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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
Dee Milliner doubtful on Jets' final Week 3 injury report
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:43 pm ET) Jets cornerback Dee Milliner (quad/ankle) is doubtful to play in Monday night's game against the Bears.

Milliner sat out practice for a second straight day Saturday and is unlikely to suit up Monday. Wide receiver Eric Decker is questionable to play Monday, but the rest of the team's injured players participated in practice fully Saturday and are good to go, the Associated Press reports. Those players include running back Chris Johnson (ankle), safety Josh Bush (quad) and linebackers A.J. Edds (hamstring), Nick Bellore (hip) and Quinton Coples (elbow).


Panthers sign Darrin Reaves to active roster
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:38 pm ET) The Panthers signed running back Darrin Reaves from the practice squad Saturday, the team announced. The team has three running backs on the injury report this week and is looking to improve depth heading into Sunday night's game against the Steelers.

Eric Decker questionable to play Monday vs. Bears
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:36 pm ET) Jets wide receiver Eric Decker (hamstring) is officially questionable to play in Monday night's game against the Bears.

Decker was able to get in a limited practice session Saturday and will likely wind up being a gametime decision. He has caught nine passes for 137 yards and a touchdown over his first two games.


Dolphins sign Brandian Ross, waive Bruce Gaston
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:08 pm ET) The Dolphins announced Saturday that the team has signed safety Brandian Ross from the team's practice squad and waived defensive tackle Bruce Gaston.

Bears list five players out on final Week 3 injury report
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:06 pm ET) Five injured Bears players will miss Monday's game against the Jets, according to the team's final injury report Saturday: linebacker Shea McClellin (hand), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad) and offensive linemen Matt Slauson (ankle) and Roberto Garza (ankle).

In addition, defensive end Trevor Scott (foot) has been listed as doubtful. On the positive side, defensive end Jared Allen (back), safety Chris Conte (shoulder) and wide receiver Josh Morgan (groin) are listed as probable to play Monday.


Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery questionable in Week 3
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:02 pm ET) Bears wide receivers Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) are officially questionable for Monday night's game against the Jets.

Marshall caught three touchdowns in Week 2 despite not practicing all week, while Jeffery recorded three catches for 47 yards in the game. Both were limited in Saturday's practice.


Vikings sign Charles Johnson off Browns' practice squad
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:18 pm ET) The Vikings announced Saturday that they have signed wide receiver Charles Johnson off the Browns' practice squad. Johnson, who caught six passes for 65 yards in four preseason games with the Browns, played under Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner in Cleveland last season.

Cowboys waive Lavar Edwards, promote Keith Smith
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:27 pm ET) The Cowboys waived defensive end Lavar Edwards and signed linebacker Keith Smith from the practice squad Saturday. With Rolando McClain doubtful to play Sunday due to a groin injury, the Cowboys turned to the practice squad to add to the depth at the position.

Raiders looking to get Marcel Reece more involved
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:18 pm ET) The Raiders are looking to get fullback Marcel Reece more involved in the offense moving forward after he touched the ball just four times in the team's first two games, the Associated Press reports.

"We have to be a little bit aware early in the game of getting him involved early," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said after the team's Week 2 loss to the Texans. "We only had 20 snaps again in the first half. There were things designed to him. ... We had some things there it just didn't end up going there. We'll continue to find ways to utilize Marcel."

Reece signed a three-year contract extension worth more than $11 million last September and owns the second-biggest cap hit of any skill-position player behind backup quarterback Matt Schaub. The Raiders face the Patriots in Week 3.

"He's a real tough matchup," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "It's hard to find guys that have his skills that you can put on. You can put faster, quicker guys on him that probably don't have his size and you can put bigger guys on him that probably don't have his speed and quickness. It's a tough matchup. Obviously, we'll be challenged trying to get him covered."


Jaguars waive Craig Loston, promote Kerry Taylor
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:52 am ET) The Jaguars waived safety Craig Loston Saturday and promoted wide receiver Kerry Taylor from the practice squad, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Taylor will serve as insurance at the wide receiver position with Cecil Shorts and Allen Hurns banged up but expected to play. Loston didn't play in Week 2 after being signed off the practice squad.


 
 
 
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