Fantasy Football Offensive Evaluation: Houston Texans

I am a Texans fans.  That is, I am a Seahawks fan, but given the fact that the Hawks and Texans probably won't play against each other in a meaningful game ever... I feel safe rooting for the Texans to do well, and I have done that since they joined the league.  I even own a Texans jersey that just says "Texans" as the name on the back because it came out before they had any players.

Nine seasons into their franchise history and they have yet to make the playoffs.  But from a fantasy standpoint, they have become a lot more interesting lately.  Under David Carr for 5 seasons, Houston finished 21st or lower in scoring every year.  Under 4 years of Matt Schaub, they have finished no lower than 17th and finished 9th in points last season.

For the first time they've got several top ranked skill players all playing together at once.  Whether or not that will continue in 2011 is the big question.  Every time the Texans take a step forward, they take a step back the next year.  Always seemingly on the edge of breaking through, we're still waiting...

The Texans started 4-2 last season before dropping 8 of 10.  But it wasn't the offenses fault, and why should you care that much about anything other than offense?  They're returning all of their important players on the offensive side of the ball, so how can we expect them to do, and who are some sleepers?  Let's take a look...

Quarterback

Matt Schaub

I admit I was weary of the move to get Schaub, and for 2 years he didn't prove me wrong.  Then in 2009, my man-crush on Schaub began.  He led the league in yards (4,770), completed 68% of his passes, and threw 29 touchdowns.  He had trouble staying healthy for his first 2 seasons, but he hasn't missed any in the last 2 and he has a 93.5 rating as a Texan.  He could still be the best kept secret in the NFL.  He's a solid performer that still has the potential to be great and amongst the leagues best.  He's a good bet to go later in the draft and provide great value if you don't want to draft a QB out of the elite class.

Matt Leinart

It's easy to forget that during his rookie season, Leinart had a few really big games.  He topped 400 yards against Minnesota.  He had a QB rating of 88 or better in half of his 12 games.  There are a few bright spots there for a rookie.  What's less easy to forget is that Leinart has sucked since.  Now, that being said, if Schaub gets hurt and Leinart steps in he does have the luxury of having perhaps the best wide receiver in the league to throw to and arguably the best running back too.  He'd be in a good situation, but would he be able to keep his hands off of co-eds long enough to keep his hands on the ball?

Running Back

Arian Foster

You ever heard of this guy?  He was a popular sleeper pick going into last season and he led a lot of owners to fantasy championships by rushing for over 1600 yards, catching 66 for over 600, and scoring 18 touchdowns.  Even Fosters bad game could provide you with 8-10 points thanks to the catches he accumulates.  Now, he's often going 1st in all drafts.  Now, I'm not arguing against taking Foster first or taking him in the top 3, but I will say that I am always wary of potential one-year wonders.  Heck, do you remember Steve Slaton???  He rushed for 1,200 yards for the Texans just 2 years ago!  Remember Dominick Davis/Williams?  Another Texans running back that came and went quickly.  Foster isn't those guys, but I'd feel a lot more comfortable after seeing him do a repeat performance.  He feels like a guy I'd LOVE to get at 5, but I admit I am concerned at #1.  But I completely understand the move, and I might do the same thing.

Derrick Ward

Ward led the league in yards per carry with the Giants 2 years ago (5.6) and topped 1000 yards.  But now he's 31, he's backing up the top RB in the league, he left the first preseason game with a concussion, and he's surrounded by younger backs.  He's a handcuff option, but he's also one of several.

Steve Slaton

He's still here!  For now... and he's nursing a hamstring injury.

Ben Tate

He was a 2nd round pick last season, broke his leg in the first preseason game and missed the whole year, and is also nursing a hamstring injury.  The Texans could stick with the younger Tate or they could cut him if he never makes it on the field in the preseason.  Gary Kubiak is apparently not happy with Tate, who he believes is healthy enough to play.  That could give the edge to Slaton, whom the Texans at least know can play.  Tate would be an interesting free agent option, I don't believe a player thats a year removed from being a 2nd round pick, would have a hard time finding a new team.  Keep an eye on his situation.  Running backs like Frank Gore and Willis McGahee started their careers with injuries so bad, it seemed they might never make it in the NFL.

Chris Ogbonnaya

With Foster, Slaton, Tate, and now Ward, off the field with injuries, Ogbonnaya rushed 17 times for 37 yards and caught 6 passes for 67 yards and a score.  He's got the opportunity, but 2.2 yards per carry isn't that exciting.  He's not just a sleeper in fantasy, he's still a sleeper to make the team.

Wide Receiver

Andre Johnson

The best?  The Texans whiffed big time on their first franchise player with Carr.  They struck gold with Johnson and he's led the team in receiving yards every year since he joined the team.  His first 4 years were very good.  His 4 years with Schaub though?  He averages 90 catches, 1,303 yards, and 8 TDs.  He may have taken improper payments at Miami, but so what?  Apparently boosters were giving out so much money in Miami, actual hurricanes got paid $10k per season.  He's only 30 years old, he still has at least 3 to 4 seasons left at the top of his game.  He's a fair choice for a first round pick in a PPR league.

Kevin Walter

I owned Johnson in my keeper league last season, so I have to admit there were several times I wanted to strangle Walter to death.  He only caught 5 TDs, but I have to say that every time it said "Schaub to Walter TD!" I couldn't help but think to myself "WHY DIDNT YOU GIVE IT TO ANDRE? HE'S THE LEAGUES BEST!"  Okay fine, you can't go to Johnson every time.  But why not 99% of the time?  Is that too much to ask?  He had a couple of really nice games, including 11 catches against Washington, but I'm not too concerned at looking to Walter in the draft.

Jacoby Jones

I think Jones is slightly more interesting than Walter.  He caught 22 passes for 287 yards in the final 4 games of 2010.  Johnson missed the last 2 games of the year, but Jones still stepped up when asked to.  Will he continue to build off of that success?  I'll keep an eye on him as the season goes on, especially if he becomes Schaubs 2nd favorite target.

Tight End

Owen Daniels

He's a popular tight end amongst fantasy owners, because he's come up with some big games throughout his career.  But he was really rough at the beginning of last season.  However, he came back for the final four games: 22 catches, 271 yards.  There's always injury concerns with Daniels, but in his last healthy season (2008) he was one of the most targeted tight ends in the NFL and he did an excellent job with the ball after the catch.  If healthy, Daniels is a top 5-7 tight end.  But is he going to be healthy?  That's a risk you would have to take.  I think he's a solid pick after round 6 or 7.  

Joel Dreessen

If anything happens to Daniels, Dreessen proved to be a good backup in Houston.  The Texans like using their tight ends and last season he had 4 catches for 104 yards against the Jets of all teams.  Overall he had 518 yards and 4 scores.  He's a sleeper, for sure.  Wake him up only if Daniels gets hurt.

follow me on twitter @casetines

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