Over four seasons with Bill O’Brien as the head coach, the Texans have a 31-33 record with two playoff berths. Houston appeared to be on the rise in 2017 when Deshaun Watson took over at QB, but the injuries to the defense and Watson were too much to overcome to have a winning season.
From Week 3 to Week 8 over five games, the Texans averaged 39 points per game. Over the last nine games without Watson at QB, Houston scored over 16 points in just one other game. They finished 17th in points scored (338), which was a net gain of 59 points over 2016 (279). Their offense ranked 20th on offensive yards gained. Last year O’Brien ran the offense without an offensive coordinator. The Texans will use the same plan in 2018.
Houston desperately needs DE J.J. Watt to be healthy and regain his previous form after missing 24 games over the last two seasons with injuries. The Texans allowed the most points (436) in the NFL in 2017 while ranking 20th in yards allowed. Even with Watts playing in three games in 2016, Houston still allowed the least number of yards in the league while placing 11th in points (328).
Romeo Crennel replaces Mike Vrabel as the defensive coordinator. Crennel has ten seasons of experience leading a defense including three with Houston from 2014 to 2016. Last year Romeo worked as the assistant head coach for the Texans. In his two stints as a head coach, Crennel went 28-55 with no playoff appearances. His best finish came in 2007 with the Browns (10-6). He’s been a part of five winning Super Bowl teams.
Houston cut their QB depth (Tom Savage and Josh Johnson) in the offseason while adding QB Brandon Weeden.
The only other to losses to other teams in the NFL via free agency were OT Breno Giacomini and S Marcus Gilchrist. Giacomini started all 16 games for Houston in 2017 with losing value. Breno struggled in each of the last three years after being just below league average from 2011 to 2014. Gilchrist is a neutral player at safety with four good seasons on his eight-year NFL resume.
Houston signed three players to improve their depth in the secondary – CB Johnson Bademosi, CB Aaron Colvin, and S Tyrann Mathieu. Colvin should be an upgrade in coverage while showing improvement over the last four seasons with the Texans. Bademosi is only a bench player with some value in run support. Mathieu was a great player in two of his first three seasons in the NFL in 2013 and 2015, but two torn ACLs have taken a toll on his explosiveness. Tyrann will start at safety while expected to be a league average player at his position.
The Texans added LB Josh Keyes to help upgrade the special teams. WR Sammie Coates give Deshaun Watson another big target on the outside.
Houston invested in three players (C Zach Fulton, T Seantrel Henderson, and G Senio Kelemete) to hopefully improve the depth of their offensive line. Fulton and Kelemete have risk in run blocking. Fulton has the best chance to add value due to his strength coming in pass blocking. Henderson has never had starting snaps in the NFL.
The Texans didn’t have a draft pick in the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In the third round, they selected S Justin Reid, C Martinas Rankin, and TE Jordan Akins.
Reid is a speedy safety who needs to add strength to his game. Justin brings vision and anticipation to the field with his best value coming in coverage. He’ll attack the run game where his speed and quickness plays well.
Rankin is a developing player with limited experience in college. His foot speed is below the standard to handle the left tackle position in the NFL while also needing to add more strength in his lower body to control power rushers. Martinas has a feel for the game with hands that create a winnable window on many plays. Scouts project him to have the most value in the interior of an offensive line at the next level.
Akins will be a vertical threat in the passing game at the TE position. Jordan is a hands catcher with quickness off the line of scrimmage. His blocking skills and route running hurt his chance of earning snaps early in his career with Houston.
WR Keke Coutee was the choice in the fourth round. Coutee is a deep speed WR with questions with his route running and overall play strength. He projects well in the return game, but he may fumble at the next level due. Keke needs to add more fight to his game.
The trifecta in the sixth round was DE Duke Ejiofor, TE Jordan Thomas, and DE Peter Kalambayi.
Ejiofor has a pass-rushing skill set, but his first step isn’t explosive. His success is driven by a high motor with strength in his hands and multiple moves to beat his opponent. Duke has limited range and almost no value if stalemated at the point of the attack.
Thomas is development project at TE. He has a short resume at college despite offering a nice combination of size (6’6” and 265 lbs.) and speed (4.74 forty). Jordan needs to build his game from the ground up, which makes him a project at the next level. With no release, poor hands, and no route running skills, Thomas has a lot to prove if he wants to stick in the NFL.
Kalambayi looks the part of an athletic speed rusher on the outside, but he looks to be one dimensional with no real plan to beat his man if push outside the QB. His next step is adding power to his game leading to better opportunities on counter moves over the face of his blocker. Peter may surprise over time with better coaching and J.J. Watts at his services.
With their last draft pick in the seventh round, Houston added DB Jermaine Kelly. He lacks the quickness to handle top WRs over the short areas of the field, which will force him to the safety position in the NFL. Jermaine needs to add more build while improving his value in run support. Kelly has the cover skills to handle the lower tier talent in the NFL while offering some playmaking ability off the ball.
The Texans finished 14th in the NFL in rushing yards (1,842) with only eight rushing TDs. Their ball carriers gained 4.1 yards per rush with six runs over 20 yards.
Lack of QB behind Deshaun Watson led to Houston ranking 21st in passing yards (3,278) with 28 TDs and 17 Ints. Their offensive line allowed 54 sacks and 117 QB hits.
LT Julie’n Davenport is a small school prospect with the skill set to develop into a capable pass blocker with some pulling ability. His technique needs to improve in run blocking and misdirection blocks in passing sets. He plays with power and length. Houston signed him to a four-year contract in 2017 after drafting him in the fourth round. After missing most of last year with a shoulder issue, Davenport started the last two games in 2017 with minimal success. He’ll have risk in his first year as a starter for the Texans.
LG Zach Fulton has three years of experience starting in the NFL, but his game tends to be a liability in run blocking. In 2017, Fulton had his best season in pass blocking. He projects as a below average player at his position.
C Nick Martin is an attacking power player who plays well in the run game. He needs to find a balance between the attack mode and holding his ground against oncoming pass rushers. His tendency to be first of the off the line after the snap can lead to some off-balance issues when leaning forward when trying to block in the passing game. He missed the rookie season with an ankle injury after Houston selected him in the second round. Last year Martin struggled in all areas.
RG Senio Kelemete may end up starting for Houston with Jeff Allen battling his health. Kelemete has never performed well enough to be a starter in the NFL. Most of his failure comes in the run game. Last year Senio was a neutral option in pass protection.
RT Martinas Rankin has the talent to offer upside in his first season in the NFL at the right position. He has experience at all positions on the offensive line, but the center position should be his best option. At tackles, he’ll have risk against speedy pass rushers plus his base doesn’t look strong enough to handle bull rushers.
This offensive line is loaded with disaster risk, which is going to be a problem for the Texans’ offensive in 2018. I don’t believe in their run blocking, and a less mobile Deshaun Watson may have a shorter passing window than expected. In 2017, Watson was sacked 19 times on 204 pass attempts (9.3 percent) compared to 10.9 percent by the other Texans’ QBs. Houston has one of the worst offensive lines in the game.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).
This information is based on 2017, which will work as our starting point for 2018. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2017 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2017.
2017 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.
2017 Adjustment is based on the 2017 league average and the 2017 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.
Houston will struggle to run the ball in four games (DEN, PHI, and TEN X 2) while having no clear edge in any other matchup.
Their passing offense has two tough games vs. the Jaguars with Denver grading as a poor matchup. The Texans do have six games (NE, NYG, IND X 2, and TEN X 2) against teams with risk in pass coverage. Four of those games come over the first four games of the season.
The poor defensive play led to Houston throwing the ball more than expected in 2017. The Texans would like to control the game on the ground while playing strong defense, but their best weapon on offense is the combination of Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins. Their poor offensive line will lead to minimal damage rushing the ball and more throws in the air in 2017.
QB Deshaun Watson – Fantasy owners were taken on a great ride by Watson from Week 3 to Week 7 last year. Over a five-game stretch, Deshaun passed for 1,472 yards with 18 TDs and seven Ints while gaining another 186 yards on the ground with another TD. His success over this span projected over 16 games would have led to 5,305 combined yards with 61 TDs. When looking at his passing stats, Watson never attempted over 34 passes in any game. He made plenty of big plays while taking 19 sacks on the year over 204 pass attempts. His offensive line is a huge problem, and defenses will have a whole offseason to come up with a scheme to slow him down. His season ended in early November in 2017 with a torn right ACL that required surgery. I’m sure he’ll be limited in training camp with minimal if any playing time in the preseason game. His running value will be restricted for sure in September. With league average passing attempts (550) and about eight yards per pass attempt, Deshaun should pass for 4,250+ yards with another 500 yards on the ground. I would temper his huge TD output in 2017 over five games to about two TDs per game in 2018. It’s much better to set a good floor than overcommit to his ceiling. Realistically, Houston didn’t upgrade his receiving core in the offseason, and Will Fuller needs to prove he can stay healthy. I expect him to be overpriced for my blood this draft season.
Other Options: Brandon Weeden, Joe Webb, Stephen Morris
RB Lamar Miller – Over the last four seasons, Miller saw his yards per rush fall from 5.1 to 4.5 to 4.0 to 3.7. His slide in this area with Houston falls on the poor play by their offensive line. Last year Lamar only had one run over 20 yards after having 23 combined runs over that number from 2014 to 2016. He has over 30 catches in each of his last four seasons with growth his yards per catch (9.1) in 2017. Over five seasons in the NFL, Miller missed only two games. Last season he averaged 17.2 touches per game, but he failed to gain over 75 yards rushing in any game. In 2017, the Texans’ RBs ran the 402 times for 1,531 yards and six TDs while securing 67 catches for 605 yards and three TDs on 86 targets in the passing game. Houston would like to get D’Onta Foreman more involved, which will lead to a split role for Miller in 2018. I expect between 275 and 300 touches for 1,200 combined yards with about 40 catches and five to seven TDs. His lack of upside and offensive line would push me away from him unless he falls to the eighth round or later in PPR leagues.
Update: 7/27/18 > The last report has D’Onta Foreman missing the start of the season, which is a positive for Miller maintaining a high volume of touches. Lamar remains undervalued in drafts based on his expected touches. His offensive line ranks at the bottom of the league creating minimal upside in rushing TDs. Solid buy as a RB3 if his ADP slips into the sixth round or later.
RB D’Onta Foreman – The Longhorns rode Foreman hard in his junior year. He carried the ball 323 times for 2,028 yards and 15 TDs. His game had minimal value in the passing game (7/75). Before 2016, he only had 114 touches for 819 yards with five TDs and six catches. Houston would love to add thump to their rushing attack, and D’Onta appears to be the answer. Over ten games in 2017, Foreman had 84 touches for 410 yards with two TDs and six catches. His best value came in Week 11 (10/65/2), but D’Onta blew out his Achilles the same week. Houston expects him to be ready for training camp. Possible goal-line back with minimal upside in the passing game. With 150 touches, Foreman should gain about 650+ yards with sneaky value in TDs along as Deshaun Watson doesn’t steal the scoring chances at the goal line.
Update: 7/27/18 > With Foreman expected to miss the start of 2018, I would downgrade his expectations and avoid paying for him inside of round 12 in 12-team PPR leagues. His slow recovery could lead to minimal value over the first month or two of the regular season. A Fantasy owner with interest in D’Onta must pay close attention to his progress in health in August.
Other Options: Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin, Troymaine Pope, Terry Swanson, Lavon Coleman
WR DeAndre Hopkins – Hopkins can’t match the recent resume of Antonio Brown, but he has does have two special seasons (111/1521/11 and 96/1378/13) over the last three years. His top two seasons came to 331.10 and 310.80 Fantasy points in PPR leagues, which is on par with Brown’s five-year path. DeAndre has scoring ability plus a high volume catch opportunity from week-to-week. Deshaun Watson was special over a short stretch in his rookie year, which points to a special career in the NFL. I like the overall offensive talent better in Pittsburgh, but I like the arm and talent of Watson over Ben Roethlisberger. Coin toss with the nod to Hopkins as the best WR in 2018 with both options being winning plays if they stay healthy. Last year the Texans’ WRs caught 179 passes for 2,409 yards and 23 TDs on 328 targets. Houston won’t throw the ball enough for Hopkins to push his bar much further in catches or yards. I love his skill set and willingness to fight through tough coverage on many plays. He’ll be great with Watson behind center, which points to 110+ catches for 1,400+ yards and a run at 15 TDs. One of the most consistent WRs in the game in 2017 with a high floor in most weeks.
WR Will Fuller – Over his last two season at Notre Dame, Fuller caught 138 passes for 2,352 yards and 29 TDs. Will offers upside in his route running while owning impact speed (4.32 forty). His lack of size (6’0” and 186 Lbs.) and strength (ten reps at the NFL combine in the bench press in 2016), which will limit his opportunity in the middle of the field. Fuller doesn’t look like a pure hands catcher leading to some drops when faced with tighter coverage and bigger hits in the NFL. Over the first two seasons in the NFL, Fuller missed eight games. After breaking his collarbone in early August in 2017, Will sat out the first three games. When he returned to the lineup with Deshaun Watson behind center, Fuller was a scoring machine in his first four games (seven TDs). Over this span, he caught 13 of his 22 targets for 279 yards with six of his catches gaining 20 yards or more. Will struggled after the injury to Watson (15/144 on 28 targets) while missing another three games with a rib injury. His season ended with a minor knee issue that required surgery in January. A fun player who fits well in the Houston system in the deep passing while also offering scoring value in the red zone on crossing patterns. Built to catch 65+ balls for 1,000 yards with sneaky value in TDs, but Fuller needs to prove he can stay healthy.
WR Braxton Miller – Miller only had 24 catches for 340 yards and three TDs on his college resume because of him playing QB in three different seasons at Ohio State (5295 yards and 52 passing TDs). Braxton displayed plus value as a runner (600/3315/33) setting up the move to WR. He has the athletic ability and quickness to excel in the NFL, but Miller needs to learn the nuances and route running of a WR in the NFL. Over two seasons in the NFL, Braxton has 34 catches for 261 yards and two TDs 57 targets while missing 11 games. His goal should be to be the Texans’ slot WR down the road with the hope of developing into a WR in the realm of Wes Welker or Julian Edelman. For now, Miller is minimal options in the Texans’ passing game. His window for playing time could be closing after gaining 6.6 and 8.5 yards per catch over the last two seasons.
WR Keke Coutee – In his junior season at Texas Tech, Coutee exploded for 93 catches for 1,429 yards and ten TDs. Over his previous two years, he had 66 combined catches for 995 yards and seven TDs. Keke is a pure deep threat at this point in his career with some potential in the return game. Coutee lacks size (5’10” and 180 lbs.) coming into the NFL while needing to add more strength. His route running is a liability, and he lacks the toughness to win battles off the line of scrimmage against physical receivers.
Other Options: Bruce Ellington, Sammie Coates, Chris Thompson, DeAndrew White, Vyncint Smith
TE Ryan Griffin – After showing upside in 2017 when he caught 50 of his 74 targets for 442 yards and two TDs, Griffin struggled to stay healthy last year. He finished with 13 catches for 158 yards and one TDs on 26 targets. Ryan battled a hip issue earlier in the year while concussion ended his season in early November. At age 28, Griffin shouldn’t offer upside or playable value going forward other than an occasional game.
TE Stephen Anderson – In Week 13 in 2017, Anderson caught five of his 12 targets for 79 yards and a TD setting a trap for Fantasy owners. Anderson has the size (6’3” and 230 lbs.) of big WR, which was his path to the NFL in 2016. Over the last four games last year, he caught only three passes for 20 yards on 12 targets. Tough to believe in his game even with a bump in production in 2017 (25/342/1 on 52 targets).
TE Jordan Akins – Over four seasons at the University of Central Florida, Akins caught 81 passes for 1,149 yards and eight TDs while showing some growth in each year. His best year came in 2017 when Jordan caught 32 passes for 515 yards and four TDs. He played WR early in his career in college. Akins lacks blocking skills, and his route running is below NFL standards. His hands grade well, but he’ll need time to develop.
In 2017, the Texans’ TEs caught 53 catches for 630 yards and two TDs on 103 targets. The previous season Houston looked toward their TEs on a high percentage of plays (113/1079/7 on 172 targets). Houston’s coaching staff will use the TE if they have talent, which doesn’t seem to be the case in 2018.
Other Options: Jordan Thomas, MyCole Pruitt, Matthew Lengel, Jevoni Robinson
K Ka’imi Fairbairn – In his first season in the NFL, Fairbairn made 20 of his 25 field goal attempts. His leg showed value from long range (3-for-4 over 50 yards) while needing growth in his success in extra points (three misses in 35 chances). Last year he had three games with three FGs or more. With Deshaun Watson behind center, Houston should be more productive in scoring in 2018. Their offensive line isn’t great, which will lead to struggles rushing the ball in the red one and upside in field goal chances. A kicker to watch early in 2018 as he could develop into a top 12 options with week-to-week value.
The Texans have four tough games (DAL, PHI, and JAX X 2) for their run defense, which points to a below average schedule in this area. Their two favorable games look to be vs. the Dolphins and the Redskins.
Houston has a great schedule for their pass defense with seven games (BUF, IND, CLE, NYJ, DAL, and TEN x 2) where they’ll have a clear edge. Their only poor matchup comes in Week 1 vs. the Patriots.
The Texans were just above league average in rushing yards allowed (1,747 – 13th) with 14 rushing TDs. Ball carriers gained only 4.0 yards per rush with 13 runs over 20 yards.
Houston fell to 24th in passing yards allowed (3,799) with QBs tossing 30 TDs and 11 Ints. They allowed the most catches over 40 yards (17) while their defense recorded only 32 sacks.
The key to a rebound on the defensive side of the ball starts with a healthy and productive season form DE J.J. Watt. Over the last two years, Watts missed 24 games with a back injury and a broken leg. J.J. didn’t have a sack over five games. From 2012 to 2015, Watt had 70 sacks plus 41 defended passes. Great player when healthy and Houston expects him to be ready by the start of the regular season.
The Texans don’t have another defensive lineman of value on their present roster. DT D.J. Reader and DT Carlos Watkins will battle for the nose tackle job in 2017. Reader looks like a massive run clogger with limitations due to his questionable motor leading to rotational value. Watkins is more athletic with upside in disruption. He lacks endurance as well leading to a part-time role. DE Joel Heath struggled in all areas in 2017.
LB Jadeveon Clowney had his best season of his career leading to a career high in tackles (59) and sacks (9.5). His bar should be even higher based on his 2015 draft value (first overall pick). In the offseason, Clowney had minor knee surgery. Jadeveon played well vs. the run in 2-17.
LB Whitney Mercilus missed 11 games last year due to a torn pectoral muscle. In 2015 and 2016, Mercilus had 105 combined tackles and 19.5 sacks. He’s former first-round pick (2012). Whitney plays well against the run. LB Benardrick McKinney had a sharp down in production (95 tackles and three sacks) most likely due to the injuries around him on defense. McKinney is an asset against the run with some risk in coverage.
In his first season in the NFL, LB Zach Cunningham was on the field for 816 plays. He posted 90 tackles with 1.5 sacks and six defended passes. Houston added Cunningham in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. His instincts add a step to his play speed. Zach has vision with enough speed to be a disrupter in the run game and attacking the QB, but he does need a clean run. He’ll handle himself well on three downs. His biggest weakness is his strength that hurts him when trying to break free from blocks against linemen. Another playmaker on this defense adds more upside to this defense.
S Tyrann Mathieu will be a year removed from his last ACL injury, but he does lack the explosiveness he showed early in his career. Last season Tyrann had 78 tackles with one TD, seven defended passes and two Ints. He projects as a neutral player at this point of his career. S Andre Hal set a career-high in tackles (71) in 2017 while picking up three Ints and five defended passes. His game had the most value against the run while showing growth in each year in the NFL.
CB Kareem Jackson showed risk with starting snaps last year. He did set a career high tackles (73) with his first career sack and ten defended passes. CB Kevin Johnson flashed upside in his six starts in 2016, but his game regressed in all areas last year. He’s former first-round draft pick (2015) who needs to add value in pass coverage. CB Aaron Colvin should add depth to the secondary after improving in each of the last two years despite being bypassed as starting option in Jacksonville due to more talent at CB on the roster. CB Johnathan Joseph isn’t the player he once was, but he can still help a team in coverage at age 34. Joseph can’t handle top speed WRs with risk against the run.
Houston must get to the QB to cover up some of their weaknesses in the secondary. I expect the Texans to be drafted as top 12 Fantasy defense in 2018. They have strength at linebacker with two pass rushing ends. I’ll temper my expectations until I see J.J. Watt back on the field. I like their schedule, and Houston should be playable in many games in 2018. If the CB position can show improvement, it will help the overall Fantasy value.
2018 NFL Team Outlooks