As the mercury rises and we inch closer to the open of training camps, our resident fantasy football sickos, Brad Evans and Liz Loza, will profile their favorite booms/busts of every NFL team. Today’s topic: The Rootin’ Tootin’ Texans.
Using ADP data as a guide, which Texan is destined to launch into the statistical exosphere and reward their backers?
Brad – LAMAR MILLER. That feeling when you’re assigned a terribly unexciting Ford Fiesta at the airport rental car center is the fantasy equivalent of drafting Miller. At first blush, he’s not exactly the sexiest selection. Though he registered close to 59 percent of the opportunity share last season, he landed outside the top-40 in several advanced categories, including yards created per touch (RB54), tackles avoided per attempt (RB64), yards after contact per attempt (RB37) and fantasy points per opportunity (RB90). Wretched.
Despite last year’s hideous secondary profile, Miller is a terrific mid-draft target. How so? D’Onta Foreman, who is slowly recovering from a November Achilles blowout, is no guarantee to begin the season on the active roster. Additionally, and most encouraging, Miller ranked RB13 in fantasy production in the seven games Deshaun Watson manned the controls. Weeks 1-8 he averaged 88.6 total yards per game, scored four times and posted the 10th-best situational rushing success rate among RBs. Watson’s play-action effectiveness and mobility masked Houston’s offensive line issues, froze defenders and presented exploitable gaps for the rusher to shoot through.
Miller, slated for at least a 15-17 touch per game workload early in the season, has some shocker special appeal. At his 61.8 ADP (RB28), he’s a sensational FLEX or RB3 pick who could transport owners into the winner’s circle on numerous occasions.
Liz – WILL FULLER. With the exception of Deandre Hopkins, Houston’s receiving corps can be filed under one of three categories: injury-prone, raw, or both. Missing eight games over the last two years, Fuller certainly belongs in the first group (which differentiates him from the rest of the WRs). When healthy, however, the Notre Dame product is an absolute beast. Averaging 2.26 fantasy points per target (#4), the speedster managed seven scores over four weeks while Deshaun Watson was under center.
Hand-picked by Bill O’Brien (who aggressively tried to recruit the Pennsylvania native to Penn State before returning to the pros), Fuller improved in his sophomore outing, cleaning up the drops that plagued him in 2016. Now he needs to focus on conditioning and staying healthy. It won’t be easy for a player of his size, but with Watson leading the offense, and lining up opposite Hopkins, the 24-year-old’s ceiling is sky-high. The Texans are expecting a lot, and fantasy fans should too.
Deshaun Watson is mostly considered a top-five QB by fantasy pundits. At his 69.8 ADP (QB3) is the second-year signal caller OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED or PROPERLY VALUED?
Liz – OVERVALUED. Prior to tearing his ACL , Watson’s rookie campaign was a thing of beauty. Averaging nearly 40 rushing yards per game, the Clemson product’s wheels padded his fantasy stats. But we don’t know if he could have maintained that level of ferocity throughout the season. Or if defenses would have adjusted soon thereafter.
At 22-years-old, I’m willing to give the dual-threat the benefit of the doubt. But I’m not ranking him above Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson. Let’s not forget the three picks he threw in Week 8 at Seattle. Sure, he (barely) outproduced Wilson in that match-up, but he made costly mistakes, which tend to increase as a season progresses. That lack of experience is why he’s just outside of my top-three fantasy players at the position. I want a bigger sample size before I spend a second or third round pick on a QB.
Brad – CRIMINALLY UNDERVALUED. With batons in hand, the regression police are out in full force. They incessantly argue Watson’s 24.7 fantasy points per game, the second-highest mark by a passer since Peyton Manning unloaded 55 touchdowns in 2013, is unsustainable. Their point is veracious. It is unlikely he meets or exceeds last year’s prolific pace. Still, at his ADP, he’s bound to turn a lavish profit. Reduce his 2017 numbers by 10 percent and he bests eight of Aaron Rodgers’ last 10 season tallies in the category.
The environment around Watson is nourishing. DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, who last year posted a combined 54 percent play success rate with Watson according to Sharp Football Stats, are dynamite intermediate/downfield targets. Mix in Bruce Ellington, Braxton Miller, explosive rookie Keke Coutee and Lamar Miller and the Texans offense looks potent.
Though Bill O’Brien doesn’t plan to change the passer’s desire to run, questions do linger. For the sake of body preservation, will Watson run less, especially when considering Houston’s sketchy offensive line? Even if he does, his deadly execution throwing the ball shouldn’t be underestimated. Last season, he ranked No. 2 in play-action completion percentage, No. 6 in deep-ball completion percentage and No. 1 in total QBR. The dude shredded defenses even behind a line that ranked No. 30 in pass-blocking per Football Outsiders. And blasting him for turnovers is rather silly considering he was A) A rookie and B) Understanding TOs are not weighted heavily in most fantasy leagues.
Exactly where he needs to be in his ACL recovery, the second-year QB should begin training camp at or near 100 percent. At his modest price he’s worth the risk. The possibilities over 16 games are intoxicating. Chase the potential. Thank yourself later.
Last year despite the unevenness at QB, DeAndre Hopkins hauled in 95 receptions. OVER or UNDER 94.5 catches for the receiver in 2018?
Brad – OVER. Hopkins is the #MPRraccoon of fantasy receivers. He’s cunning, features tacky hands and can really climb the ladder. When a certain passer not named Tom Savage is throwing him the pill, he’s magnificently efficient, highly reliable and an undeniable targets hog (35.2 TGT% in ’17). Knocking him for his unspectacular catch rate (55.2% in ’17) means you don’t watch football. He not only set the TDs pace last season (13), but he also ranked top-five in fantasy points per route (0.54) and yards per route (2.54). Notching the second-best WR line (45-606-7) with Watson under center, he’s a deserving first-round selection who should finish north of 100 receptions.
Liz – OVER. Nuk beat this number in 2017 even with the team’s star QB and No. 2 receiver sidelined for nearly half of the season. Averaging 6 catches per game while Watson and Fuller were healthy, Hopkins proved to be the Texan’s most important and effective offensive player. An elite fantasy producer in two of the last three years (thanks, Brock), the ultra-physical wideout is Yahoo’s consensus No. 2 WR heading into 2018.