The Texans' best chance to make the Super Bowl in the history of their franchise went by the wayside thanks to a late-season slump that cost them home-field advantage in the AFC. That overshadowed what was a pretty good season for a team that was loaded defensively and had their playmakers deliver strong seasons offensively. It also presents a challenging season ahead.
Getting those playmakers to repeat their feats will be tough. Andre Johnson will be 32 and coming off a career-best 1,598-yard season. But like league counterpart Calvin Johnson, he struggled when it came to scoring, nabbing just four touchdowns. That has to change for the Texans to be effective and it could be tough because the team is thin on receiving talent opposite Johnson. Last year they had Kevin Walter for the seventh straight year opposite Johnson. He stunk (518 yards, two touchdowns) and has since been let go. If they add a speedy receiver via the draft who can fill that role, the offense could be impossible to stop. If they don't, the likes of Lestar Jean, Keshawn Martin and maybe DeVier Posey will compete to start. Utilizing matchup nightmare running back/tight end James Casey isn't an option after he left for more playing time in Philadelphia in March. Houston has a very important hole to fill.
|Arian Foster||391 (351 car., 40 rec.)||45.3%|
|Andre Johnson||112 rec.||13.0%|
|Ben Tate||76 (65 car., 11 rec.)||8.8%|
|Justin Forsett||66 (63 car., 3 rec.)||7.7%|
|Owen Daniels||62 rec.||7.2%|
|Kevin Walter||41 rec.||4.8%|
Not that passing is their preferred way to move the chains. The Texans again ranked highly as a rushing offense thanks to the exploits of Arian Foster. The Fantasy legend again topped 1,600 total yards and 12 total touchdowns (he had 17 in 2012), but it came at a steep price as he had over 400 carries between the regular season and the postseason (18 games). Not many running backs put up that much work and come back as strong the following year but Foster is a good candidate to buck that trend. An irregular heartbeat discovered last season shouldn't be anything to worry about nor should his overall workload -- which has averaged 21.2 carries per game over the last three seasons -- but it's all worth noticing. And if the Texans coaches notice, we could see his workload lightened to open the season. One big positive is his use at the goal line -- there were weeks last season that were salvaged by his scores and that's bound to continue. Foster remains a very good Fantasy option but one that needs a handcuff.
Outside of those two on offense, there are plenty of questions including whether or not Matt Schaub can push the team past the second round of the playoffs (remember when it was whether or not he could push them to the playoffs, period?). There's also the state of the defense and whether or not J.J. Watt can remain dominant and if the secondary can withstand the loss of Glover Quin. For a team that was so close to being a contender for Super Bowl XLVII, they're being taken as lightly as a team that went 8-8. We'll see if it's warranted in 2013.
Ben Tate -- Potential breakout
It goes without saying that if Foster stays healthy, Tate's contributions will be minimal. But Foster is coming off a season and postseason where he had not just 400 carries but over 450 total touches. It's a lot of wear and tear on a running back. The Texans are confident in Tate's abilities in the offense and might not be shy about giving Tate around eight touches per week if only to keep Foster in shape. Of course, Foster could always get hurt and that would open the door for Tate to be a high-volume back like he was at the very start of his career when Foster was sidelined. Either way, getting Tate is a must if you take Foster with an early first-round pick but he's also a speculative choice if you don't have Foster. We're talking about a middle-round pick so it's not exactly low-risk but if there's one thing that's in the back of Tate's mind it's that if he gets an opportunity to play he can make it pay off -- literally. He's in a contract year and could be a starter for a team looking to run the zone-blocking scheme in 2014.
Matt Schaub -- Bust
Schaub's numbers in 2012 weren't so far out of line with what he's done in Houston, and that's entirely the problem. His stock tanked last season as he struggled to put up big numbers while younger, more versatile passers were all the rage. Those youngsters are now who Fantasy owners are targeting, pushing Schaub down rank lists everywhere. He might be worth a late pick as a handcuff to one of the young quarterbacks you take in Rounds 5-8, but with the depth at the position and his sliding passing yard average to go with a less-than-stellar touchdown total, he's not the guy many thought he was a few years ago. Schaub might actually not get picked in some smaller drafts. Schaub is worth a late-round pick in drafts strictly as a decent backup Fantasy option and nothing more.
Lestar Jean -- Late-round flier
|Matt Schaub||Late-round pick|
|Arian Foster||Top 3 overall|
|Ben Tate||80-95 overall|
|Andre Johnson||25-35 overall|
|Owen Daniels||120-130 overall|
|Randy Bullock||Late-round pick|
|Texans DST||Late-round pick|
Consider Jean at the very least a placeholder and at the very most a deep sleeper. It's evident the Texans not only need to upgrade at receiver but are planning on it. You could tell that when they released seven-year veteran Kevin Walter, who did a lot of underrated work but was never great for Fantasy purposes. Coach Gary Kubiak said this offseason that he thinks a lot of Jean and why not after he proved he could work some magic on deep passes. Last year Jean had 151 yards on six catches: One went for over 20 yards, two went for over 40 yards, four went for first downs and another saw him finish in the end zone. Perhaps if Jean proves in training camp that he can do the dirty underneath work while also being an asset on the big plays then he'll earn a starting job and the stats will follow. Whoever starts opposite Andre Johnson will have the look of a late-round pick.