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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Houston Texans

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Andre Johnson's Fantasy value is in question for the first time in his 10-year career. Owners want to know if he is still an elite receiver heading into 2012.

I still consider Johnson one of the best players at his position. He is my No. 2 Fantasy receiver this year behind Calvin Johnson, and I expect him to play well. I'm not afraid of him getting hurt even though he hasn't been able to play 16 games each of the past two years.

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But my colleague Dave Richard has Johnson ranked No. 13, which means in a standard format he is a No. 2 Fantasy option. He has Johnson ranked behind some potential one-year wonders in Jordy Nelson and Victor Cruz and unproven receivers like A.J. Green and Julio Jones, but Dave is concerned about Johnson's health.

Last year, Johnson was limited to just seven games due to hamstring problems. He also missed three games in 2010, and in May he had arthroscopic surgery on his knee. He should be fine for training camp, but there is some fear he's slowing down since he will be 31 when the season starts.

I get the argument, but I'll take my chances with Johnson in most leagues with a Round 2 pick. Prior to getting hurt last year, Johnson had 21 catches for 316 yards and two touchdowns in his first three games (an average of 14 Fantasy points a week in standard leagues). He also had 13 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown in two playoff games, both with T.J. Yates at quarterback. And in 2010 when he missed three games he still finished with 86 catches, 1,216 catches and eight touchdowns.

Matt Schaub (foot) will return this season, which will help Johnson. He also has no real threat for targets, and Johnson has averaged at least 10 targets a game from 2006-10. Sure, the Texans are a run-first team with Arian Foster and Ben Tate, but Johnson had 162 Fantasy points (12.5 points a week) in 2010 during Foster's breakout season.

Fear Johnson if you want because of his injury history, but just keep in mind what he's capable of doing when healthy. I have no problem taking a risk on him because the rewards should be great.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Matt Schaub 7
Running Backs
Arian Foster 1
Ben Tate 8
Wide Receivers
Andre Johnson 2
Kevin Walter ND
Lestar Jean ND
DeVier Posey ND
Tight Ends
Owen Daniels 13
Kickers/Defense
Randy Bullock 14
Texans DST 13
ND - not expected to get drafted

Sleeper ... Matt Schaub, quarterback
The quarterback pool is so deep this year that Schaub isn't ranked in the Top 12 on our site or many others. We have Schaub ranked at No. 13 this year, and he could be the steal of many drafts. If you're the owner who prefers to wait on drafting a quarterback then Schaub is someone to target. He was limited to 10 games last season due to a Lisfranc sprain in his foot, but he should be ready for the start of training camp. He gets Johnson back at 100 percent, and the Texans gave him a new weapon in rookie receiver DeVier Posey. Prior to last season, Schaub averaged 4,570 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2009-10. He was averaging 18.1 Fantasy points a game last year, and only 10 quarterbacks did better in 2011. Look for Schaub to rebound and play at a high level, and he should be drafted anywhere after Round 7 in the majority of leagues.

Keeper-league target ... DeVier Posey, wide receiver
The Texans drafted Posey in the third round of the NFL Draft out of Ohio State, and he is expected to compete for playing time right away. The Texans have a need at receiver with Jacoby Jones gone, and if Johnson is slow in his recovery then Posey's playing time could increase. Posey will compete with Kevin Walter and Lestar Jean for targets. Jean is another receiver to consider for this category, but Posey probably has more long-term value. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Posey caught only 12 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns in three games last year after being forced to serve two five-game suspensions for taking improper benefits, but he totaled 60 catches for 828 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore. He is not worth drafting in the majority of leagues, but he is someone to put on your scout team as a potential waiver-wire addition during the season. Spend a mid-to-late pick on him in dynasty/keeper leagues and a third- or fourth-round pick in rookie-only drafts.

Bounce-back candidate ... Owen Daniels, tight end
No one missed Schaub more than Daniels last year. Through the first 10 games of the season in 2011, Daniels had at least six Fantasy points in six games. Once Schaub went down, Daniels had just one game with more than three points. If Daniels had maintained his Fantasy point average with Schaub, which was 6.2 per week, for the entire season he would have finished as a Top 12 tight end in standard leagues. Daniels might go undrafted this year in some shallow formats with how deep the talent pool is at tight end. We have him ranked No. 15 this year, but he could definitely re-emerge as a starting option now that Schaub is expected back at 100 percent.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
MIA @JAC @DEN TEN @NYJ GB BAL bye BUF @CHI JAC @DET @TEN @NE IND MIN @IND
The Texans offense should get off to a solid start until a three-game stretch against the Jets, Packers and Ravens before their Week 8 bye. From there, it's hard to imagine the Texans slowing down on offense, especially with two games against the Colts in their last three games of the season. We love the prospects for their Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit -- they might total 80 points in that game. With their toughest matchups over by Week 11 (and only four tough matchups really on their schedule), the Texans should meet expectations.

Training camp topics

Last year I felt alone in saying Foster should be the No. 1 overall pick. Many of my peers ran away from Foster at the top spot because of the hamstring injury he sustained in training camp, but I stuck with him.

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Arian Foster 278 carries, 53 catches
Ben Tate 175 carries, 13 catches
Owen Daniels 54 catches
Kevin Walter 39 catches
Jacoby Jones 31 catches, 4 carries

The result: He finished No. 4 at running back in total Fantasy points, but he was the No. 1 non-quarterback in Fantasy points per week at 18.3. He was a beast from Week 4 on.

This year, no one doubts Foster as the No. 1 overall pick. Tate is a viable handcuff option, and he should be drafted in Round 8. Tate finished last year as a Top 30 running back and can stay in that range this season since the Texans do a great job of rotating both backs. Tate had eight games with double digits in carries, and he reached double digits in Fantasy points six times in those games.

Aside from Foster, Tate, Johnson, Schaub and Daniels, two other Texans who should definitely be drafted are rookie kicker Randy Bullock and the Texans DST. Bullock is expected to beat out Shayne Graham for the starting job, and he should be a No. 1 Fantasy kicker this year. He will replace Neil Rackers, who signed with the Redskins, and Rackers was No. 6 in Fantasy points in 2011.

The Texans DST was No. 9 in Fantasy points last year, and they should once again remain a Top 12 option in all leagues. The loss of standout pass rusher Mario Williams will hurt, but defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has enough talent for the Texans DST to succeed in all formats.

Injury update

Schaub (foot; probable for the start of training camp) ... Johnson (knee; probable for the start of training camp)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

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Player News
Tom Brady has out-of-character performance
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:52 pm ET) The Patriots have played some weird games against Jets in recent years, including a 27-25 squeaker when they were at their hottest back in Week 7. So perhaps it's not surprising quarterback Tom Brady wasn't at his best Week 16 at the Jets as the Patriots eked out another victory, this time by just one point.

He completed 23 of 35 passes for 182 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was coming off a streak of 10 games with both 200-plus passing yards and two-plus touchdowns.

Brady was playing without his top target, wide receiver Julian Edelman, who was out with a concussion. But with Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell still at his disposal and Danny Amendola filling in capably, that likely wasn't the reason for his struggles. The matchup shouldn't have been either given where the Jets rank against the pass, but in three of his last four games against the division rival, Brady has thrown for less than two scores. And in all four, he's thrown for less than 300 yards.

Maybe it's just a matter of them being too familiar with each other. In any case, you shouldn't let this performance discourage you from starting Brady Week 17 against Buffalo unless of course the Patriots have already secured homefield advantage throughout the playoffs by that point.


Seahawks' Cooper Helfet able to return Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:27 pm ET) Seahawks tight end Cooper Helfet was able to return Week 16 against the Cardinals.

Helfet was carted off in the first half with a rib injury. He was initially ruled questionable to return to the contest, but was cleared to return after half time. Helfet returned at the start of the third quarter. 


Patriots' backfield remains an enigma
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:17 pm ET) LeGarrette Blount was out for Week 16 at the Jets with a shoulder injury, which meant surely the Patriots would make Jonas Gray their go-to running back. After all, he had a 200-yard, four-touchdown game earlier this season and finally got out of coach Bill Belichick's doghouse with 11 carries for 62 yards last week.

Wrong again.

Gray was the Patriots' only running back to score a touchdown in Week 16, plunging in from 1 yard out in the fourth quarter, but to say he was the go-to back would be disingenuous. He and Shane Vereen tied for the team lead in carries with six, but Brandon Bolden also had five. And Vereen and Bolden were both more productive with their carries, averaging 6.3 yards and 6.4 yards, respectively, than Gray was with his, averaging 0.8 yards.

And then there's the fact that Vereen is far and away the best pass-catcher of the three, but he was hardly involved in the passing game on a quiet day for quarterback Tom Brady.

So basically, you wouldn't have gone right with any of Blount's three replacements, and considering they were all equally involved, you have to wonder how they'll impact Blount's role if he returns Week 17 against Buffalo. Given that it's a tough matchup anyway, you might just want to avoid every Patriots running back.


Field goals down Ravens in loss to Texans
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:01 pm ET) Coming off their best performance of the season, the Ravens DST unit failed to live up to expectations in Week 16's 25-13 loss to the Texans.

The Ravens mostly held the Texans offense in check, limiting them to 313 yards of total offense. However, the Texans had the ball in the red zone seven times, and were able to rack up a solid scoring day despite being held to just one touchdown, as they kicked six field goals in the win. The Ravens forced just one turnover, and failed to sack Case Keenum in the loss.

The Ravens finished Sunday's game with just 5 Fantasy points, one week after dropping 26 against the Jaguars. They will look to bounce back in Week 17, as they face the Browns in the season finale.


Seahawks' Jermaine Kearse ruled out with hamstring injury
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:59 pm ET) Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse has been ruled out Week 16 against the Cardinals.

Kearse is dealing with a hamstring injury. He caught one pass for 8 yards before leaving the contest. 


Seahawks' Cooper Helfet gets carted off Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:57 pm ET) Seahawks tight end Cooper Helfet was carted off the field Week 16 against the Seahawks.

Helfet came into the game with an ankle injury, but was carted off with a rib injury. He is questionable to return to the contest. Helfet caught two passes for 9 yards before leaving. 


Texans DST keeps on rolling in win
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9:56 pm ET) The Texans defense dominated in Week 16, in a 25-13 win over the Ravens.

The Ravens managed just 211 yards of total offense in the game, despite running 68 plays. The Texans pass rush got home for just two sacks in the game, but they forced Joe Flacco into three interceptions anyways, as they finished the game with 18 Fantasy points, their second in a row with that total.

The Texans DST unit enters the final week of the season riding a eight-game streak with at least 10 Fantasy points, and they should have no trouble keeping it going with a matchup on the way against the Jaguars. 


Greg Zuerlein drills a 51-yarder
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:54 pm ET) Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein nailed a 51-yard field goal against the Giants, making him 4 of 6 from 50-plus yards this season. He also hit a 20-yard field goal and three PATS for nine points.

Zuerlein wraps up the season at Seattle.


Steelers pass rush dominates in victory
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9:51 pm ET) The Steelers DST unit continued its solid play in Week 16, in a 20-12 win over the Chiefs.

The Chiefs racked up 327 yards of total offense in the win, but did little to take advantage of that. They made four trips to the red zone and failed to come away with a single touchdown, settling for four field goals in the loss. The Steelers forced one turnover and sacked Alex Smith six times, en route to 14 Fantasy points.  

The Steelers have at least 9 Fantasy points in eight of their last nine games, including 9 against the Bengals in Week 14. They will look to pull that feat again in Week 17, with the Bengals on the schedule again to close the season out. 


Don't lose faith in Mark Ingram
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:50 pm ET) Though Saints running back Mark Ingram scored a touchdown Week 16 against Atlanta, plunging in from 1 yard out in the first quarter, he didn't have the most productive afternoon, rushing 13 times for 38 yards and catching three passes for 17. He's now run for less than 60 yards in three straight games, averaging 46.7 during that stretch compared to 101.3 in his previous six.

It's not like the Saints have turned to other options, though, which was Ingram's problem in previous seasons. Khiry Robinson was the only other running back to get any carries in Week 16, and he had just two. It's just that the Saints haven't been in a position to run the ball in recent weeks, losing big in both Week 14 and, of course, Week 16.

So what about Week 15? That's partly on Ingram. He got the carries, finishing with 17, and didn't do much with him.

The good news is that the Saints should be able to win handily Week 17 at Tampa Bay, which should mean plenty of garbage-time opportunities against a so-so run defense. Outside of maybe PPR leagues, you'll want to keep Ingram active in Fantasy.


 
 
 
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