Each year, the Texans flash just enough promise to have their fans envisioning a playoff run in the near future. 2009 will be no different, as the Texans rattled off five wins in their last six games of 2008 to close the season at 8-8. Included in that stretch runs were impressive wins at Green Bay and against Tennessee at home, as well as an ugly loss to Oakland. With the organizational structure shakeup in Indianapolis and the anticipated regression of the Titans, will this be the year the Texans can piece everything together and make a playoff run? Or will 2010 bring yet another promise of unfulfilled hope?
QB: Matt Schaub, Dan Orlovsky, Rex Grossman
RB: Steve Slaton, Chris Brown, Ryan Moats, Arian Foster
WR: Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Andre Davis, David Anderson, Jacoby Jones
TE: Owen Daniels, James Casey
PK: Kris Brown
Quarterback: If not for a constant injury bug, we might be talking about Matt Schaub as a fourth or fifth rounder. But if you plan on drafting the Houston QB, you’d better have a good fallback option. He’s missed five games in each of the last two years, and you don’t want to be stuck with a low-end QB starting in your fantasy playoffs. He’s a top-five QB when he plays, as he’s got a great #1 WR and an excellent receiving TE. Sage Rosenfels proved last year that just quarterbacking this offense lends to potential fantasy gold. Lucky for Schaub, he’s much more cautious with the football, which will only help his stats. Feel good drafting Schaub after the top seven QBs are off the board, but you better be comfortable starting your backup QB should injury arise.
Running Back: While many of the first-round and second-round running backs received fantasy draft-day attention, Steve Slaton slipped through the cracks. It wasn’t long before Slaton was slipping through defenders’ clutches. The diminutive back burst on the scene by rushing for 1,282 yards — tops among rookies — and reaching the end zone 10 times in all. The performance placed him as fantasy’s sixth-best back by year’s end. It was assumed that Houston would bring in a bigger back to help spell their star youngster and take some of the bruises in short-yardage and goal-line situations, but the biggest challengers to Slaton’s carries are Ryan Moats and Chris Brown. It looks like Slaton will again be used early and often by the Texans, and while it should lead to him again performing like a top-ten back, I question whether his body can withstand another 318-touch season.
Wide Receiver: In many leagues, Slaton won’t even be the first Texan drafted. That’s not a knock on his skill, but rather a praise for teammate Andre Johnson. A prototype WR, Johnson was ticketed for stardom the second he stepped into the league. While he hasn’t become a scoring machine yet, possibly due to the lack of consistency at QB, Johnson is a threat to reach 100 yards every time out. Johnson has battled injury concerns in the past, but last year’s healthy season should be enough to put potential owners at ease. Before you dismiss Kevin Walter from your WR list, note that he totaled almost 900 yards and eight TDs last year, and that was with Johnson across from him in each game. I wouldn’t count on Walter as a consistent starter, but he’s a great matchup play and makes for an excellent member of your team as the first backup at the position. Should Johnson succumb to injury, David Anderson makes for a sneaky play.
Tight End: Owen Daniels has increased his number of catches (and number of targets) in each of the last three years. Unfortunately, that hasn’t resulted in Daniels joining the top tier of fantasy TEs, and that’s largely due to the Houston TE’s five total TDs the last two years. Feel comfortable nabbing Daniels as the seventh or eighth TE off the board and you’ll enjoy his solid yardage total each week. If he manages to add some TDs to his game, you should have a steal. Dynasty league owners should note the addition of James Casey to the team. While Casey won’t challenge Daniels for snaps this year, he’ll likely be the starter once Daniels moves on and will be an excellent weapon in the passing game.
IDP: DeMeco Ryans immediately emerged as an IDP threat in his 2006 rookie season, but he’s seen a decline in tackles in each of the last two years. This should make him a little undervalued in your draft, and I think he’s a great option for your second LB slot. I’d avoid the rest of the Texan backers, at least until one of Xavier Adibi, Zach Diles, and rookie Brian Cushing are established as every-down players. In tackle-heavy leagues that require CBs, Jacques Reeves is an excellent sleeper. He’s the starter in Houston, and his inability to keep the ball out of the hands of team’s receivers leads to high tackle totals on his part. He’s had 100 solo tackles over the last two years combined. On the line, Mario Williams is one of the top young pass-rushers in the league, and his job should be easier now that the solid Antonio Smith will be his other bookend. Williams is a top-ten option at DL, while Smith is a solid third or fourth option.
The Texans are a team rife with quality fantasy options, boasting top-ten players at QB, RB, WR, and TE. The only thing holding this team back is the mediocrity of the defense, so if new faces can solidify the team’s weakness, Houston fans should be partying in the playoffs. Otherwise, they’ll likely suffer another heartbreaking season-ending loss and another offseason of tweaks.
R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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