2012 Fantasy Football: Houston Texans Preview
It’s hard to believe that the Houston Texans are entering their 11th NFL season already, especially with the glorious memory of their franchise-opening triumph over the Dallas Cowboys in 2002 still fresh in the minds of the fans. But that’s where they are.
It’s also hard to believe that it took them an entire decade to finally become relevant in the league, as they made their first-ever playoff appearance in 2011, where they beat the Cincinnati Bengals in round one before losing a heartbreaker to the Ravens in the divisional round.
However, one realm in which the Texans have been relevant is fantasy football, where Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and Matt Schaub have been major players for a handful of years. Let’s quickly roll through the Texans’ roster and find out which players can help you out a bit this fantasy season, shall we?
QB Matt Schaub
When healthy, Schaub has quietly been one of the more consistent fantasy quarterbacks out there over the last five years. Unfortunately, though, he isn’t healthy a lot of the time.
Schaub has played in all 16 games just twice in his five seasons as the Texans’ starting quarterback. In those two healthy seasons, he threw for at least 4,300 yards and at least 24 touchdowns. The emergence of the Texans’ dominant running game over the past two seasons has hurt Schaub’s fantasy value a bit, but it should also help keep him upright, at least in theory.
He won’t put up the massive fantasy numbers that guys like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady do, but when he’s in there, he’s consistently solid. Schaub is absolutely a QB1 in a 10- or 12-team league.
QB T.J. Yates
Yates was forced into duty last season after Schaub and then-No. 2 QB Matt Leinart each went down with injuries in consecutive weeks. And, for a fifth-round rookie, he performed quite admirably, leading the Texans to their aforementioned playoff win over Cincy.
However, as expected, Houston’s offense became far less potent with him at the helm than it had been with Schaub under center.
The experience he gained during his time as the starter in 2011 should absolutely help him going forward. However, if Schaub goes down and Yates is once again handed the keys, don’t pick him up thinking he can realistically duplicate Schaub’s production.
As with Dallas’ Kyle Orton, though, considering the injury history of the incumbent starter, Yates is a backup to keep an eye on.
RB Arian Foster
Foster’s story is nothing new by now. He went from being an undrafted afterthought just two years ago to arguably the No. 1 fantasy player in the league. As the starter over the past two seasons, Foster has rushed for nearly 2,900 yards with 26 touchdowns.
He’s also one of the league’s prolific pass-catchers out of the backfield, as he’s reeled-in 119 passes for over 1,200 yards with four more touchdowns since 2010.
Foster is an absolute fantasy stud, even with his backup, Ben Tate, getting a fairly significant workload, as well. Some are wary that the departure of the right side of the Texans’ offensive line may hurt his production, but the team seems confident in the abilities of the new starters, Antoine Caldwell and Rashad Butler.
RB Ben Tate
As alluded to above, despite being primarily used as the “backup”, Tate ran for nearly 1,000 yards last season with four touchdowns.
The team obviously has big money invested in Foster, and he’s the starter for a reason. He ran the ball an average of 12 times per game in 2011, and similar reps can be expected this season. He doesn’t get enough carries to warrant being an RB1 or RB2, but he can be a solid option in the flex, especially when faced with particularly favorable matchups.
RB Justin Forsett
Forsett will be used in Houston nearly exclusively as a change-of-pace back, and may also see some time returning kicks. He was a semi-useful piece with the Seahawks before the arrival and subsequent emergence of Marshawn Lynch, but his role with the Texans will be even less significant, unless an injury occurs to either Foster or Tate.
WR Andre Johnson
Johnson’s production has been hindered a bit over the last couple of seasons due to injuries, and it isn’t particularly encouraging to see him getting hurt during the first week of training camp.
However, like with Foster, you know what to expect from #80 when he’s on the field. He’s absolutely a WR1, and may even see an uptick in production with the Texans’ relative lack of depth at receiver.
Calvin Johnson has surpassed him in terms of being the hands-down No. 1 fantasy pass-catcher in the league, but expect consistent production from Andre if he can stay on the field.
WR Kevin Walter
Walter’s best season came back in 2008, when he caught nearly 900 yards worth of passes to go along with eight touchdowns. Unfortunately, he’s seen a steady decline since then, culminating with just 39 catches for 474 yards and three scores a year ago.
With the prominent roles of Johnson, Foster and tight end Owen Daniels in the Texans’ passing attack, Walter doesn’t figure to make much of an impact from a fantasy perspective. He’s at best a WR3 or flex guy if you’re in serious desperation mode.
WR DeVier Posey
The Texans, despite their weakness at receiver, didn’t use a draft pick on one until the third round, when they took Posey, formerly of Ohio State. He showed playmaking ability at times in college, but he’s another guy that has been bitten by the injury bug more than once in the past.
He’s not an overly dynamic athlete, but there’s a chance he can be a reliable possession receiver in the mold of a Mike Thomas. We’ll be watching him closely during the preseason to get a better idea of what his role will be once the regular season begins.
WR Lestar Jean
The Texans were extremely high on this relative unknown heading into training camp last year, but he sustained a shoulder injury during the preseason and missed the entire season. He’s a big body at 6’3″, 210, and coaches have described him as “uncoverable” at times during practice.
Unfortunately, we talkin’ bout practice. But he’s a guy to keep an eye on, and could prove to be a valuable deep sleeper this season.
WR Keshawn Martin
Martin was the second receiver drafted by Houston; a fourth-round choice out of Michigan State. His lack of size and great speed makes him a prototypical NFL slot receiver. Like with Posey and Jean, keep an eye on him during the preseason.
WR Bryant Johnson
Houston signed Johnson just a couple of weeks ago. He was on the roster last season, as well, but didn’t make much of a dent at all. Expect more of the same from him this season.
TE Owen Daniels
Daniels has been derailed a bit over the last few years because of injuries, but he’s another guy that puts up very solid numbers when healthy. He’s never scored more than five touchdowns in any season, but there’s a place for him as a starter in a 10- or 12-team league.
His production also dipped last season once Yates became the starter. His solid rapport with Schaub is well-documented, however, so you can do far worse with your starting tight end position than Daniels.
TE/FB James Casey
Casey began last season as the team’s starting fullback, but was eventually replaced by veteran Lawrence Vickers. Vickers is now in Dallas, so Casey is once again the No. 1 fullback.
Obviously, you’re not typically using fullbacks in fantasy. Fortunately, Casey is also now the team’s No. 2 tight end, with Joel Dreessen having migrated north to Denver.
Head coach Gary Kubiak recently described Casey as “(his) Jim Thorpe”, as he plans to use him all over the field. Don’t bother wasting a roster spot on him, though, until we see what exactly his role in the offense will be.
K Randy Bullock
With Neil Rackers out of the fold, the Texans will hand primary kicking duties over to Randy Bullock, the team’s fifth-round draft choice out of Texas A&M.
Bullock has a huge leg, and Houston’s high-powered offense should have him in position to be a major contributor. Rackers tied for third in the league last season with 38 field goal attempts, so the opportunities should be there for Bullock, as well.
It’s tough to rely on a rookie, obviously, but we’ve seen rookie kickers (Dan Bailey just last season) come in and perform at a high level immediately before.
Houston’s defense really emerged last season under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, and was among the most productive fantasy units in the league, forcing turnovers and getting to quarterbacks at an impressive rate.
Mario Williams is gone, but he was gone for the majority of last season, too, and the defense didn’t miss a beat with rookie Brooks Reed taking over. They’ve also added sack machine Whitney Mercilus out of Illinois with their first-round draft choice, so you can expect him to come in and help out right away.
They’ll be a top-five fantasy defense again in 2012.
Taylor Smith has been with NFL Soup since its inception, and is a jack of all trades, helping with breaking news, fantasy football advice and NFL Draft coverage. Smith also heads NFL Soup's live chats and radio shows. Taylor also contributes content to our sister sites, MLB Soup, NBA Soup and NBA Water Cooler. He lives in Los Angeles, where he also is a writer for the L.A. Clippers. Follow him on Twitter @NFLSoupTaylor.