Fantasy Football: Houston Texans Expanded Team Outlook
Houston Texans Team Outlook
In this Houston Texans Team Outlook, I will focus on each key aspect of the franchise: coaching, the draft, free agency, offensive line, schedule, defense and of course, each relevant Fantasy Football at the key positions: QB, RB, WR, TE and K.
Over five seasons with Bill O’Brien as the head coach, the Texans have a 42-38 record with three playoff berths. He has a winning season in four years. A healthy Deshaun Watson was the key to a rebound in 2018. In 2018, the Texans started the season with three straight losses. A gift win in Indianapolis in overtime set up a string of nine consecutive wins and an 11-2 finish to the regular season.
In 2019, Houston promoted Tim Kelly to offensive coordinator after working in various roles in the system since 2014. Kelly is only 32 with a big step up in job. The Texans went without an offensive coordinator in 2017 and 2018 with head coach Bill O’Brien running the show. Last year Houston finished 11th in points scored (402), which was an increase of 64 points from 2017 (338). They ranked 15th in offensive yards.
Romeo Crennel returns for a second season as the defensive coordinator. Crennel has 11 seasons of experience leading a defense including four with Houston. In 2017, Romeo worked as the assistant head coach for the Texans. In his two stints as a head coach, Crennel went 28-55 with no playoff appearances. His best finish came in 2007 with the Browns (10-6). He’s been a part of five winning Super Bowl teams. The Texans improved from 32nd in points allowed (436) in 2017 to fourth last year (316). They ranked 12th in yards allowed.
The Texans signed LT Matt Kalil in the offseason to hopefully improve the pass protections on Deshaun Watson’s blind side. Kalil missed all of 2018 with a right knee injury that required surgery. Matt has underperformed his first-round draft value (2012) in his career.
The only other players added to the offense were QB A.J. McCarron, TE Darren Fells, and T Rick Leonard. Houston moved on from QB Brandon Weeden, RB Alfred Blue, WR Demaryius Thomas, and T Kendall Lamm.
All of the additions on the defense came in the secondary – S Tashaun Gibson, CB Bradley Roby, and CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Roby has been a CB of value in multiple seasons with the Broncos, but he did struggle in 2018.
Houston released DT Christian Covington, Brandon Dunn, LB Brennan Scarlett, LB Brian Peters, LB Josh Keyes, S Tyrann Mathieu, CB Kareem Jackson, CB Kevin Johnson, and CB Shareece Wright.
With two of their first three draft picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Texans addressed their weakness on the offensive line – Tytus Howard (1st) and T Max Scharping (2nd). Howard comes to the NFL with athletic ability and a base foundation skill set to have success despite coming from a small school program. He needs development in his technique along with adding more strength to his game. Tytus lacks the power in his hands at this point of his career. Scharping brings power to the NFL with questionable foot speed and he projects to be an edge in a power run game, but Max does have risk in pass protections tied to his lack of quickness.
With their first selection in the second round, Houston invested in CB Lonnie Johnson. His calling card is his size (6’2” and 213 lbs.), which points to a press corner. Johnson isn’t a playmaker who lacks the speed and technique to cover top WRs in the deep passing game. Lonnie has some softness to his game while needing to get stronger to help slow down WRs at the line of scrimmage.
The Texans made a play to improve their play at the TE position with Kahale Warring and his resume of success is short in college, but Warring does show upside as a receiver with some fight in his blocking skills. His route running is raw while needing to improve his technique in blocking in the run game.
Houston added a pair of defensive players (DE Charles Omenihu and CB Xavier Crawford) in the fifth and sixth rounds. Omenihu looks like a beast of a man with quickness off the snap, unfortunately, he lacks a plan while losing value when asked to change direction. His anchor is in question if asked to hold down the run inside. Charles enters the NFL with plenty of strength, which points to upside once he develops his foundation skill set.
Crawford comes to the NFL with below par CB speed (4.48 40 yard dash) while lacking strength and size (5’11” and 187 lbs.). Xavier can handle press coverage with a feel for covering pass routes. Also, he’ll be at risk in the deep passing game along with being overmatched by top physical WRs.
In the seventh round, the Texans drafted FB Cullen Gillaspia. Houston wanted to add a thumper lead backer to their run game, which fits the skill set of Gillaspia. He projects as a helpful passing option out of the backfield, but his feel for a developing run play needs work.
Houston Texans Offensive Line
The Texans finished 8th in the NFL in rushing yards (2,021) with only 12 rushing TDs. Their ball carriers gained 4.3 yards per rush with only eight runs over 20 yards.
Houston ranked 17th in passing yards (3,781) with 26 TDs and 9 Ints while gaining 8.2 yards per pass attempt. Their offensive line allowed 62 sacks and 126 QB hits. The Texans need to improve their play on the offensive line.
LT Matt Kalil
Early in his career, Kalil offered plus value in pass protection while grading a league average player in the run game. Matt missed almost all of 2016 and the entire 2018 season with regression in his play in 2017 with the Panthers. He’s former first-round draft pick (2012) who needs to be healthy and regain his early career form. At the very least, Kalil will upgrade the left tackle positions, which was a huge problem in 2018 (double digit sacks allowed and a tremendous amount of pressure.
LG Senio Kelemete
Kelemete minimized the damage for most of the season while continuing to be a liability as a run blocker. His window to start looks to be almost over as Houston needs to find a better all-around option to help in all areas. His replacement will come from either rookie Tytus Howard or Julie’n Davenport.
C Nick Martin
Martin is an attacking power player who was expected to add value as run blocker. In 2018, Nick started all 16 games for Houston while showing surprising growth in pass protection. Defenses rarely reached the QB up the middle. The Texans drafted Martin the second round in 2016.
RG Zach Fulton
Fulton has four years of experience starting in the NFL. Last year he started 13 games at right guard with a step back in play in run blocking. Zack has been a steady player in pass protection over the last three seasons. Overall, the Texans may replace in the starting up to help improve the balance on offense.
RT Tytus Howard
The risk pass protection on the outside of the offensive line should lead to Howard snatching up a starting job at either tackle positions. Houston allowed 62 sacks last year with more of the damage coming off the edge in the pass rush. Tytus need to improve his game and get stronger, which points to the right side of the offensive line to start his NFL career.
O-Line Fantasy Impact
Houston would like to shave off a minimum of 25 sacks allowed in 2018. They now have three players on the offensive line that project to be league average with more value in pass protection. The Texans have a couple of options that may push their way into the starting lineup at some point in 2019. Overall, this line still ranks below average while trending upward.
Houston Texans Offensive Schedule
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).
This information is based on 2018, which will work as our starting point for 2019. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
- LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2018.
- Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.
- Adjustment is based on the 2018 league average and the 2018 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.
The Texans have two tough matchups (NO and BAL) for the rushing offense plus two mid-tier games against the Colts. Their best success running the ball with come against the Raiders and the Chiefs. Overall, Houston has 12 games that appear to be league average or better.
They have five contest (BAL, Ten X 2, and JAX X 2) that come vs. defenses that had success defending the pass in 2018. The Texans should have success passing the ball vs. the Saints, the Chiefs, and the Bucs. Houston has a below-par schedule for their passing offense.
Houston Texans Offense Team Outlook
Over the last three-quarters of the season, Houston became more of ball controlled offense to help take away from their significant weakness protecting the QB in the passing game. The Texans ran the ball 48.3 percent of the time, which was helped by the success on the ground by Deshaun Watson (99/551/5). If the pass blocking comes together in 2019, Houston will be more dynamic in the passing game.
There is no disputing that Watson is a winner. Despite massive pressure when dropping back to throw (62 sacks and 126 QB hits), Watson still managed to play all 16 games with success in his completion rate (68.3) and yards per pass attempt (8.2). Deshaun finished with an 11-5 record while passing for 4,165 yards with 26 TDs and nine Ints. He also added 99 rushes for 551 yards and five more TDs.
His final stats placed him 5th in QB scoring in four-point TD leagues. After passing for over 300 yards in four of his first five starts, Watson reached that mark only once over the last 11 games of the season. Midseason, he attempted only 23.5 passes per game over a six-week stretch.
In the end, Deshaun scored over 30 Fantasy points in four games with his biggest output coming in Week 16 (388 combined yards with four TDs). The key to his passing upside is tied to the health of Will Fuller and the greatness of DeAndre Hopkins. If his offensive line can pass protect much better in 2019, Watson should push his way to 5,000 combined yards and 35 combined TDs. Also, his TE options should be improved, and the development of Keke Coutee gives him a third reliable WR option.
Other Options: A.J. McCarron, Joe Webb
Last year Miller barely worked his way to backend RB2 value (23rd) in PPR leagues. Over 14 starts, Lamar gained 1,136 combined yards with six TDs and 25 catches on 235 touches. He gained 4.6 yards per rush, which was his highest rate since 2014. Houston barely used him in the passing game (25/163/1) with fade in his yards per catch (6.5).
When Houston switched gears in their offensive game plan midseason, Miller had four strong games rushing the ball (22/100/1, 18/133/1, 12/162/1, and 19/103) over a six-game stretch. His season ended with three short games (14/33/1, 3/8, and 17/56/1) due to an ankle injury in Week 14 that cost him Week 16.
For much of his career, Lamar has been a productive RB2 for a Fantasy team while lacking consistency and impact value. Houston wants him to be their lead back, but they also want D’Onta Foreman to be more involved in the offense. Risky piece to a Fantasy team as his insurance may be the better player going forward. Think 1,100 combined yards with mid-tier TDs and some value in catches. More of a value investment than a must-own.
Update 8/9/2019: Lamar Miller lacked excitement heading into the 2019 draft season before Houston added Duke Johnson. I expect Miller lose much of the passing down chances plus be on the bench in the two-minute offense. His draft value should slide to the 9th round while losing about 20 percent of his expected value in the Fantasy market. Only a RB4 in PPR leagues with boring stats in most weeks.
The change in offensive structure at RB in Cleveland in 2018 led to Johnson losing more than 50 percent of his rushes on early downs plus more than 35 percent of his catches. Duke gained 5.0 yards per rush and 9.1 yards per catch, which shows his explosiveness. Over the last ten games with Nick Chubb moving into the top role at RB, Johnson had two rushes per game and four targets per game. His passing catching skills will help Cleveland move the chains, but they want to ride Chubb as much as possible. More of an insurance policy than a playable piece in 2019.
I won’t fight for him on draft day, but I’ll respect his potential upside if he slides past the 15th round in 12-team drafts. Possible 100 touches for 700 combined yards with about 50 catches.
Update 8/9/2019: The Browns traded Duke Johnson to the Texans after Houston decided to move on from D'Onta Foreman. Johnson becomes an attractive pass-catching back in PPR leagues who may very well end up as the top-scoring RB in this offense in 2019. I'll update my projections for the Texans later today. I expect Duke to gain 900+ combined yards with 65+ catches and a handful of TDs.
Other Options: Buddy Howell, Josh Ferguson, Taiwan Jones, Karan Higdon, Damarea Crockett
With a healthy Deshaun Watson behind center for the whole season, Hopkins set a career best in his catch rate (70.6). Over the previous three years, DeAndre caught only 55.1 percent of his 517 targets. Hopkins finished as the top WR in PPR leagues in 2018 (115/1572/11 on 163 targets), which gives him three elite seasons (111/1521/11 and 96/1378/13). In his career, he’s missed only one game which came in Week 17 in 2017.
Last year DeAndre had 11 games with double-digit targets, 11 games with six catches or more, and seven games with over 100 yards receiving. A complete beast with more upside if Houston attempted more passes and improved the passing window for Deshaun Watson. Next step: 120+ catches for 1,600+ yards and 15 TDs.
Great upside continues to shine through the play of Fuller, but injuries restrict his upside. Over his three seasons in the NFL, Will missed 17 of 48 games. Last year after missing Week 1, Fuller posted back-to-back active games (8/113/1 and 5/101/1). After a quiet four games (14/165/1 on 19 targets), he added another great game (5/124/1). His season after Week 8 with a torn ACL in his right knee. Houston hopes to have him ready for Week 1 in 2019. Big play WR who also saw his catch rate (71.9) improve dramatically with the upgrade at QB.
In his first two seasons in the NFL, Fuller caught 52.8 percent of his targets. His game has 65/1000/7 upside if Will can ever play a full season of games. His lack of stats and his injury may lead to a favorable draft value over this summer. A Fantasy owner must follow the progress of his knee injury.
Coutee came into the NFL as an undersized WR (5’11” and 180 lbs.) who was expected to be a deep threat. Instead, Houston used him many crossing routes over the short areas of the field. A Fantasy owner came away with a player with possession type value. Coutee shined in his first NFL game (11/109 on 15 targets) while also providing value in his two other starts (6/51/1 and 6/77). Unfortunately, health was an issue. A hamstring injury cost him the last five games of the season plus another game midseason.
Overall, he caught 28 of his 41 targets for 287 yards and one TD. An exciting player to follow as he could work his way into more looks while adding another dimension to Houston’s passing game if all of their top WRs stay healthy. I’d set the bar at 50/600 with low TDs while hoping for more chances with a full season of games.
Update 8/9/2019: It took less than a half in the preseason for Keke Coutee to get injured. On the positive side, his ankle injury wasn't as bad as expected. Houston hopes to have him on the field on opening day in about four weeks.
Other Options: DeAndre Carter, Vyncint Smith, Jester Weah, Steven Mitchell, Isaac Whitney
Raw is the word to describe Warring coming into the 2019 NFL Draft. Over his last two seasons at San Diego State, he caught 49 passes for 620 yards and six TDs. Kahale is a hand’s catcher that did most of his damage over the short areas of the field. His athletic resume comes from many sports, which is why his football development is behind his expected skill set. Warring has the potential to be a physical TE once he adds on more bulk. His route running still needs fine-tuning while showing a feel for finding open space after the first play route breaks down. Overall, he needs to improve his blocking skills and get more reps to help create a window in his pass routes. Houston would like him to emerge as the top pass-catching TE on the roster.
In a split role at TE, Thomas finished with 20 catches for 215 yards and four TDs on 27 targets. He had two games of value (4/29/2 and 3/32/1) while receiving one catch or fewer in 12 of his 16 games played. Jordan has a short resume at college (31/311/4) despite offering a nice combination of size (6’6” and 275 lbs.) and speed (4.74 40 yards dash). Thomas needs to build his game from the ground up, which makes him a project at the next level. This season he’ll work as the blocking TE with occasional value in TDs.
Update 8/9/2019: Jordan Thomas looks to be the top TE for Houston heading into August, but he is dealing with a hamstring issue. Thomas has plenty of time to get ready for the regular season.
Over four seasons at the University of Central Florida, Akins caught 81 passes for 1,149 yards and eight TDs while showing some growth in each year. His best year came in 2017 when Jordan caught 32 passes for 515 yards and four TDs. He played WR early in his career in college. Akins lacks blocking skills, and his route running is below NFL standards. His hands grade well, but he’ll need time to develop. In 2018, Jordan caught 17 of his 25 targets for 225 yards and no TDs.
Last year the Texans’ TEs caught 64 catches for 745 yards and four TDs on 84 targets. In 2016, Houston looked toward their TEs on a high percentage of plays (113/1079/7 on 172 targets). Houston’s coaching staff will use the TE if they have talent.
In his second season in the NFL, Fairbairn made a league-leading 37 of his 42 field goal attempts. His leg showed value from long range (7-for-10 over 50 yards) so far in his career while needing growth in his success in extra points (five misses in 76 chances). In 2018, Houston scored 42 TDs while creating 42 FG chances helping Fairbairn to the top spot in kicker scoring. The Texans will score points, and they don’t have a great rushing attack, which should create plenty of scoring chances again this year. Fairbairn should be drafted as top ten kicker in 2019.
Houston Texans Defensive Schedule Outlook
Houston has a league-average schedule for their rushing defense. They face only one team with a plus rushing attack (BAL), however, they have five other mid-tier contests (NO, CAR, NE, and TEN X 2). Their best success defending the run should come against Oakland, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay.
Their pass defense has a mix of tough matchups and favorable games. The Texans will have an edge vs. the pass in five games (BAL, JAX X 2, and TEN X 2) while being tested in six matchups (ATL, KC, NE, TB, and IND X 2).
Houston Texans Defense Team Outlook
The Texans climbed to third in rushing yards allowed (1,323) with eight rushing TDs. Ball carriers gained a league-low 3.4 yards per rush with only three runs over 20 yards.
Houston slipped to 28th in passing yards allowed (4,167) with QBs tossing 28 TDs and 15 Ints. They allowed 13 catches over 40 yards while their defense recorded 43 sacks.
DE J.J. Watt regained his previous form after missing most of last season. He picked up 16 sacks, four defended passes, seven forced fumbles, and 61 tackles leading to an elite rating at his position. DE Jadeveon Clowney had his best season in the NFL helping him to nine sacks, 47 tackles while offering an edge in run support. Clowney has been franchised in 2019, which lead to a holdout. DT Brandon Dunn worked as rotation run defender with no value rushing the QB. DT D.J. Reader played well in back-to-back season defending the run while picking up pair of sacks.
Whitney Mercilus regressed last year after posting two plus seasons in 2015 and 2016. He finished with four sacks and 39 tackles, which was well below his combined success in his two best years (105 tackles and 19.5 sacks). Benardrick McKinney continues to grow as a run defender with minimal chances in sacks. He posted 105 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one Int, and seven defended passes. Zach Cunningham is another steady player who added 107 tackles, one Int, five defended passes, and two forced fumbles.
Johnathan Joseph is an aging cornerback who held his own in coverage. He added tackles with two Ints, 13 defended passes, and one Int. His tackling does have risk. CB Bradley Roby should be an upgrade in coverage. Last year he finished 50 tackles, one Int, 12 defended passes, and two forced fumbles. Houston also added CB Lonnie Johnson in the second round of this year’s draft. The Texans hope he develops into a press corner, but his game does need some growth in multiple areas.
In his rookie season, S Justin Reid delivered 88 tackles, three Ints, and ten defended passes. Reid is a speedy safety who needs to add strength to his game. He brings vision and anticipation to the field, however, his strongest skill is coverage. He’ll attack the run game where his speed and quickness plays well. S Tashaun Gipson should improve the Texans secondary. Over the last three years with the Jaguars, Gipson had 150+ tackles, six Ints, and 16 defended passes.
The changes in the secondary should lead to much improvement in pass coverage with a chance to create more turnovers and possible TDs. Houston has pass rushing talent supported by quality at the second level of the defense. In the mix for a top Fantasy defense in 2019.