The Houston Texans were trash in 2013. That’s why they won two games and had the top pick in May’s draft. That’s what trash gets. With that said, they actually do have a ton of talent on their roster. They got hosed by running back Arian Foster‘s bad back, Brian Cushing having just a slightly worse hand of luck than Sean Lee and Matt Schaub being an incompetent buffoon.
Despite a somewhat thrilling 2-0 start a year ago, the hapless Texans lost their next 14 games and we all discovered that T.J. Yates and Case Keenum are arguably even sadder than Schaub is. Schaub is gone, though, and the Texans inexplicably chose to attempt to “upgrade” at quarterback with the sad-sacked noodle arm that is Ryan Fitzpatrick. Considering the only thing that has ever been impressive about Fitzpatrick has been the fact that he graduated from Harvard and can grow one mean lumberjack beard, fantasy football owners can’t have overly high hopes for Houston’s offensive potential in 2014.
Or can they? Believe it or not, the Texans as a whole aren’t hopeless this year. Yes, despite Fitzpatrick’s extraordinary ability to be painfully average, his weapons around him have actually fared decently over the past few years (See: Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker and Stevie Johnson).
Even though Fitzpatrick himself won’t carry much more than middling QB2 value (don’t tempt the gods and draft him), Houston’s run-based offense and his quick-hitting passes should allow some value to surface elsewhere. Mostly that should mean Andre Johnson can continue on his yearly tear, while second-year wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins also has a chance to see a spike in production. Johnson is 33 and miffed about playing with this sad sack team again, though, so a minor decline wouldn’t be shocking in the least. Still, Johnson has to be regarded as a rock solid WR2 on reputation alone, while he still hasn’t lost much and is Houston’s top receiver. That all has to count for something. Hopkins has upside and youth in his favor, but he’s the number two option (at best, and possibly often third behind Foster) in a run-heavy system. He’ll enter the year as a borderline WR3 with the chance at ascending to a random WR2 play, depending on the matchup.
Tight ends Garrett Graham and Ryan Griffin will duke it out for spare targets, but neither is going to even ascend to the almighty Owen Daniels level (who is now floundering his way through the grotesque city of Baltimore).
In short, Andre Johnson remains a stable fantasy weapon and Hopkins is a high upside guy to target after the middle rounds. I’d rather have him than, say, Danny Amendola, vegetable lasagna or a punch in the face.
The only player in Houston that isn’t at all scary to own is the aforementioned Foster. Check that, he’s actually extremely frightening to own. He only played half a year last season due to the Texans funneling touches into him like an overflowing dumpster in the back of a Wendy’s. He broke down, and even at 27, it’s entirely possible he breaks down again. That’s why they wisely brought on the super stable and never hurt at all Andre Brown – psyche! – dude has a terrible injury history. In other words, they don’t have a plan. It’s Foster or bust, per usual.
That’s actually awesome news, though, as Foster is extremely stable in fantasy football this year (despite that whole breaking down over a ridiculously heavy load part). The only real gripe with Foster is that you still usually have to spend that coveted first round pick to get him. After getting burned by him last year, some fantasy owners will be reluctant. However, Foster actually looked fairly spry and ran well last year. His team was terrible, to be sure, but he surprisingly wasn’t. He just broke down, is all.
Back to full strength, Foster is going to be a mild steal later in round one, and if you can snatch him up in round two you’re already ahead of everyone else in your league.
The biggest sleeper in Houston this year might be their defense, though. Brian Cushing will finally try to not have the most horrible luck ever and last more than half a year, while J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are probably all anyone needs to know about to wet themselves when thinking about what the Texans defense is capable of. They also upgraded their secondary, which was beyond necessary after Ed Reed latched on as an overpaid slob in 2013.
The key thing to remember with the Texans is that they are a rebuilding squad with a good amount of talent. They still might not be awesome, but they’re not some trash team that’s going to go 2-14 again. Provided they don’t see a disgusting Shingles-style rash of injuries again, they should be pretty solid on both sides of the ball. A tornado-ish season of suck from Fitzpatrick could surely ruin that idea, but on paper Foster, Johnson, Hopkins and the Texans team defense look like worthwhile fantasy football options for the 2014 season.