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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
Browns DL Billy Winn (ankle) to miss week of practice
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(12:23 pm ET) The Browns defensive line dodged a bullet when the ankle injury suffered by defensive lineman Billy Winn was not ruled to be that serious, per the Associated Press

Browns coach Mike Pettine said that Winn will miss at least a week; however, he didn't feel it was the kind of high ankle sprain that could keep Winn out of action for several months. 

Winn was carted off the field during last Saturday's practice. He appeared in 13 games last season and totaled 31 tackles with one interception.


Report: Patriots sign linebacker L.J. Fort
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(12:04 pm ET) After a tryout Monday, linebacker L.J. Fort signed with the Patriots on Tuesday, per the Boston Globe

Fort has played with four NFL teams, most recently the Bengals and Seahawks, for whom he appeared in one game last season. He has 20 career tackles and one interception, all of which came for the Browns in 2012. 


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Bradford has impressed coaches thus far in offseason workouts and despite his history of injuries, the former No. 1 draft pick has many of the traits in which Eagles coach Chip Kelly admires. 

"Peyton Manning switched teams because of an injury,'' Kelly said. "Drew Brees switched teams because of an injury. So we went down that path."

Bradford has one year left on his rookie contract, and is scheduled to make $12.9 million this season. He has not played in an NFL game since 2013. 


Panthers WR Stephen Hill clears waivers, placed on IR
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(10:27 am ET) Panthers wide receiver Stephen Hill , who tore his ACL on Saturday, cleared waivers Tuesday and will be placed on the team's injured reserve, per ESPN. 

Hill, who spent 2014 on Carolina's practice squad, will not count against the team's 90-man roster. 


Patriots adjust TE Rob Gronkowski's $10 million bonus
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The team adjusted the payments on July 30, giving Gronkowski $4 million at the start of training camp and $6 million at the end of the league year. 

Gronkowski, who has 52 career touchdowns, is signed with the Patriots through the 2019 season. 


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(9:51 am ET) New Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham knows that he will have to become more than just a pass-catcher in Seattle's offense in order to succeed, per the Seattle Times

Graham, not known for his blocking while a member of the Saints, will be in a two-TE set with the Hawks, forcing him to block, by his estimation, "75 percent" of the time. 

"Now here I'm blocking quite a bit, and I love it," he said. "It's very important to me to be a part of that here. That's about 75 percent of the offense here. When you have a back like that, you want to be in there on those explosive runs, and you want to be a part of that."


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(9:29 am ET) Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said he worked hard in the offseason to lose weight and slow the Type 2 diabetes that affected his play last season, per the team website. 

Peterson was diagnosed during the early part of last season, but still managed to make the Pro Bowl after making 50 tackles and grabbing three interceptions. 

"It's a big step, especially after you first find out about something like that, you worry it's life-threatening. But it's definitely something that's controllable," Peterson said. "The team doctors and (head athletic trainer) Tom Reed have done a great job monitoring, and I've been great so far. I'm ready to move forward."


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(8/3/2015) Packers second-round rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins made his training camp debut on Monday.

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"It’s definitely good to get cleared," Rollins said, per the Journal-Sentinel. "It’s hard watching from the sideline, especially when you’re a competitor. But it felt good. Obviously I didn’t get team reps today, but just the fact that I was out there, fully dressed, and got to do individuals and walk through was definitely beneficial. Hopefully I can take small steps forward."


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(8/3/2015) Doug Martin will be the number one running back for the Buccaneers this season, coach Lovie Smith said on Monday. 

"We talked about being able to establish the run," Smith said, per TampaBay.com. "Doug will be the lead guy doing that, so it's very important that we open up some holes and let him do his thing."

Martin had 494 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 11 games last year. 


Ereck Flowers misses Giants' practice with hip flexor injury
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(8/3/2015) Giants first round draft pick Ereck Flowers missed Monday's practice with a hip flexor injury, per ESPN.

The tackle is listed as day-to-day, but coach Tom Coughlin didn't think the injury was serious. 

"He doesn't seem to be too bad," Coughlin said. "This morning he was sore, but by the time I caught him in the meeting room, he was (stretching his leg). Hopefully it's just a short amount of time."


 
 
 
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