2019 Texans fantasy football preview: Can Houston protect a rising Deshaun Watson?

The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the end of July as training camps open. We’ll tackle pressing season-long fantasy questions, Best Ball tips (new on Yahoo for 2019) and team win totals. Next up, the Houston Texans.

If you ever want to witness firsthand how NOT to protect your franchise quarterback, just rewatch the Houston Texans’ 2018 season. 62 is the number that sticks out of that year; 62 times was quarterback Deshaun Watson sacked. Still, the Texans clinched the AFC South crown only to be booted from the Wild Card round by the resurgent division-rival Indianapolis Colts.

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Nonetheless, there is fantasy goodness to be had on this roster. Watson — when healthy and upright — is one of the top dual-threat fantasy QBs available. DeAndre Hopkins has been in the conversation for the best wideout in fantasy (and reality). With supposed better protection for Watson in 2019, how far can this team go?

Houston Texans fantasy impact players
Houston Texans fantasy impact players

Can Deshaun Watson continue to ascend?

OVER or UNDER: When the dust settles on the 2019 fantasy football season, 3.5 final fantasy QB rank for Deshaun Watson?

Brad: UNDER. Full disclosure, Watson is my No. 1 ranked passer. Yes, over the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck. Matthew Stafford, however, may have to enter into the conversation given his newly revealed chugging abilities. Still, my bullish standing on the Texan won’t budge.

Watson, entering his third season in the league, is still in the incubation phase of his career. He’s only logged 22 career starts. He did experience declines in several completion percentage categories last year, but his deep-ball tendencies (No. 4 in air yards per attempt) and effectiveness were top-flight, even without Will Fuller for a large chunk of the season. Understand Watson has averaged 9.0 yards per attempt and 2.7 passing TDs per game in 11 contests with the sprinter in uniform. Toss in his stellar ground production (34.4 rush yards/game in ‘18) and improvements along the line, and his ceiling is stratospheric. Final numbers near 4,800 combined yards and 35 total TDs aren’t nutty.

Liz: UNDER. I currently have Watson ranked as my QB3 overall. The rest of the Yahoo Crew appears to be in agreement, as he’s also the consensus QB3 among the group. While the Texans didn’t do much to upgrade the offensive skill position players on their roster via free agency or the draft, they did prioritize the o-line. Spending first and second round picks on OTs, Houston clearly wants to stabilize a line that allowed the most sacks (62) in 2018. If Watson can effort to get the ball out faster and either/both of the team’s rookie lineman are good enough to start then the entire offense should become more effective.

Additionally, if Will Fuller and/or Keke Coutee can stay relatively healthy the passing game should continue to progress. If, however, that doesn’t happen Watson’s rushing attempts figure to blossom and pad his fantasy stats. It’s worth noting that Watson averaged 13 more rushing yards per game when Fuller and/or Coutee were sidelined last year. There’s no denying Watson’s rare talent and given even the slight upgrades to the offense, his numbers should climb.

What to make of Lamar Miller?

Is Lamar Miller, who would probably survive an apocalyptic meteorite strike, OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED or PROPERLY VALUED at his 71.1 ADP (RB31)?

Andy: Wow, things get boring in a hurry with this team, don’t they? Miller is ... well, he’s fine. He certainly deserves credit for reversing a multi-year decline in efficiency last season, bouncing back to a respectable 4.6 YPC and 69.5 rushing YPG. Miller has never had a significant role as a receiving threat for Houston, so he’s not particularly useful in PPR formats. Also, he’s only scored 18 touchdowns in his three seasons with the Texans, making exactly six visits to the end-zone each year. It feels as if his weekly floor is 6.0 fantasy points and his weekly ceiling is, like, 14.0.

Miller is, um ... OK. He’s not a player who ever single-handedly delivers a win. I’ll say he’s more or less PROPERLY VALUED.

Brad: UNDERVALUED. Similar to the always scrumptious but rarely ranked among the best candy bars, Payday, Miller is criminally underrated. Are prospective buyers really concerned about D’Onta Foreman, a running back who devastatingly snapped his Achilles two seasons ago? Really?

Miller is sure to be the mail carrier on an explosive offensive team. The offensive line, positively repugnant last fall (No. 32 in run-blocking per Pro Football Focus), is a palpable concern, but the RB is slated to command at least 60-65 percent of the opportunity share. Recall last year, he tallied 3.23 yards after contact per attempt, the highest of his career, and ranked No. 13 in yards created per carry. He also finished RB23 in PPR formats. You could do far worse for your RB3.

Nuk Hopkins > Every other WR?

DeAndre Hopkins is the consensus No. 1 wide receiver among the Yahoo Fantasy crew. What pick number overall would you be willing to select ‘Nuk in a 12-team .5 PPR league?

Liz: SIXTH OVERALL. I recently participated in a mock draft wherein Nuk was the ninth overall player selected. That feels a tad late to me. Clearing at least 1,200 yards in four of the last five years, managing double-digit touchdowns in two of the last three seasons, and a top-two fantasy producer in back-to-back efforts, Watson has proven his ability to consistently deliver at an elite level. As a bonafide stud, he deserves to be drafted shortly after the first tier of fantasy RBs: Ezekiel Elliot, Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, and Melvin Gordon. After that security at the RB position begins to wane considerably, thus providing risk-averse managers an opportunity to swerve and roster the most trusted receiver in the game.

Andy: I’m taking Hopkins at SIX overall, just after McCaffrey and Gordon, solidly ahead of any other receiver. A case can easily be made to draft him a spot higher. He’s averaged 10.9 targets and 6.8 receptions per game during the Deshaun Watson era, making 24 house calls. Hopkins finished as the No. 1 receiver in fantasy in 2017 and No. 2 last season. There are no holes in his fantasy game. If you snag him in the first round, then follow with Chubb, DJ or Mixon in Round 2, your draft will be off to a stellar start.

Best Ball Bargain Bin

Liz: KEKE COUTEE. Admittedly, Coutee is far from an ironman, struggling through hamstring issues for most of last year. However, the rookie did flash about a month into the season, illustrating his speed and ability to get behind a defense. Reportedly fully healthy and being hyped by his QB, the Texas Tech product could be on his way to a breakout season… especially if Will Fuller (who is coming of an ACL tear) can’t stay on the field.

Brad: WILL FULLER. Presently going outside the position’s top-30 (WR33, 73.1 ADP), Fuller is a marvelous WR3 available at a slashed rate. He would probably rupture a muscle curling a five-pound weight, but when on the field, there are few targets who can match his explosiveness. The speedster, WR27 in 2017 and WR20 in 2018 by fantasy points per game measures, features significant profit potential.

Mad Bets (From FanDuel Sportsbook): Houston 8.5 wins OVER (+108) or UNDER (-130)

Andy: If the Texans can keep Watson upright and healthy, this is a 9 or 10-win team. Solid OVER.

Brad: OVER. The Texans own the toughest schedule in the NFL according to projected Vegas win totals. Still, they possess the necessary ingredients to overachieve — elite QB/WR combo and plus defense namely. It all boils down to health and whether the offensive line can at least execute at an average level. At a plus valuation ($100 bet to win $108), they’re worth the long-term investment.

More Fantasy Team Previews

AFC East: Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots

NFC East: Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Washington

AFC South: Colts | Texans | Jaguars | Titans

NFC South: Buccaneers | Saints | Panthers | Falcons

AFC North: Bengals | Steelers | Ravens | Browns

NFC North: Lions | Vikings | Packers | Bears

AFC West: Chiefs | Chargers | Raiders | Broncos

NFC West: Rams | Cardinals | 49ers | Seahawks

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