QB Matt Schaub
There was a time when Schaub appeared on the verge of establishing himself as a bona fide upper tier fantasy starting quarterback. After averaging 4,570 passing yards, 26.5 touchdowns and 13.5 interceptions during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Schaub saw his 2011 season cut short after ten games due to a Lisfranc sprain in his foot. He averaged a respectable 19.2 FPts/G last season, which was good enough to finish 11th among fantasy QBs. While that was only 2.6 PPG off his career-high in 2009, the NFL has become more of a passing league over the last couple of years. That fact coupled with the emergence not only of Arian Foster but also Ben Tate in the backfield has put a severe damper on Schaub’s fantasy prospects. The Texans are now more of a running team and the absence of a solid starting wide receiver opposite Andre Johnson and the failure of tight end Owen Daniels to reclaim his 2009 form are also impediments to Schaub reclaiming fantasy glory. Consider him a mid to lower tier QB2 in 2012.
RB Arian Foster
After being an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 2009, Foster has emerged as not only the top rated fantasy running back in 2012 but also as a contender for the title of the league’s top player at his position. Although a hamstring injury caused him to miss two and a half games and he sat out Week 17, Foster still managed to finish the season as the 4th ranked running back in total fantasy points and 1st on a per game basis. If you want consistency, Foster also provides that, having reached double-digit fantasy points in 27 of his last 31 games. Are there concerns? Sure. The team lost two starters along the offensive line (Eric Winston and Mike Brisiel), Foster signed a lucrative long term contract and backup Ben Tate proved he was worthy of touches as he came within 58 yards of topping 1,000 rushing yards. While Tate is good, Foster is clearly the Texans go to player on offense and it is worth noting that Tate was barely used in the team’s two playoff games last season and averaged less than ten touches per game when Foster was healthy. It’s a no-brainer, folks. If you have the 1st selection in your fantasy draft, Foster is your pick.
RB Ben Tate
After a rookie season lost due to an ankle injury, the Texans 2010 second-round pick bounced back in a big way in 2011. Tate started two games and amassed an impressive 942 rushing yards and four touchdowns on just 175 carries in a backup role behind Arian Foster. Like Foster, Tate is a great fit in the Texans running scheme, capable of making one cut and then using his speed and power and get past linebackers and into the secondary. While Tate possesses enough natural ability to start for most teams, in Houston he sits behind the league’s best running back and that limits his fantasy appeal. While Tate had 188 touches last season, his usage when Foster was healthy wasn’t consistent or hefty enough (under ten touches per game) to make him a solid option as a starting fantasy running back. However, he is a decent flex option provided you are willing to live with some inconsistency with him in your starting lineup. And of course, he is an absolutely must have handcuff for Foster and a player that will needed to be taken early in drafts as the first true handcuff off the board.
WR Andre Johnson
Johnson’s hamstring injury in Week 4 torpedoed the hopes of many fantasy owners as one of fantasy’s top rated wide receivers went on to finish the year with the lowest level of production of his career. By season’s end, Johnson had appeared in just seven games, amassing 33 receptions for 492 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 11.2 fantasy points per game, the third worst performance of his nine-year career. Johnson will be 31 years old when the season starts and with 12 missed games over the past two seasons, there are legitimate concerns as to whether he can remain healthy for an entire year. Adding to those concerns is the arthroscopic surgery on his knee that he underwent in May. While his health is up for debate, Johnson’s talent remains top-notch and he will eat up plenty of targets in Houston’s passing attacked with no clear-cut starter opposite him and Owen Daniels seemingly in decline. Offsetting those positives is the fact the Texans are clearly a run first team. AJ is worthy of being drafted as a mid to lower tier WR1 in 2012 but the risk of grabbing him has never been higher.
WR Kevin Walter
The Texans have been trying to push Walter to the bench for years without much success. Jacoby Jones was expected to unseat him for the last few years but was jettisoned this offseason after a costly fumble in the Texans playoff loss to the Ravens. In this year’s draft, Houston used 3rd and 4th round picks on DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin to acquire some competition for Walter but neither player is likely polished enough to step into a starting role in 2012. Walter’s only other competition for the starting role (barring the signing of a veteran to the roster) is Lester Jean, an undrafted free agent signed prior to last season. While Walter figures to start once again this season, he is coming off his worst statistical performance since the 2006 season with 39 receptions for 474 yards and 3 touchdowns. In 15 games, he hit double-digit fantasy points just twice and failed to reach 20 receiving yards seven times. There’s no upside here, folks. You can do better.
WR Lester Jean
Apparently the Texans like Jean, a second year former undrafted free agent. What we do know is they don’t like Kevin Walter, the incumbent starter opposite Andre Johnson. With a pair of raw rookies behind him on the depth chart, Jean will be given an opportunity to unseat Walter in 2012. He has solid size at 6’3” and 215 pounds and that has been a prerequisite for the Houston coaching staff in the past. Keep an eye on this training camp battle and adjust your cheatsheets accordingly.
WR DeVier Posey
The Texans used a 3rd round pick on Posey to replenish a wide receiver depth chart that is suddenly looking very thin with the release of Jacoby Jones. The Ohio State product possesses good size at 6’2” and 210 pounds and has enough speed to emerge as a downfield threat. However, after playing just three games in his senior year as a result of a suspension for accepting benefits, Posey is unlikely to carve out a significant role in 2012. Expect him to be used on some deep patterns early and possibly see his playing time increase as the season wears on. Posey isn’t worth drafting in redraft formats and is a mid to lower tier prospect in dynasty leagues.
WR Keshawn Martin
Martin was taken by the Texans in the 4th round of this year’s draft and the expectation is that he will line up in the slot for Houston. While Martin has enough speed to get deep and was used as both a kick and punt returner in college due to his shiftiness, he averaged just 11.8 yards per reception on 66 catches as a senior. Not helping his fantasy prospects is that the Texans have not utilized the slot receiver role much during Gary Kubiak’s tenure as head coach. That makes it a strong possibility that Martin will likely need to win a job as a returner in order to dress on game day. He makes for a lower tier dynasty prospect in deeper leagues.
TE Owen Daniels
It’s officially official. It’s time to give up on the hope that Daniels will regain the elite form that he displayed over the first half of the 2009 season before suffering a torn ACL. At this point, it is even hard to get excited that Daniels has the chance to earn plenty of targets with Kevin Walter in decline and a trio of unproven players behind him on the depth chart. He caught 54 passes for 677 yards and three touchdowns last season and it is unlikely that he will significantly improve on those numbers in 2012. Consider Daniels a mid to lower tier TE2.