As the mercury rises and we inch closer to training camp openings, our resident fantasy football aficionados, Brad Evans and Derek Brown, profile their favorite Booms, Busts, Breakouts and Bets for every NFL team. Giddy up, gamers. Today’s topic: The Helpless Texans.
Cooks reprises the alpha role he assumed last year after Will Fuller's PED suspension. Cooks’ deflated ADP centers around the Texans' roster stink and Deshaun Watson's current off-the-field headlines. What is lost in translation here is Cooks' volume will be immense regardless of who is throwing him the ball. After Fuller was suspended, Cooks saw a monstrous 28% target share, which was 12th among all wide receivers in Weeks 13-17.
With all the uncertainty swirling in Houston, there are two facts that we can carve into stone for 2021. The first is that the Texans' defense will be atrocious, thus authoring plenty of negative gamescripts conducive to passing. The next is Tim Kelly returning as the team's offensive coordinator ensures a high passing rate. Last year on Kelly's watch, the offense ranked fifth in overall passing rate (63%). Cooks is walking into 115-plus targets this year. — Derek Brown
We all should sympathize with Cooks. He’s trapped in a hellish football purgatory, an impactful player who deserves to be whisked away to a more desirable location. The cesspool he’s currently wading in obviously caps his upside. It’s entirely plausible he begins the season with inaccurate veteran TyRod Taylor under center and finishes with unpolished third-round pick Davis Mills. That’s if he isn’t mercifully jettisoned at the trade deadline.
Still, there was one redeeming quality to Cooks’ nearly unpalatable situation — volume. It’s a magical word in the fantasy community. No matter how many worm-threatening throws are chucked in his general direction, he should snag enough catches to warrant a WR3 output. Given Houston’s likely forgiving defense, it’s possible he generates 130-plus looks. Nico Collins is an intriguing prospect, Cooks is the clear-cut top option over the likes of Randall Cobb, Keke Coutee and Andre Roberts. His WR67 standing in catchable target percentage is bound to plummet, but still a premier field stretcher, Cooks could muster a line around 70-1000-5. At his 86.55 ADP (WR38), you could do far worse. — Brad Evans
This should go without saying, but early best ball drafters are flushing $100 bills thinking they pulled off the heist of the century stashing the troubled passer at his QB17 (122.5) ADP. Yes, one of the tenets of best ball exercises, as with any draft, is to maximize upside. Given the format, stowing away a proven player at a significantly reduced cost could be deemed savvy.
However, Watson’s odds of not even seeing the field in 2021 are quite substantial. The litany of accusations against him, even if settled outside of court, are sure to prompt a deservedly harsh suspension by the league as a violation of the conduct policy. Why take on the risk when Trevor Lawrence, Baker Mayfield, Carson Wentz or Kirk Cousins can be acquired at a similar price point? Exactly. You’re wasting your time. — Brad Evans
At this juncture, any draft cost (RB42, 120.3 overall) is too much to stomach for an over-the-hill runner like Johnson. The Texans' situation is the stuff of nightmares for a running back, especially one on his last NFL legs. The former Cardinals star proved last year that his tank was sitting on empty, finishing outside the top 23 running backs in yards created, yards created per touch, and evaded tackles.
Johnson will likely see committee work with Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram on the roster behind a porous offensive line. Houston didn't make any offseason additions to augment a line that ranked 27th in adjusted line yards and 32nd in second-level yards last season. This backfield is one to avoid for fantasy purposes. — Derek Brown
Collins should start on the outside from Day 1, as he is currently competing with Andre Roberts and Isaiah Coulter for the role. Collins’ college counting stats won't make you swoon, but mired in a Jim Harbaugh-led offense and catching passes from Joe Milton can have that effect on anyone.
Collins checks several under-the-surface analytical boxes with his 92nd percentile yards per reception (19.7) and 78th percentile breakout age (19.5). With his 6-foot-4 frame and 4.5 40 speed, Collins is in line for a healthy target share, but he would be a volume vacuum if Cooks missed anytime. — Derek Brown
See Derek’s view on Nico. It’s the only shot of anyone breaking out on this team. When someone posts the Houston Texans logo on Twitter five years from now and asks, “Who is the first person you think when you see this logo?” no sane individual is going to respond with a player appropriately featured in this space. This team is a Pompeii-level disaster. — Brad Evans
Best Bets for the Texans 2021
(Use the FTN Prop Shop to uncover the best lines across legal sportsbooks)
To have the Worst Regular Season Record (+250, William Hill)
With Houston sporting arguably the NFL’s worst roster from top to bottom, this is a layup. — Derek Brown
An underdog in all 17 games, the Texans and their dumpster fire roster could conceivably join the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns as the most futile teams of the 21st century. — Brad Evans