2020 was a rather good year offensively for the Houston Texans. Deshaun Watson led the way in standard scoring as the QB5. David Johnson was also a solid RB2 ending the year at RB21. Additionally, Will Fuller was also consistently shredding defenses before his suspension.
However, the Texans struggled mightily throughout the season in terms of real football. After a blockbuster head-scratching trade, and an 0-4 start, Bill O’Brien was relieved of his duties as the head coach and general manager of the Houston Texans. Romeo Crennel was handed the keys to the building, finishing 4-8 to end their campaign.
After a disappointing season, the Texans entered an even more challenging offseason. After trading for Laremy Tunsill and Kenny Stills in 2019, the Texans entered the offseason without their first and second-round picks. To make matters worse, Deshaun Watson has demanded a trade and Will Fuller departed the Texans via free agency to the Miami Dolphins. The Texans have become a difficult team to forecast headed into 2021 with new head coach David Culley.
Starting from the top, Deshaun Watson is the most polarizing player entering the 2021 season. Finishing as the QB5 or better each of the last three seasons Watson has unlimited upside as one of the best players in all of football. Unfortunately for the Texans, I don’t predict he’ll be playing any football for them in 2021.
Entering the offseason the Texans reportedly offered Watson his input on the next head coach and general manager of the team. As the postseason began to wrap up, it was reported that Watson was frustrated and felt lied to about the situation. This led Watson to request a trade out of Houston, but the drama didn’t stop there.
Adamant they would not be trading Watson, weeks later a new bombshell report dropped essentially wiping away the trade market for him. Facing 21 lawsuits for sexual misconduct has landed the quarterback in hot water. When you pair this with Watsons’ demand for a trade it’s difficult to see him wearing a Texan’s uniform this season. My ultimate prediction is that he will be placed on the commissioners’ list before camp opens up until these cases are resolved.
However, it worth noting I fully expect Watson to play at some point again. If I’ve learned anything in my life it’s that this league will give any human a second chance, or third chance if they’re talented. In the dynasty landscape adding Watson is one of the best moves you can make to set yourself up long-term at the position.
Deshaun Watson has demanded a trade, and has mounting legal trouble, which suggests the Texans are moving on from the signal-caller. With this news the Texans have signed Tyrod Taylor seemingly making him their Week 1 starter. Don’t be fooled here, while most of the community is out on Tyrod, he has starter potential in superflex this year.
The last time we saw Tyrod Taylor as a starter for over ½ an NFL season was 2017. In 2017 Tyrod Taylor finished as QB16 in fantasy football with over 400 yards rushing, 2,799 passing yards, and 18 total touchdowns. Taylor started 14 games but also relieved Nathan Peterman. It is worth mentioning that Tyrod did all of this with David Culley as his quarterbacks’ coach. Having familiarity with Culley, and this offense makes him worth a shot as a fringe QB2 with a lackluster defense. With such a great value going beyond the tenth round in startups, you could do much worse.
The Texans didn’t stop their search for a new signal-caller with Tyrod, the Texans invested their first pick in the 2021 NFL draft with Stanford quarterback Davis Mills.
Mills has untapped potential as a highly touted 5-star recruit coming out of high school. Injuries to Mills left knee, and are the root causes of his untapped potential. Finally healthy in 2021, Davis Mills missed his first game of the season with a false positive covid test. Mills went on to lead the Cardinal to a 4-1 record and 3rd place finish in the PAC-12 North. Mills threw for 1,500 yards and 7 touchdowns over those 5 games. Impressively Mills threw at least one touchdown in every game he played, and only had one game where he threw three interceptions. In that game, Mills threw a season-high 47 passes and threw 3 touchdowns as well winning the game in overtime.
Mills’s decision to come out was intriguing, he could have been a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL draft. As the Texans enter the 2021 season I expect Tyrod to start much of the 2021 season, but Mills will likely see some playing time. He has the potential to be a great sleeper for teams that took him in the round of their rookie draft. Expect Mills to be put up potentially QB2 numbers with sneaky rushing potential and a gifted arm. In dynasty leagues I implore you to buy him at his current bargain value. He presents the ability to flash this year, and if he’s amiss you shouldn’t be out much.
The Texans running backs are quite difficult to predict. Entering the 2021 offseason many thought they would cut David Johnson as they enter their rebuild. Oddly enough, both parties agreed to restructure his contract to stay in Houston bringing him back in the fold for 2021.
Last season Johnson finished just outside the top 20 at the position in PPR scoring racking up over 1,000 all purpose yards across 33 catches and 147 carries while scoring 8 times. Johnson was very effective as a runner averaging 4.7 yards per carry. At 30 years old, Johnson was one of the better values at the position last season.
For the upcoming season, we’re about to see just how much Johnson has left in the tank. With a talent like Watson leaving, and no answer for his departure, defenses will be able to key in on the run. Without a franchise quarterback, Johnson’s upside is fairly limited. Unless Mills can take the league by surprise, I don’t expect Johnson to be anything other than a high-end RB3 this coming season if he’s the lead ball carrier. That’s a big if considering the Texans have brought in some competition for Johnsons’ workload.
Phillip Lindsay was one of many other running backs the Texans brought in this offseason. Lindsay was granted his release from the Broncos this offseason and was signed to a one-year deal with Houston.
Entering a familiar role in a timeshare with the Texans Lindsay has limited upside this season. Lindsay does boast an impressive 4.8 yard per carrying average the last three years in Denver and has rushed for 7 or more touchdowns in two of the previous three seasons.
Lindsay has upside based on his skill, age, and experience. There are two problems for Lindsay this season, one being is he is in a timeshare. Additionally, as primarily a ball carrier he’s saddled with the 27th rated defense in terms of points allowed per game. The Texans haven’t been able to improve the unit this offseason, likely leading to a reduced role with fewer carries. Lindsay is worth a late grab, based on the average draft position. Should this pick backfire, it will cost nothing.
Mark Ingram and Rex Burkhead
The final names headlining the “stable” of Texans running backs this offseason are Mark Ingram and Rex Burkhead. Burkhead was the latest signee this offseason, but I struggle to see him making it out of camps based on the number of players employed at this position. I don’t view him as having any upside in redraft or dynasty leagues.
Mark Ingram was one of the first players to sign in Houston this offseason and was of course brought in on a one-year deal as well. While he is was rock-solid RB1 for Baltimore just over a year ago, he was relegated to backing up Gus Edwards and JK Dobbins last season. In his signing, it sounded as though Ingram was to “pass the game down.” This sounds like he’s likely in a mentor role with the club, and I don’t currently project any upside with Ingram this season. Coming off such a stellar 2019 season with Baltimore it’s telling that he was cut towards the end of the season last year.
As I’ve eluded to, the Texans figure to be playing from behind in most of their games this season. The best way to come from behind is to be throwing the football. Cooks presents the highest upside of any Texan as he has limited competition for targets and awful defense.
Regardless of his quarterback, Cooks has produced almost every year but in 2019. Cooks has finished inside the top 20 at the wide receiver position twice in the last three seasons. He is currently the best value in terms of average draft position and potential this season.
Randall Cobb, Keke Coutee
Outside of Cooks, the Texans roster is a no man’s land. Coutee has shown flashes but hasn’t quite been able to put together a solid season as a starter for the Texans. Just when Coutee has one of those games where he flashes talent typically is unavailable the following week due to his hamstring. Starting no more than four games each of the last three seasons, Coutee is avoidable in any format this year.
Randall Cobb turns 31 in August and has bounced around from team to team the last three seasons. Tallying just 38 catches last season, I also do not predict having any shares of a player who’s ready to go off into the sunset.
Akins had some bright spots last year totaling just over 400 yards an touchdown. However, Tyrod is a smaller framed quarterback who often struggles to see the middle of the field effectively. Any tight end in this offense is an instant downgrade with Tyrod running the offense. Similar to others mentioned, I’ll be leaving Akins and any other tight end for other managers to reach for upside.
2021 isn’t going to be a pretty season for the Texans. Currently, I don’t see any players warranting picks in the top six rounds of any 12 man leagues. My personal favorite upside picks are the two David’s and Cooks.
Davis Mills can be a late-season stretch winner if he reaches his full potential as the 5-star quarterback out of high school. His decision-making, pro-style offense from college, and arm talent have the makings of a potential diamond in the rough. Look for him late in drafts in any superflex format and he could pay off with a defense forcing him to throw early and often.
David Johnson is also a good value as described above. He and Cooks likely will lead this offense in targets and receptions and yards by a wide margin. Taking these players late offers high upside for you and your team in any format based on their cost. Don’t reach for these players, but be aware of them as you start looking for upside.
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