The Off-Season Outlook is a team-by-team series that will look at all 32 NFL teams and give a quick snapshot of everything fantasy relevant position as we enter the off-season. All salary cap estimates are taken from sportrac.com which I can’t vouch for enough. They are my one stop shop for all things contracts and cap space related. Feel free to send any feedback to @robbyjeffries on Twitter.
Team: Houston Texans
Cap Space: $59,195,460 (7th most)
Round 1 Draft Picks: None
Fantasy Relevant Impending Free Agents:
Tom Savage, QB
Alfred Blue, RB
Bruce Ellington, WR
Since Rick Smith became the Texans’ general manager, he has made some exceptional first round selections: Duane Brown (’08), Brian Cushing (’09), Kareem Jackson (’10), JJ Watt (’11), Whitney Mercilus (’12), DeAndre Hopkins (’13), Jadeveon Clowney (’14), Kevin Johnson (’15), Will Fuller (’16), and last but not least Deshaun Watson (’17). Unfortunately, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and the successful GM has taken a year leave of absence which has me worried for Houston’s off-season. The good news is that Houston doesn’t have a first-round pick (or second pick) to make without him, but they are sitting pretty and reaping the rewards of successful picks from years past. With cash to spend, the Texans should focus on the offensive line as the squad that needs renovation if the Texans want to make a playoff push in 2018. Let’s look at the individual fantasy positions.
QB: It wasn’t for a long time, but ooooh man, it sure was a good time! Deshaun Watson has a five-game stretch that wined and dined those daring enough to take a chance on him in rookie drafts. During Weeks 3 through 8 (one bye week) Watson average three more fantasy points than 2nd place Russell Wilson and 13 points more than the 12th ranked quarterback who played at least 5 games during that stretch. His performances were, at times, not including his rookie status. It left us all wanting more. Temper your sky-high expectations for 2018, but Watson is the clear-cut starter in Houston and Texan fans couldn’t be more excited.
RB: Lamar Miller somehow finished as the 14th running back in standard scoring despite not rushing for more than 75 yards in any game this season. Yep, you read that correctly. Miller somehow managed at least 37 yards each week but never surpassed the 75 yards rushing milestone. He split carries with rookie D’Onta Foreman until Foreman’s injury and, as the season came to a close, we saw Miller splitting carries with longtime Texans backups Alfred Blue. It seems that Coach Bill O’Brien is over the Lamar Miller experiment that started when the Texans signed him in 2016. If Foreman wasn’t recovering from an Achilles injury, I would go as far to say Miller could be on the 2018 pre-season surprise cuts list. However, as it stands, he might be the only horse in the race with Foreman out until mid-summer and Blue hitting free agency. The Texans probably have their two main running backs for 2018 on the roster, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them bring in another rookie to replace Blue if he does leave this off-season.
WR: With a healthy Deshaun Watson under center, look for DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller to compete for being the best WR tandem in the NFL. These two lit it up with Watson under center. Sadly, Fuller was unable to keep up his ridiculous stretch of TD catches (seven in four games) once Watson went down, but Hopkins was able to cement his place as an elite fantasy WR, finishing second in PPR scoring formats behind Antonio Brown. Midseason acquisition Bruce Ellington played quite a few snaps for the Texans after being traded from the 49ers. He has the makings of a decent slot option for Houston moving forward and seemed to replace third round pick in 2016 (and former QB) Braxton Miller as the only other note-worthy fantasy receiver. This group should look the same as the Texans should re-sign Ellington who is a restricted free agent.
TE: If you wanted to look for change for the Texans’ skilled positions going into 2018, you will be staring right at the tight end position. Ryan Griffin, CJ Fiedorowicz, and Stephen Anderson all took snaps at the position, but none of the three had more than 25 receptions on the season. All three are signed through the 2018 season with Fiedorowicz leading the way with a $5 million per year cost. He is only 26 and has showed little flashes here and there. I expect him to lead this group in receptions and yards if healthy.
2018 Lineup Prediction:
QB – Deshaun Watson
RB – Lamar Miller/D’Onta Foreman
WR – DeAndre Hopkins
WR – Will Fuller
WR – Bruce Ellington
TE – CJ Fiedorowicz