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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Houston Texans

Senior Fantasy Writer
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It looks like the Texans are heading for a rebuilding year -- but don't tell Andre Johnson. The disgruntled veteran has wondered aloud about his future following Houston's awful 2-14 season and the ensuing offseason.

Not that it's been all bad for the Texans. They've hired Bill O'Brien to serve as head coach and offensive coordinator but also drafted Jadeveon Clowney to rush the passer as an outside linebacker on a team already flush with good defensive talent.

What has Johnson disgruntled is the quarterback position -- arguably the worst in the NFL -- as the Texans head into the preseason with just veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and 24-year-old rookie Tom Savage (the team's fourth-round pick) as the top candidates to start. Even the Raiders with ex-Texans slinger Matt Schaub and rookie Derek Carr look more appealing. So it's no wonder why Johnson (and maybe all of the other receivers in Houston) are disappointed in the Texans offseason.

What the team can and should be optimistic about is a defense that should rebound in a major way. The unit was talented to begin with last season but injuries took a toll. Brian Cushing is back in the middle of the defense, flanked by Brooks Reed moving inside to make room for Clowney. Kendrick Lewis comes over from Kansas City to play safety and J.J. Watt remains on the end, a huge piece to the puzzle. New defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel (who has typically been more effective as a coordinator than a head coach) has a lot to work with and not many holes to cover up. A favorable slate of opponents really helps the cause.

If the Texans can keep the turnovers to a minimum offensively, they should contend for at least eight wins. That might be a lot to ask for considering Fitzpatrick (93 interceptions and 23 fumbles lost in 85 games) and Savage's (19 interceptions in 31 college games) track record.

Not a No. 1 option ... Andre Johnson

Before you wholly discount Johnson, remember who he caught passes from last season. Not exactly a who's who of quality arms. Johnson should continue to receive plenty of targets and remain consistent with what we've seen from him over his last three seasons: the equivalent of 6.5 catches and 89.7 yards per game with very modest (if not lean) touchdown totals. He's had exactly seven games with 10-plus Fantasy points in each of his last two seasons. So long as you count on him for numbers like this (90-plus catches, over 1,300 yards and a handful of touchdowns), you'll be fine.

Still a No. 1 option ... Arian Foster

Everyone is scared to draft Foster because last year was an injury-plagued disaster. Don't be. If there's one thing we've learned from Bill O'Brien it's that he's dedicated to running the football. In each of his last seven stops as a play caller he's had his backs run the ball at least 23.6 times per game, including at New England in 2011. He's also typically favored one back shouldering the load -- O'Brien even said "Arian's going to be a guy that we're looking to lean on, no question about it." Think of last year as a chance for Foster to get well and rest up -- there's nothing limiting him this summer and he should bounce back against what amounts to an easy schedule. Don't expect him to last past pick No. 16 on Draft Day.

Bust ... Garrett Graham

2013 Touches Leaders
785 total touches
Ben Tate 215 (181 car., 34 rec.) 27.4%
Arian Foster 143 (121 car., 22 rec.) 18.2%
Andre Johnson 109 rec. 13.9%
Dennis Johnson 57 (49 car., 8 rec.) 7.3%
DeAndre Hopkins 52 rec. 6.6%
All Others 129 26.6%

The way he finished last season with 29 catches for 341 yards and two touchdowns in six games, you would have thought Garrett Graham would be a breakout candidate. Not so. True, Bill O'Brien modified his offense following his one season in New England when he had Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez create matchup problems for defenders. We saw him use big tight ends at Penn State whereas before New England he rarely relied on the position. The addition of C.J. Fiedorowicz, along with second-year tight end Ryan Griffin, should cap the number of targets Graham will get. Gary Kubiak loved getting his tight ends involved in Houston but he's long gone. Graham shouldn't be considered a draft-worthy tight end.

Schedule analysis

Look for Foster to especially get off to a good start as the Texans open up vs. the Redskins, followed by road treks to the Raiders and Giants before returning home to face the Bills. They don't face a tough defense until the Steelers at home in Week 7 (assuming that defense is actually tough). In fact, the Texans' entire schedule is void of any really challenging defenses, or at least it looks that way going into the season. Three tough AFC North defenses is really as bad as it gets. Oh, if only Houston had a quarterback ...

Training camp battles

Who's the quarterback? Watching Fitzpatrick battle Savage won't fire up Fantasy owners since not much is expected from either guy. But Savage could clinch the job if he outplays Fitzpatrick. If not, he'll probably get a crack to take over as the starter if the Texans aren't in contention by Week 10 when the team hits their bye week.

Who's the third receiver? Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins will be the Texans' starters on the outside. Who the third wideout will be remains to be seen. The likeliest candidates are Keshawn Martin (22 catches in 16 games last year) and DeVier Posey (15 catches in 14 games last year). Again, this is a battle that won't impact Fantasy owners much.

Bold prediction

Just how good could Foster be? Behind an improved offensive line and with an offense lacking a premier passer (or even a reliable passer), Foster will have over 300 touches, over 1,400 total yards and at least 10 touchdowns. It will mark his fourth season in his last five where he produced at that level. Fantasy owners who take him between 10th and 15th overall will be generously rewarded.

Injury report: Brian Cushing (knee), probable for start of training camp. ... Johnathan Joseph (toe), questionable for start of training camp. ... Trevardo Williams (knee), questionable for start of training camp. ... Brennan Williams (knee), questionable for start of training camp. ... Arian Foster (back), already practicing at full speed.

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Player News
Packers' Aaron Rodgers named NFL MVP at NFL Honors
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named the 2015 NFL MVP at the NFL Honors awards show, held Saturday at the Phoenix Symphony Hall in Phoenix, Ariz.

Rodgers played all 16 regular-season games in 2014 for just the second time in the last five seasons, completing 65.6 percent of his passes while racking up 4,381 passing yards, 38 passing touchdowns and five interceptions. He also added two more touchdowns on the ground while gaining 269 rushing yards on 43 carries.

Several other awards were handed out at the ceremony Saturday, as follows.

AP Offensive Player of the Year: DeMarco Murray, Cowboys

AP Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Texans

AP Offensive Rookie of the Year: Odell Beckham, Giants

AP Defensive Rookie of the Year: Aaron Donald, Rams

AP Comeback Player of the Year: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots

AP Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Cardinals

AP Assistant Coach of the Year: Todd Bowles, Cardinals

Walter Payton Man of Year: Thomas Davis, Panthers

Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals

Salute to Service Award: Jared Allen, Bears

NFL.com Fantasy Player of the Year: Le'Veon Bell, Steelers

FedEx Air Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, Packers

FedEx Ground Player of the Year: Le'Veon Bell, Steelers

Deacon Jones Award: Justin Houston, Chiefs

Greatness on the Road Award: Tony Romo, Cowboys

Bridgestone Performance Play of the Year: Odell Beckham one-handed catch

Don Shula High School Coach of the Year: Bruce Larson, Somerset (Wisconsin) High School

In addition, eight finalists were voted into the Hall of Fame: running back Jerome Bettis, wide receiver Tim Brown, defensive end/linebacker Charles Haley, linebacker Junior Seau, guard Will Shields, center Mick Tingelhoff and executives Bill Polian and Ron Wolf.


Seahawks' Kam Chancellor participates in Saturday walkthrough
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor injured his knee late in Friday's practice but was well enough to participate in Saturday's walkthrough for Super Bowl XLIX, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

Coach Pete Carroll indicated optimism that Chancellor, who is considered probable to play Sunday, would be cleared to participate in the Super Bowl, per the Seahawks' pool report.

"He looked pretty good today," Carroll said. "We will make sure we test him in pregame, but he remarkably looked great today, and so that’s all we have to go on."

Chancellor is one of six Seattle players listed as probable to play in Sunday's game.


Lions WR Calvin Johnson does not need offseason surgery
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson indicated Saturday that he will not need to undergo offseason surgery, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Johnson had surgery on his ankle and finger last offseason, and while he missed three games due to injury in October, he played every game from November onward despite being limited by an ankle injury in practice. The Lions wide receiver finished with 71 receptions for 1,077 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014.


Patriots upgrade center Bryan Stork to probable for Super Bowl
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Patriots have upgraded center Bryan Stork to probable for Sunday's Super Bowl, the team announced Saturday. 

Stork was considered questionable with a knee injury after missing the AFC Championship game and was limited in practice Friday. The Patriots are currently 1-point favorites against the Seahawks Sunday.


Geno Smith hopeful Jets bring back Percy Harvin in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Jets quarterback Geno Smith knows he can't make the ultimate decision, but he wants to see Percy Harvin back in New York in 2015.

"I would love for Percy to come back," Smith said. "Obviously I can’t make that decision, but from my short time with him he’s been a great teammate. He’s obviously a dynamic player and I’d love to see what he can do in this new offense."

Harvin played eight games with the Jets in 2014, catching 29 passes for 350 yards. 

However, Harvin is due $10.5 million in base salary in 2014, and is under contract until 2018.


Eagles' Nick Foles expecting to be starter in Philadelphia next year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Eagles quarterback Nick Foles said he is expecting to be back in Philadelphia in 2015, leading the offesne.

"My expectation is to be out there and be the starting guy," Foles said, according to CSNPhilly.com. "I expect to be out there with my teammates leading them. I’ve never thought otherwise throughout this whole time. 


"I know there’s been a lot of things said, but the only thing I’m worried about is making myself the best player, the best person to help lead my team."

Foles, who threw for 2,163 yards and 13 touchdowns in an injury-shortened season, expects to be back at full strength by the time training camp rolls around.

"Completely healthy, ready to go," he said. "Just grinding away. Just can’t wait to get back out there."


Jets' Geno Smith doesn't know if he will start in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Jets quarterback Geno Smith said Saturday he is unsure of his status with the team and has not received a definitive answer from new coach Todd Bowles on whether he will be the starter in 2015, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.

Smith, who threw for 2,525 yards with 13 touchdowns in 2014, also isn't sure if the Jets will try to draft a quarterback in the first round like Jamies Winston or Marcus Mariota, but he would welcome the challenge as more competition.


Cardinals coach Bruce Arians: 'It's really (Fitzgerald's) decision'
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told reporters Friday he really wants to see wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald back in Arizona next season.

"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t," Arians said. "We definitely, desperately want him to stay. He knows that. It’s really his decision."

Fitzgerald has a salary cap hit of $23.6 million for 2015 and the team will work to get that number down in the offseason. Team president Michael Bidwill said this week contract talks won't start fully until after the Super Bowl.

"I’m hoping and praying every day that it does happen," Arians said. "I’ve expressed to him personally how much it means to us."

Fitzgerald has not reached 1,000 yards receiving in the past three seasons and totaled 784 in 2014 on 63 catches with two touchdowns.


Seahawks corner Byron Maxwell set to test free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell is ready to hit the free-agent market during the upcoming offseason and feels the Super Bowl will be his last game in Seattle.

"I’m the prettiest girl at the dance right now," Maxwell said. "But yeah, it’s one of those things I’m excited about it. I would love to be here, but I’m ready to see what’s out there and see how things work out."

Maxwell, who was heavily targeted this year with the Seahawks secondary filled with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, grabbed two interceptions and defended 11 passes.

"Coming into the season I already knew teams were going to try me," Maxwell said. "But it was cool. I accept that. That’s more opportunities for me to get the rock and put my name out there."


Report: Titans S Bernard Pollard wants to be released
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Titans safety Bernard Pollard has requested a release from his contract, The Tennessean reports. He is scheduled to make $3.1 million in the final season of his two-year deal in 2015.

Pollard submitted his request to general manager Ruston Webster at the end of the regular season, per the report. He is recovering from a ruptured Achilles and wants to play in 2015, but said on The Tennessean's Bernard Pollard Show earlier this month that he was unsure of his future with the Titans.

"I am not getting any younger, so I want to win, I really do. I want to win,'' Pollard said. "Looking at how things took place this year, looking at where (the Titans) need to be for next year, that is a tough, tough question, and I don't even know if they can give me the answer. I have one year on my deal, but it is going to take some time."

Pollard has been out of his walking boot for a month and is making progress in rehab. He suffered his Achilles injury in Week 5 and was placed on injured reserve.


 
 
 
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