2016 fantasy football depth charts: Houston Texans
(Editor’s note: As we lead up to the season, Director of PFF Fantasy Jeff Ratcliffe is breaking down each team’s depth chart from a fantasy perspective. Catch up on the work so far here.)
The Texans were a surprise division winner in the AFC South last year, but Bill O’Brien’s squad got shut out by the Chiefs in the Wild Card round. Houston retooled in the offseason, adding several players on the offensive side of the ball.
One of those signings was at the quarterback positon, as the Texans signed former Broncos backup Brock Osweiler. After sitting behind Peyton Manning for three years, Osweiler finally got his shot at the starting job in Denver last season. He then proceeded to give the job right back to Manning for the Broncos’ Super Bowl run. Still, Osweiler showed enough for the Texans, and he gets to take the reins of one the most intriguing offenses in the league. With plenty of weapons at his disposal, the still-unproven Osweiler screams upside. That being said, he’s anything but a safe fantasy bet. The good news is you likely won’t have to expend much capital to land him. He’s an interesting committee option for those who dabble in the late-round QB strategy.
Part of the intrigue surrounding Osweiler for fantasy purposes deals with the fact that he gets to throw the ball to DeAndre Hopkins. Coming off a breakout season, Hopkins finished sixth in standard scoring and was one of just seven receivers to top the 100-catch plateau. He especially benefited from being heavily targeted downfield. Only Allen Robinson saw more deep targets than Hopkins’ 44. Of course, some of this productivity could have been the byproduct of the Texans’ lackluster wide receiver group. While we do expect a regression in Hopkins’ target total, he still projects as one of the most heavily-targeted receivers in the league.
Houston Texans projected 2016 offense with 2015 grades:
Along with Hopkins, the Texans have a stable of receivers that includes Cecil Shorts, Jaelen Strong, Will Fuller and Braxton Miller. Entering camp, Shorts is expected to start in the slot with Strong on the outside. Houston did draft Fuller with the 21st overall pick in April’s draft, but there’s a good possibility that he’s eased into the starting lineup. Fuller has game-breaking speed and offers a lot of upside, but it’s wise to not overlook Strong. He showed improvement during Texans’ OTAs and is in much better shape than he was last season. The Houston receiver situations is worth closely monitoring, as whoever emerges will have fringe WR4 value.
The Texans targeted their tight ends just 76 times last season – with one of those targets going to J.J. Watt – so we aren’t likely to get much fantasy value here. Ryan Griffin projects as the top receiving tight end, but we don’t envision him seeing much more than 55 targets on the season. As such, he’s outside of the TE2 tier and should really only be considered as an uber-punt play in DFS contests.
Houston also added an impact free agent at running back, signing Lamar Miller to a four-year, $26 million contract. Somewhat quietly, Miller has finished as a top-10 fantasy running back in each of the last two seasons, and he did so having not topped 260 touches in either year. Despite this moderate workload, Miller was one of just seven running backs to run more than 300 pass routes in 2015. Now in Houston, he projects as an every-down workhorse with the potential to top 300 touches for the first time in his career. While that certainly bodes well, it should be noted that Miller forced a missed tackle on just 12.4 percent of his carries last season, which was among the lowest in the league. Still, given the potential significant workload and his relatively fresh legs, Miller has top-five fantasy running back potential, especially in PPR leagues.
[What impact will the addition of Osweiler have on Hopkins’ draft status? Check out our PFF Draft Master tool and try a mock draft, complete with offensive line grades, full projections and all the PFF data.]
Behind Miller, the Texans have veteran Alfred Blue and dynamic rookie Tyler Ervin. Blue figures to spell Miller in early-down work, while Ervin has the potential to be a situational receiver out of the backfield. Ervin is an offensive weapon-type who checks in at just 5’10 and 192 pounds, but he ran a blazing 4.41 40 at the combine. He was a three-way threat in college who racked up 1,601 yards and 13 scores on 294 carries, 334 yards and three scores on 45 catches, and 702 yards and a score as a returner in 2015. While Miller figures to be a three-down back, we’d likely see more of a committee situation if he got hurt.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Texans has all-world defensive end and IDP stalwart, J.J. Watt. The veteran defender opened up camp on the active/PUP list after undergoing back surgery July 20. There’s a chance Watt misses time in the beginning of the season, but even so, he remains fantasy’s top option along the defensive line. There isn’t much IDP value to be found on the rest of the Texans’ defense. Brian Cushing has the potential to surface on the LB3 radar should he nail down three-down duties. However, fantasy owners will want to keep a close eye on his usage, as Cushing has been in and out of subpackage duties over the last few seasons.