|By Mark Morales-Smith, Saturday, August 16, 2014|
RB Arian Foster - Solid/Safe Pick
REMEMBER ME?: From 2010 to 2012 Arian Foster was arguably the best fantasy running back. He is a strong runner, great pass catcher and knows how to find the end zone. In 2013, Foster was solid when he played, but he also dealt with calf, hamstring and back injuries. In fact, his back injury was so severe it required surgery and ended his season after just eight games. Heading into 2014, Foster will no doubt be the feature back in Houston; however, there is serious injury risk involved in drafting him. Still, Foster is well worth the risk because his production on the field speaks for itself. Just two seasons ago, he compiled over 1,600 total yards and scored 17 TDs. With Ben Tate signing in Cleveland, it is unlikely anyone will compete with Foster for significant playing time. Andre Brown is a good back, but will undoubtedly deal with injuries like he has every season of his career. Foster can be a fringe RB1 or strong RB2 for your fantasy needs.
Editor's note: The market may have over-corrected here. Foster, just one season removed from huge numbers, is still playing on an offense which will rely heavily on him to move the chains. He retains a ton of value as a receiver out of the backfield and the team's primary goal-line back. A lot of stock is being placed on second-year backs like Montee Ball, Le'Veon Bell, Giovani Bernard, Eddie Lacy and Zac Stacy. All of these guys might come off the board before Foster. Will they all bust? Of course not, but a couple might, just ask Doug Martin. A good preseason performance or two, or even just one big run would rebound Foster's ADP (29.26) and push him up into the second round.
RB Andre Brown - Not Draft Worthy
Update: Brown was cut from the team in a somewhat surprising move. He's looking for a new home. Do not draft until further notice.
Andre Brown ran very well in New York when he got his opportunity. If Brown were to stay healthy more often, he can perform as an excellent handcuff for Texans feature back Arian Foster. That is where the issue lies though: his health. Brown has dealt with multiple issues, including breaking the same leg twice. Don't expect Brown to play 16 games; if you draft him, just hope he's healthy when it counts. Brown is excellent goal line runner and is a very good receiver out of the backfield. He could earn a decent amount of playing time due to a lack of competition deeper on the depth chart. With Foster returning from back surgery, you never know how that injury will respond or how the coaches will manage his health. Brown is a top tier handcuff if healthy, yet draft with caution.
WR Andre Johnson - Solid/Safe Pick
Even at 33 years old, nobody is questioning Andre Johnson's talents. The former third overall pick out of "Da U" is an all-time great and future Hall of Famer. That being said, it may be best to stay away from Johnson this year. There are way too many red flags to draft him. Johnson is currently absent from mandatory camp because he is frustrated with the direction of the organization. He has voiced his opinion often since the draft about how Houston may no longer be the place for him. This is sure not to sit well with new head coach and known disciplinarian Bill O'Brien. This is not what a new regime wants out of its veteran leaders. Also, No. 2 WR DeAndre Hopkins is expected to emerge in the Texans passing game and play a major role. This could possibly cost Johnson some targets. Worst of all is the Texans' quarterback situation, which is also the reason Johnson is so frustrated. The Texans have a slew of backup QBs with the only options being Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and Tom Savage. When the Texans went defense with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, Johnson may have reached his breaking point. Can you blame him? He's been in Houston his whole career and has been the best player on a lot of bad teams. Johnson knows his playing days are numbered and he wants to win now. There is one positive to this whole debacle though. If Johnson gets traded to another team, his fantasy value could skyrocket depending on where he lands. Johnson should be drafted as a low end WR1 as long as his holdout ends sooner rather than later.
WR DeAndre Hopkins - Sleeper (undervalued)
The table is set for the Texans' 2013 first round pick to have a huge breakout. With aging and disgruntled Andre Johnson's status up in the air, DeAndre Hopkins may become the best option for new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. In his rookie campaign, Hopkins caught 52 passes for 802 yards and two touchdowns; Expect those numbers to increase. Although Fitzpatrick is not the ideal quarterback, he is still better than anybody Hopkins had throwing to him last season. In 2013, Matt Schaub was a shell of his former self and Case Keenum was just not very good. Hopkins projects as a fantasy WR3 or flex. If Johnson ends up elsewhere after seeking a new team, Hopkins would be ranked higher.
Editor's note: Johnson is the wild card. Hopkins goes from a bench player to a weekly fantasy starter overnight if Johnson leaves. The Texans are already thin at some key playmaker position and losing Johnson would be a gut punch. No Johnson means more bodies in the box taking away the run. Without the run, Fitzpatrick can't use play-action properly. This is a delicate balanace so everyone needs to come back with pads on and ready to go.
WR DeVier Posey - Not Draft Worthy
Third year receiver DeVier Posey is expected to play a much more prominent role in the Texans offense in 2014. If Andre Johnson ends up being moved, it could be an even bigger role than expected. Posey is expected to be the Texans' third receiver. Reports out of minicamp suggest he has looked very good and Coach Bill O'Brien wants to get him more involved. Posey is a sleeper worth keeping an eye on throughout training camp and preseason.
WR Keshawn Martin - Low Potential
Keshawn Martin is likely to win the returner job in Houston and he may also play a minor role in the offense. Martin will be the Texans' third or fourth receiver. A lot hinges on veteran Andre Johnson's status come September. Martin has limited potential due to the limited production that will come from Ryan Fitzpatrick.. DeVier Posey is expected to get the nod ahead of Martin; however, that is not guaranteed. At this point Martin is not draft worthy until he makes a move up the depth chart.
TE Garrett Graham - Sleeper (undervalued)
The emergence of Garrett Graham made veteran tight end Owen Daniels expendable in Houston. Graham signed a three-year deal, and will be the top tight end moving forward. His numbers should go up as his only competition is rookie C.J. Fiedorwicz. Graham is a high-end TE2 or could even be a TE1. Expect Graham to have a good year as long as the team can afford to send him out on routes consistently. He will be one of Ryan Fitzpatrick's top targets.
PK Randy Bullock - Bye Week Fill-in
Bullock hit less than 75-percent of his field goals in 2013, and only had 26 extra point opportunities. Chalk it up to first-year jitters and a struggling Houston offense. How many more touchdowns will the Texans score with Ryan Fitzpatrick and a disgruntled Andre Johnson? Bullock's inaccuracy makes it essential for him to kick a lot of extra points to be successful. He should only be considered when absolutely desperate for a bye week replacement option.
Houston - Solid/Safe Pick
Is there anything scarier for a quarterback than the thought of J.J. Watt coming off one end and Jadeveon Clowney off the other? Watt may be the most disruptive force in all of football and Clowney is the most dominant prospect in many years. The rookie will line up at outside linebacker, so he may be moved all over the field. They will also have rookie Louis Nix in the mix at DT. If Brian Cushing can stay healthy, he can be one of the best inside linebackers in the game. They have a talented, yet young secondary with a veteran presence in Jonathan Joseph. D.J. Swearinger's development and maturity could make or break the Texans' secondary. Even if they aren't the greatest group, the havoc the front seven wreaks on the quarterback should mask a lot of their issues. The Texans will be one of the most hyped defenses in 2014 and for good reason. This unit is a low-end DST1. Scoring settings which heavily favor turnovers and sacks should bring the best out of this group.