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Houston Texans 2022 Fantasy Outlook: Rookie Dameon Pierce Could Challenge for Starting Job

Offensive improvement will depend on the development of QB Davis Mills.

The cloud of Deshaun Watson left the Houston Texans over the winter. Davis Mills handled himself well in his rookie season, but the Texans only added one upgrade at wide receiver (John Metchie) in this year’s draft class. The running back position gains Marlon Mack and Dameon Pierce, which may not be a significant improvement. Brandin Cooks looks to be the only fantasy-relevant player until Metchie recovers fully from his torn ACL (last December).

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OFFENSE

Houston ran the ball 43.5% of the time last season due to losing in many games. Despite needing to chase on the scoreboard, they averaged only 32.1 passes per game. Overall, the Texans need to improve in all areas of the game to create better production in rushing and passing yards.

QUARTERBACKS

Davis Mills

In his first season with Houston, Mills went 2-9 over 11 starts. He passed for 2,664 yards with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while offering strength in his completion rate (66.8). His best play passing the ball came in four home starts (312/3, 310/2, 331/1, 301/3). Unfortunately for the Texans, Mills gained only 6.8 yards per pass attempt with 31 sacks.

Fantasy outlook: The Texans lack an impact pass-catching back while needing their top tight end to develop. Their wide receiving corps can surprise at times, but Houston needs Nico Collins and/or John Metchie to be productive for Mills to push higher in the quarterback ranking this year. He comes off the board as the 28th at quarterback in the National Fantasy Football Championship in late May. At best, 4,000 combined yards with below-par passing touchdowns. Mills offers no value as a runner.

Other Options: Kyle Allen, Jeff Driskel, Kevin Hogan

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RUNNING BACKS

The rushing opportunity rose by 52.6% for Houston in 2021 despite their backs gaining a dismal 3.2 yards per carry (1.2 yards fewer than 2020). Houston completed 79 passes to their running backs for 557 yards and two touchdowns on 104 targets.

Marlon Mack

Mack has improved each year in the league, but he still hasn’t played an entire season of games in his career. In 2019, he set career highs in rushing attempts (247) and rushing yards (1,091) while regressing in the passing game (14/82). Over 26 games between 2018-19, Mack scored 18 touchdowns while averaging 84 yards and about one catch per game.

After missing most of 2020 due to a torn Achilles, Mack only played in six games (109 combined yards with two catches) last season.

Fantasy outlook: The Texans expect Mack to be their top early-down option in the run game in 2022. He only has 57 catches for 448 yards and two scores over 47 career matchups. His early ADP (188) in the NFFC ranks him as the 58th running back drafted. Mack looks to be on a path to get about 175 touches while only working as a short-term fantasy starter when receiving the lead running back snaps.

Dameon Pierce

The Florida Gators used Pierce as a change of pace runner over four seasons. He rushed for 1,806 yards and 23 touchdowns on 329 carries in his career, with his best value coming in 2021 (100/574/13). His play in the passing game improved over the past two years (17/156/1 and 19/216/3) while gaining 10.3 yards per catch.

Pierce has a unique running style with short jabby steps in traffic. When given a free run, his strides open up, leading to acceleration and sneaky speed over the short areas of the field. He runs through contact with the vision to make good decisions in space. Pierce brings strength to the table while lacking difference-maker acceleration over the long field. However, he has a feel for open space in the passing game.

Fantasy outlook: Pierce’s ADP (125) climbed by 109 spots in the high-stakes market after Houston drafted him. Pierce doesn’t have the resume to be a lead back, and his base skill set isn’t ready to shine on passing downs. I sense similar usage as Kareem Hunt (one-third of his team’s carries with goal-line value and some action in the passing game). I have him ranked behind Mack in late May, but that could change quickly if the coach-speak in Houston suggests he will win the starting running back job in Week 2. I’ll set his early bar at 150 rushes for 600 yards with about five scores and 25 catches.

Rex Burkhead

The Texans gave Burkhead minimal touches (12 for 67 yards with one touchdown and five catches) over their first eight games. An injury created a rotation over the next five weeks (65/178 with nine catches for 74 yards) while gaining only 2.7 yards per rush. Surprisingly, Burkhead posted a beast game (22/149/2 with two catches) in Week 16. His lack of running returned over Houston’s last two matchups (16/47 and 12/24) while catching nine passes for 74 yards.

Fantasy outlook: At age 32, I don’t see any reason to get excited about Burkhead. He battled a hip issue in 2021. In his nine years in the NFL, his best opportunity in touches (147) came last year. An older running back on a losing team equals a bad fantasy investment on draft day, no matter his reports over the summer.

Other Options: Royce Freeman, Dare Ogunbowale, Darius Anderson

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WIDE RECEIVERS

Over the past three seasons, the Texans’ wideouts accounted for 70, 69 and 68% of their receiving yards. Unfortunately, the change at quarterback led to a drop of 39 catches, 887 yards and seven touchdowns despite only 21 fewer targets. Their wide receivers caught 57.3% of Houston’s completions (63.2 in 2020 and 64.2 in ‘19), with regression in their catch rate (63.8 – 71.4 in 2020).

Brandin Cooks -- click here for fantasy projection

John Metchie

Over his final 26 games at Alabama, Metchie caught 151 passes for 2,058 yards with 14 touchdowns on 212 targets. His catch rate (71.2) ranked highly. In 2020, he worked more as a big-play receiver (16.7 yards per catch) while transitioning to a possession player (11.9 yards per catch) last season. Unfortunately, Metchie blew out his left knee (torn ACL) in early December.

He projects as a slot receiver with a high foundation in route running and strength in his release. Metchie will do most of his damage catching the ball over the short areas of the field, but he does have some open-field ability and sneaky value at times in the deep passing game. His overall speed and quickness out of breaks can lead to losses in tight coverage.

Fantasy outlook: Metchie should emerge as the Texans’ WR2 once he regains his health after having knee surgery in the offseason. His possession skill set gives him a chance at a minimum of 60 catches, even with a slow start in September. However, Metchie will go undrafted in many redraft formats until there is a clear timetable for his return.

Nico Collins

In his first season with Houston, he caught 33 of his 60 targets (55%) for 446 yards and one touchdown over 14 games. A foot issue knocked him out of three matchups. Collins only had one contest with more than four catches with under six targets in 11 games. Over his final five weeks, he caught 15 passes for 218 yards and one touchdown while never scoring over 13 fantasy points in any game in PPR formats.

Fantasy outlook: At best in 2022, Collins will be the WR3 for the Texans, with improvement expected in scoring and big plays. Houston should give him a bump in chances in September until John Metchie recovers his knee injury. Collins has an outside chance at 50 catches for 750 yards and short scores if he locks down the Texans’ WR3 job.

Other Options: Chris Conley, Chris Moore, Phillip Dorsett

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TIGHT ENDS

The Texans’ tight ends finished with almost identical results in catches (72, 72, 71) over the past three seasons with a close-range in targets (99, 97, 106). Most of their completions last year gained short yards per catch (8.5).

Brevin Jordan

Jordan has a chain-mover feel in the passing game while lacking the foundation to handle his responsibilities in the blocking game. His route running works best with a clean release over the short areas of the field. Jordan fights hard after the catch, creating some big plays if he breaks a tackle or two.

Fantasy outlook: In his first season with Houston, Jordan caught 20 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns on 28 targets over nine games. He offered playable stats in three matchups (3/41/1, 4/26/1, 4/56). The Texans had him on the field for 21.8% of their plays last year. Jordan should emerge as Houston’s starting tight end in 2022.

Other Options: Pharaoh Brown, Teagan Quitoriano, Antony Auclair

KICKER

Ka’imi Fairbairn

Last year Houston scored 31 touchdowns while creating 27 field goal attempts. Fairbairn missed four games with a leg issue and Covid-19. Over five seasons, he made 83.8% of his field goal attempts with success from 50 yards or more (18-for-28).

Fantasy outlook: The Texans have one of the weaker offenses in the league. In 2021, they played well at home, giving Fairbairn matchup potential at times in the fantasy market.

COACHING

Houston promoted Lovie Smith to head coach after he ran their defense in 2021. The Texans didn’t bring in a defensive coordinator, which means Smith will handle the lead role again this season. Over the previous five years, he was the head coach at Illinois. Smith worked over 12 seasons as a head coach for the Bears (81-63) and the Bucs (8-24). He helped Chicago to three playoffs berths and a Super Bowl appearance.

Over the last two seasons, Houston ranked 27th in points allowed (464 and 452), with weaker results in yards allowed 30th and 31st.

The Texans brought in Pep Hamilton to run their offense. He has been a coach in the NFL for 12 seasons, with his previous experience as an offensive coordinator from 2013-15 with the Colts. Last year, Hamilton worked as the pass game coordinator and quarterback coach for Houston.

Their offense finished last in the NFL in offensive yards while ranking 30th in points allowed (280). The Texans scored 104 points fewer than in 2020 (384).

FREE AGENCY

Houston added DE Jerry Hughes, DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE Rasheem Green and CB Steven Nelson to their defense. Hughes has plenty of experience in the NFL, but he’ll start the season at 34. He projects to be a rotational pass rusher. Nelson played well in coverage in 2019, which wasn’t repeatable over the past two seasons. The Texans lost S Justin Reid, QB Tyrod Taylor, DE Jacob Martin and TE Jordan Akins to free agency. Reid struggled in all areas over the past two years. The other two additions were RB Marlon Mack and G A.J. Cann.

DRAFT

The most crucial issue for Houston in the 2022 NFL draft was their secondary, leading to them drafting CB Derek Stingley (1.3) and S Jalen Pitre (2.5) with two of their first three selections. In addition, the Texans added five offensive players – G Kenyon Green (1.15), WR John Metchie (2.12), RB Dameon Pierce (4.2), TE Teagan Quitoriano (5.27) and T Austin Deculus (6.27). LB Christian Harris (3.11) and DT Thomas Booker (5.7) were the other two players selected on the defensive side of the ball.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Texans remain last in rushing yards (1,422) while averaging 24.7 rushes per game and only 3.4 yards per carry. They scored eight touchdowns on the ground with only six runs over 20 yards.

Houston fell to 26th in passing yards (3,630) with 21 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while gaining 6.6 yards per pass attempt. Their offensive line allowed 44 sacks.

The offensive line has three first-round draft picks – Laremy Tunsil (2016), LG Kenyon Green (2022) and RT Tytus Howard (2019), pointing to much better blocking this season. The other two options (Justin Britt and A.J. Cann) project to be below the league average. Overall, this offensive line should be much better in all areas this year.

DEFENSE

The Texans moved up one notch to 31st in rushing yards allowed (2,418) with 25 rushing touchdowns. Ball carriers gained 4.6 yards per rush with only nine runs over 20 yards.

They finished 23rd in passing yards allowed (4,117), with quarterbacks tossing 27 touchdowns and 17 Interceptions. They allowed 12 catches over 40 yards while their defense recorded 32 sacks.

Despite missing five games with a foot issue, DE Jonathan Greenard showed growth as a pass rusher (eight sacks) in his second year in the league. However, his run defense still needs work. The Texans’ secondary should be better over time after adding two strong coverage players in this year’s draft. They hope the other two positions offer league average stats after signing both CB Steven Nelson and S Eric Murray to $10 million deals for two seasons. The Texans' linebacker position lacks impact players, and they only have one young developing player in the defensive line (Ross Blacklock).

This defense is a couple of drafts away from pushing up the rankings. Houston will be found on the waiver wire in many weeks in the fantasy world. 

2022 Fantasy Outlooks:

  • AFC East
  • AFC North
  • AFC South
    • Texans | Colts | Jaguars | Titans
  • AFC West
    • Broncos | Chiefs | Raiders | Chargers
  • NFC East
    • Cowboys | Giants | Eagles | Commanders
  • NFC North
    • Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
  • NFC South
    • Falcons | Panthers | Saints | Buccaneers
  • NFC West
    • Cardinals | Rams | 49ers | Seahawks