Some fantasy owners may have sat up and crossed their fingers
when Deshaun Watson showed up at Texans camp. But the latest in
a weird saga that continues to get weirder by the day has Watson
showing off his defensive chops as a member of the scout team
at training camp. This is, I guess, his best effort to avoid daily
fines for missing camp after getting tired of playing 4th string
QB last week.
With the three-time Pro Bowler and the Houston front office at
an impasse, Watson will not see a single play of game action for
the Texans this season. With 22 sexual assault cases pending,
no team in their right mind, even the Eagles (who reportedly have
floated offers), is going to bring him into their building at
this point. Watson owners, like me, who rode him to a championship
last season, will have to wait until at least 2022 when this whole
mess gets sorted out and we see where he lands.
So, it would seem the whole Deshaun Watson debacle would be a
boon for Tyrod Taylor, the former Ravens, Bills, Browns, and Chargers
QB who was signed to a Texans contract this Spring, indicating
the team saw him as something more than a backup. Given Watson’s
current issues, it would seem they saw it correctly.
However, everyone I talk to points to the Texans roster and expects
this to be an epically bad season in Houston. That means even
if Taylor exceeds his modest career stats, at some point the Texans
will probably reach the “let’s see what the young
kid’s got” juncture of the season and take a test
drive with 3rd-round pick and former Stanford QB Davis Mills,
sending Taylor and his dual threat abilities to the bench.
Taylor has never averaged more than 300 passing yards per game,
never averaged more than 8.0 yards per attempt, and never thrown
more than 20 TD’s in a season. But he is athletic and has
the toolbox of skills to serve as a spot starter, and the best
seasons of his career came in Buffalo, where current Texans HC
David Culley was his QB coach. If your starting QB has an early
bye, and the matchup is right, Taylor might be worth a pickup.
But after Week 8 or so, he’ll probably have zero value.
Remember 2016 when David Johnson was a fantasy stud in Arizona?
That year, he amassed over 2,000 total yards from scrimmage and
20 TD’s. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to regain
that form, but saw a slight resurgence in his first season in
Houston in 2020. He averaged nearly 5.0 yards per carry and totaled
just over 300 receiving yards and eight total touchdowns.
He appears to be the lead dog in a crowded RB room, and the new
coaching staff has talked about a re-dedication to the run game.
The problem is the Texans’ frustratingly ineffective defense.
Their inability to get off the field severely limits Houston’s
offensive snaps every week, and their inability to keep opponents
out of the end zone forces the offense into full-on catch-up mode
– great for the passing attack, not so much for the run
game. Even Johnson’s strong receiving skills won’t
help him, though. His 46 targets in 2020 were the lowest of any
season in which he played at least 12 games.
All of the above makes Johnson a marginal RB2 at best. Throw
in the fact that Phillip Lindsay, Rex Burkhead, and Mark Ingram
could all be vying for snaps (at least for now – we’ll see if
all three survive cut downs) and DJ begins to sound like an uninspiring
pick in the middle rounds.
An undrafted free agent coming out of Colorado in 2018, Lindsay
carved out a productive role with the Broncos the first two years
of his career, surpassing 1,000 rushing yards each season despite
working as part of backfield committee. Injuries limited him to
11 games in 2020, but he has continued to average just under 5.0
yards per carry over three seasons and can do a little bit of
everything. He’s got the speed and quickness to play in
space, is a solid receiving threat out of the backfield, and has
proven he can find pay dirt (17 total TD in his first 31 NFL games)
and be an effective runner between the tackles despite his size
The problem with Lindsay is he has landed in a very crowded RB
room and no one really seems to know what the roles will be, or
even if all the current backs will be with the team once the season
gets underway. Lindsay is a “spark plug” type player,
and as much as I like that type of energy, on a bad team that
will probably have to throw a lot to stay in games, I don’t
see a fantasy relevant role for him unless David Johnson goes
down and Lindsay is the lucky man picking up snaps. He’s
a watch list guy for me, but not draftable.
Ingram is not the player he once was in New Orleans, or in his
first year in Baltimore. He’s 32 years old now and was a
healthy scratch in four of the Ravens last five games in 2020
before they cut him loose this Spring. With so many horses in
the mix, it’s hard to put much faith in any of the Texans
RB’s as a week-in, week-out fantasy option. Remember, new
GM Nick Caserio came from New England, the “Land of Random
Weekly Running Backs”. Ever own one of Belichick’s
RB’s? Not fun.
If Ingram ends up grabbing the short yardage and goal line work,
he could garner some value as a scorer. But he could also be the
odd man out on cut day, as it doesn’t seem likely Houston
will keep David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, Rex Burkhead and Ingram
on the roster.
The alert here, like all of the Texans’ backs, is stay
away for now,
Burkhead was having the best year of his career in New England
in 2020 until a knee injury ended his season. A month later he
was undergoing surgery, and one offseason later he finds himself
in a new city with a new team. Always a “jack of all trades”
type of back, he was actually leading the Patriots RB’s
in total snaps, and scored six TD’s in 10 games.
What we’ll have to see is how Burkhead, now 31, will rebound
from the surgery. If he can get back to full strength, he’s
the type of do-it-all back who can make himself relevant no matter
what the gameplan is week to week. But if he doesn’t, he
could find himself on the shelf, on the sidelines, or on the cut
list. Either way, you won’t likely have an answer by draft
day, so save him as a potential waiver wire pickup during the
Perhaps no one will feel the effects of QB Deshaun Watson’s
absence more than Brandin Cooks. An excellent receiver with speed,
quickness, athleticism, strong hands, and precision route running
ability, he has recorded five 1,000-yard receiving seasons in
seven years for four different teams.
With Will Fuller and now even Randall Cobb gone, Cooks is the
clear WR1 in Houston and a playmaker who can attack from the slot
or the perimeter, so he could see more targets, but he could also
see more coverage coming his way. On a bad team, he will find
the sledding tough. Don’t draft him as anything higher than
Miller flashed some scoring ability as a rookie with the Bears
in 2018, but hasn’t done much since. The Texans acquired
him in a trade, and he could make a run at some playing time working
out of the slot, especially now that Randall Cobb has been traded
away to Green Bay. But he hasn’t really lived up to his
promise as a pro, so I’m not putting any stock in Miller
until he shows me something, and the current QB situation he’s
landed in will make that a tough go.
Coutee was a 4th-round draft pick in 2018 and promptly ended
up in the doghouse of former HC Bill O’Brien. But once O’Brien
left town, Coutee flourished and ended 2020 on a high note. In
his last five games he caught 27 of his 31 targets for 362 yards
and two touchdowns. That’s enough production to offer some
promise for the future.
However, Coutee’s forte is his straight-line speed. He’s
a 4.4 40 guy with an excellent burst off the line of scrimmage
and a dangerous deep threat, particularly when working out of
the slot. I’m not sure QB Tyrod Taylor has the arm to effectively
put that speed to use, which is going to cap Coutee’s fantasy
value. He’s probably a WR4 at best in deeper leagues.
Conley is another burner who normally works out on the perimeter.
Unfortunately, the only thing he seems to be able to do consistently
is run past his defender. If he could secure the ball with the
same consistency, he might have more value. Once again, the Texans
seem to have stockpiled speed at the receiver position, but may
not have a QB who can get them the ball.
Collins has made some noise in the opening weeks of Texans camp,
flashing significant playmaking ability. He’s a rookie,
so there’s still a lot to evaluate, but at 6-4, 215, with
4.4 speed, he’s got as good a shot as anyone to earn playing
time behind Brandin Cooks. Of course, being a starter in this
offense doesn’t equate to fantasy relevance. Like most of
the skill players on this team, he’s not draftable material.
Normally he might be worth stashing on your watch list, but this
offense is going to struggle and will severely cap any legitimate
fantasy production for Collins or his teammates.