The Houston Texans made the playoffs in 2020 but now face a roster makeover. Sure, Deshaun Watson’s still there and he’s now entering his 4th season in the league. But gone is running back Carlos Hyde. Gone is top receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
And incoming for the Texans are the likes of Randall Cobb, David Johnson, and Brandin Cooks. Cobb’s aging, Johnson’s career is at crossroads, and it seems like Cooks is in a new city via a trade every season.
For this reason, picking 4 Houston Texans for stud, sleeper, stumbler, and breakout was laborious outside of Deshaun Watson, who’s the obvious stud.
Here are 4 Houston Texans you need to watch whether your bet is on player productivity or fantasy football:
1- Stud: Deshaun Watson, QB
- 333 completions
- 495 attempts
- 26 touchdowns
- 12 interceptions
- 82 carries
- 413 yards
- 7 touchdowns
Watson is the leader of this wolfpack and he’s now tasked with the job that made Tom Brady a star in New England: To make mediocre talent around him better. As I stated in the intro, the Texans were a chore because my sleeper could end up a stumbler and vice versa.
Meanwhile, the breakout slot was a crapshoot. Houston was a hard team to categorize, but if Watson can do this, and it’d be foolish to count this winner out given his career accomplishments in just 2 and a half seasons (he missed half a season in 2017 with a torn ACL), he’ll easily clear his projected stats.
Oddsmakers and ESPN.com will rank Watson lower than they should because of the questionable talent around him. His top playmakers in Carlos Hyde and DeAndre Hopkins are gone, and he’s forced to throw to a new top receiver.
His projected top target will be Will Fuller but either Brandin Cooks or Randall Cobb could threaten to fill that role. The bottom line is that none of these are top-tier talents but Watson can make them so.
And if by any chance he fails, he can also run and extend plays. If worst comes to worst, he’ll make the play himself. And while he’s neither Lamar Jackson nor Patrick Mahomes, Watson can put up crazy productivity statistics, himself, which he was on pace for in 2017.
When betting player productivity at online sportsbooks, look for Watson to get over the 26-touchdown mark in 2020. 26 figures to be his floor threshold barring injury. ESPN has him projected at 28, but with question marks all over the running back position, it’s likely he’ll be throwing often or running the ball himself.
He’s worth betting the over and he’s a definite QB1 in fantasy football leagues. Look for Watson to go by the mid-to-late rounds when the best of the Tier 2 quarterbacks are taken and he won’t disappoint.
Here are Watson’s 2020 projections, provided by ESPN.com:
- 334 completions
- 514 attempts
- 28 touchdowns
- 12 interceptions
- 3,970 yards
- 88 carries
- 521 yards
- 4 touchdowns
2- Sleeper: Will Fuller, WR
- 49 receptions
- 670 yards
- 13.7 yards per reception
- 3 touchdowns
It’s no secret that Fuller has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. Otherwise, he’d already have high-end numbers and could’ve figured to be the stud of the group.
Take 2017, for example, when he had only 28 receptions through 10 games but also recorded 7 touchdown receptions. Or 2018, when he hauled in 32 receptions in 7 games which put him on pace for a 70-plus reception season before injuries took their toll.
He also caught 4 touchdown passes in those 7 games, putting him on pace for 9 touchdown receptions. It could’ve been a career year.
He then caught 49 passes in 2019 but missed 5 games. Once again, injuries derailed a halfway decent season. But again, he was on pace for 70 receptions.
So, bad luck and injuries have plagued Fuller since his 2nd season in the league. He’s poised for a breakout. He’s shown flashes of a breakout in each of his first 4 seasons. If he can remain healthy, he will break out.
It’s important to remember Fuller did all of this as the 2nd receiver behind DeAndre Hopkins, who has since been traded to the Arizona Cardinals to play with Kyler Murray and a budding nucleus.
When Fuller has a healthy season, he’ll produce far better than what NFL betting sites are projecting him and he’s a shoo-in for the over if and when he stays healthy. The Texans also believe in Fuller as they picked up his 5th-year option, a telltale sign that they like what they’ve seen from him so far.
Look for Fuller’s projections to rank lower than they should, given his injury history. Also if you play fantasy, Fuller projects as a mid-round pick but if you like him, don’t be afraid to reach a little. He has superstar potential and he’s shown it.
If you believe he can stay healthy, don’t think twice about taking him.
Here are his projected 2020 statistics per ESPN:
- 55 receptions
- 772 yards
- 14.0 yards per reception
- 5 touchdowns
3- Stumbler: David Johnson, RB
- 94 carries
- 345 yards
- 3.7 yards per carry
- 2 touchdowns
- 36 receptions
- 370 yards
- 4 touchdowns
Talk about a derailed career. Johnson is likely down to his last shot to remain a viable player in the NFL. After an exceptional 2nd season in 2016, he appeared in just 1 game in 2017 after he dislocated his wrist.
And he’s never been the same since, averaging just 3.65 yards per carry and scoring a combined 16 touchdowns in 2018 and 2019. For the record, Johnson scored 16 touchdowns on the ground in 2016 and scored an additional 4 through the air.
And it looks like ESPN is giving him some generous numbers in 2020, which means you must consider betting the under here. Since his 1,239-yard season in 2016, Johnson has gained just 1,308 rushing yards since and averaged a paltry 3.6 yards per carry.
He caught 80 passes out of the backfield in 2016 and in the previous 3 seasons, he’s caught just 92 passes for 883 yards.
I’m not saying that Johnson’s done, however. The only other viable running back in the Texans’ backfield is Duke Johnson. But Duke is more of a receiving running back rather than a back who’s getting 20 to 30 handoffs per game.
This plays well into David Johnson’s hands. So unless undrafted rookie free agent Scottie Phillips pulls off some magic, David Johnson will get a chance to be the featured back. But time is running out for him.
If you bet on productivity, be wary of him. He hasn’t been healthy for 2 of his last 3 seasons and he hasn’t found the end zone as often. His longest rush in 2019? 18 yards. He’s just not worth betting the over on.
He also figures to be a mid to late-round pick in fantasy football and he’s no better than an RB3 unless you’re playing in a league with over 12 teams. And in that case, he’s an RB2.
Here are his projected statistics:
- 234 carries
- 950 yards
- 4.1 yards per carry
- 6 touchdowns
- 38 receptions
- 369 yards
- 3 touchdowns
4- Breakout: Buddy Howell, RB
- 5 carries
- 10 yards
- 2.0 yards per carry
Here’s the bottom line: Someone needs to emerge as the RB2 and if David Johnson is done, someone needs to emerge as the featured back. Howell has the best chance to do this, given that Duke Johnson is more of a pass-catcher than he is a running back.
This opens the door for Howell to receive plenty of chances.
And while he may not have a true breakout season as rookies or other breakout candidates would in this category (there was literally no one else worthy of placing here), he has the best chance to break out given Houston’s unstable backfield.
There’s zero guarantee either David or Duke Johnson are the answers and with David’s vulnerability and Duke’s pass-catcher before runner role, Howell can be the unlikely hero in this backfield.
But so can Karan Higdon, or Scottie Phillips, but it appears Howell’s getting the 1st crack at this thing.
He’s someone to watch in camp and not someone to place a productivity bet on immediately. But if he’s getting reps, bet on him as his numbers will be low regardless of what time it is in the preseason. If you play fantasy, he might be a good waiver wire pickup if he is receiving a decent number of reps.
Here are his 2020 projections:
- 23 carries
- 96 yards
- 4.2 yards per carry
- 1 touchdown
- 4 receptions
- 31 yards
- 0 touchdowns
There are never any guarantees here and these are just suggestions which players on each team have the best chance at becoming their team’s stud, sleeper, stumbler, and rookie/breakout player. With the Texans, the above statement has never rung truer.
Watson has a history of knee injuries and it can easily derail his season. Fuller is injury prone, as is Johnson. And Johnson can easily be as much of a sleeper as Fuller, and vice versa. But again, we’re going with players who best fit each category.
My advice to you is to watch the Texans closely when teams get the greenlight to gather.
What do you think of my picks? Is there somebody else I should have considered? Let me know what you think in the comments.