

ADP: 30.3, RB18

At his best, David Johnson is an incredible weapon in the pass and run games, dynamic and explosive. At his worst,  Johnson is a player who’s body seems to be failing him. Last season we saw both sides of the coin when he came out of the gates blazing but quickly cooled off and eventually was benched. Johnson was acquired for Hopkins and a second-rounder (the teams also swapped fourths) in the off-season and he is looking at a fresh start with a Texans team who gave 245 carries to their lead back last season. Johnson should have little competition for a three-down role, granted he can stay healthy, which is a pretty large risk for the 28-year old back. Still, the price is good for those owners who are optimistic or those willing to risk the upside. Just remember, Johnson is four years removed from his breakout 2016 season. His ceiling may not be as high as you think.   

 

Best Case Scenario

Johnson regains his old form for stretches and finishes the season injury-free. However, because of the nature of Watson, who limits dump-offs, his receiving ceiling is 85 targets. Johnson finishes just outside of the Top 12 but wins owners a handful of weeks.

 

Worst Case Scenario

Johnson is in and out of the lineup, with small stretches of the old David Johnson. Houston is forced to sign a veteran back to finish the season. 

 

2020 Projection: 771 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns; 459 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns

 

Wide Receiver

 

Brandin Cooks

ADP: 75.6, WR31

After four-straight seasons of a thousand yards receiving, Brandin Cooks fell out of favor in Los Angeles. Cooks has a history of concussions and suffered two in 25 days in 2019. When he was on the field, he didn’t look like himself and the Rams eventually traded him to Houston in the off-season. Cooks could be a sneaky value at his ADP but just like with Johnson, the risk is high. Last season Cooks had his lowest yardage totals since his rookie season and his lowest yards per reception since 2015. Reports are that he is working out with Watson and should be ready to roll to start the season. While all that can change for Cooks with one bad hit to the head, until that happens Cooks is a screaming sleeper and could end up well outperforming his ADP. 

 

Best Case Scenario

Cooks bounces back and becomes Watson’s favored target. Cooks and Watson are an instant match and Watson’s aggressive passing style plays well with the speedy wideout. Cooks finishes as the WR15. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

Cooks suffers a hit that causes him to lose multiple games. While in the lineup, he is relatively quiet and doesn’t return his ADP. 

 

2020 Projection: 64 receptions, 1,011 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns

 

Will Fuller

ADP: 88.8, WR36

While in the lineup Will Fuller is the ultimate game-changer. In Week 5 of 2019, Fuller exploded for 217 yards on 14 receptions and scored three times. That was a 50-point performance for most fantasy owners and the tenth time he’s posted 20+ fantasy points in a week. A healthy Fuller could be the single best fantasy points scorer at the position. Alas, that Fuller may never happen. For most owners, a healthy 14-games would be a thrill. Fuller is the ultimate boom or bust play and has the chance to win you weeks without blinking. But which Will Fuller will we get each week is the question.  

 

Best Case Scenario

Fuller finishes a full season healthy and available, sets career highs with his first thousand yards receiving season of his career. He also passes ten touchdowns receiving and finishes as the WR10. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

The same Fuller shows up in 2020, the Fuller who has explosive highs and disappears for the other 12 games. Fuller struggles to outperform his ADP and finishes as a WR3. 

 

2020 Projection: 52 receptions, 821 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns

 

Tight End

 

Darren Fells

ADP: 308, TE31

Darren Fells has operated as a primary red-zone target for Watson and a reliable touchdown scorer. However, inconsistent hands and primary blocking duties have limited his role as a fantasy asset. While Fells cannot be relied on as a weekly starter, he could make for a nice bye week play with the right matchup.  

 

Best Case Scenario

Fells sets a career-high with ten touchdowns but still is limited to 425 yards. A solid bye week fill-in for some weeks. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

Younger options at tight end win the majority of the passing game work. Fells finishes under 300 yards receiving and just three touchdowns. 

 

2020 Projection: 31 receptions, 319 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns

 

Jordan Akins

ADP: 372, TE44

Jordan Akins receives the work between the twenties but not often in the red zone, which limits his upside. With Fells stealing the high priority targets closer to the goalline, Akins remains a very inconsistent option. Even an injury to others at the position won’t guarantee Akins a more prominent role.  

 

Best Case Scenario

Akins continues to be a reliable target in the middle of the field and sets a career-high in receiving yards. Akins turns a handful of these into scores and finishes as a TE2.  

 

Worst Case Scenario

Akins is surpassed on the depth chart by the options behind him, and never even reaches streaming status in fantasy leagues.

 

2020 Projection: 34receptions, 381 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns

 

 

Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Marc Salazar

Born and raised in Texas, and naturally a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan. I love everything about the strategy and complexity of NFL football, no other sport compares. I've been playing some form of fantasy football for 15+ years and I run dynasty leagues that include individual defensive players, contracts, free agency, and rookie drafts. I hope to introduce at least one of you to the joys of this format. I live in San Antonio, TX with my wonderful fiance and awesome daughter.

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