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Bill O’Brien Trade Miscues Create Negative Repercussions For Deshaun Watson & Co.

Going back to before the 2019 season, Dr. Roto feels Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is giving away more than what is received in string of bad trades.
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There is an old adage when it comes to civil or criminal trials, which says if a person represents himself, then he has a fool for a client. It can be argued that when an NFL head coach tries to play the part of the general manager, the same can be said. Bill O'Brien (BOB), Houston Texans head coach, also doubles as the team's GM. His trades, even dating back to last year, have been dubious at best.

Below is the comprehensive list from Field Yates (@fieldyates):

As you can see, BOB traded away his best offensive player (Hopkins) and defensive player (Clowney) along with two first-round picks, and two second-round picks and got back older veteran players, some of whom (Cooks) have large contracts.

So, how will this potentially affect what happens on the field? I think it is clear that BOB wants the Texans to be a run-first offense. You don't trade away DeAndre Hopkins for David Johnson unless you are planning to center your attack around running the ball. Johnson is a workhorse back: the more reps he gets during a game, the more effective he is. Conceivably, Johnson should be getting 22-26 touches in this offense.

Houston Texans insider Patrick D. Starr said the following about Johnson as part of his video breakdown of how the former Cardinals back will fit in the offense:

Johnson has spent five seasons in Arizona where he has appeared in 62 games rushing for 3,128 yards and rushing for 33 touchdowns. He is also a pass-catching threat that has caught 208 passes for 2,219 yards and 15 touchdowns.

It will be up to offensive coordinator Tim Kelly to match Johnson's skill set to the Texans' offense and prove head coach Bill O'Brien right in landing Johnson in the trade with the Cardinals. 

Trading Hopkins also leaves the Texans with four wide receivers who share a significant injury history. Will Fuller has struggled his entire career with hamstring and other leg issues. Brandin Cooks suffered through intense concussion symptoms while with the Los Angeles Rams in 2019. Additionally, Randall Cobb missed seven games back in 2018 with hamstring and concussion issues, and Kenny Stills also missed three games in 2019 due to injury. Can any of these receivers be counted on to provide the Texans with WR1 statistics?

What makes matters worse is that Fuller, Cooks, and Stills are all similar receivers who like to run longer downfield patterns where they can take advantage of their speed. The Texans offensive line has struggled with letting up sacks over the past two seasons (109 sacks allowed). Unless they can give Watson more time, he risks getting sacked more often while he waits for his targets to get open. Luckily, Watson’s fantastic mobility should help him considerably in that capacity.

Fantasy owners, as recently as last season, have been drafting Watson as high as the second QB off the board. However, this appears to be way too high for 2020. Assuming David Johnson gets at least 245 carries much like Carlos Hyde did last season, will Watson have more than 495 passed attempted? Additionally, if you take away Hopkins’ 104 receptions for 1165 yards, who will replace those targets and yards? It might seem like wishful thinking that Brandin Cooks will revert to his 2018 form after his 2019 concussion issues, but that is what BOB appears to be thinking.

Here's what Watson will be missing:

If I was going to draft today, I think I would have the following quarterbacks ahead of Watson: Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, and Kyler Murray. This would leave Watson as the fifth quarterback on my draft board, but also at a spot where I would not mind losing him since his numbers might end up being quite similar to Carson Wentz and/or Josh Allen.

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In BOB's defense, this is his seventh season with the team, and the team has made the playoffs in 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019 which is an impressive record. He knew that he could not afford to pay Hopkins and Clowney the market rate they were seeking and did his best to trade them for what he could. That said, most any fantasy owner would tell BOB that he did not get nearly enough for his players.

What is left is a team that is hanging on to the playoffs by a thread. The Texans are arguably the second-best team in their division behind the Tennessee Titans, and it remains to be seen whether the Indianapolis Colts can rebound under the guidance of Philip Rivers. What seems to be sure, however, is that the Texans will be more of a run-first offense that will take its shots with play-action passes downfield. That might win nine or ten real-life games, but it won't make many fantasy owners too happy in the process.

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