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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
Cowboys WR Cole Beasley scores touchdown in Week 12 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:25 am ET) Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley caught two passes for 66 yards and a touchdown in his team's 31-28 win over the Giants in Week 12.

Beasley caught a short pass in the third quarter and made a few men miss en route to a 45-yard score on his first target of the night. The yardage was a season high for the rarely-targeted player, and the touchdown was his first of the season. Beasley now has 18 catches for 209 yards while seeing targets in 10 of the team's 11 games.


Cowboys WR Dez Bryant catches two TDs in Week 12 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:21 am ET) Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant caught seven of his nine targets for 86 yards with two touchdowns in his team's 31-28 win over the Giants in Week 12.

Bryant was left wide open on his 31-yard touchdown in the third quarter and was able to outrace the Giants defense to the pylon but took a big hit on the play. He came back to snag the go-ahead score with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter. Bryant has now put together back-to-back multiscore performances, and he's up to 63 receptions, 879 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. He's set to square off with the Eagles Thursday.


Rams receiving corps still being sorted out
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:17 am ET) So who predicted Stedman Bailey would lead the Rams in receiving Week 12 at San Diego? Yeah, me neither. But despite entering the game with only eight catches all season, there he was catching seven balls for 89 yards and a touchdown.

It wasn't one of those fluky, flow-of-the-game-type performances either. The Rams only lost by three. Since the injury to Brian Quick in Week 8, no one had emerged as the go-to guy, and the recent change at quarterback only added the opportunity.

So perhaps we shouldn't be any more surprised by this performance than we were by Kenny Britt's four catches for 128 yards and a touchdown last week. Britt, by the way, had only two catches for 37 yards in this one, receiving six targets, which is exactly why you should sit back and see how this situation develops rather than commit big dollars to Bailey.

The opportunity is there for sure, but Rams aren't exactly built to have a prolific passing attack. And so far, no one has sustained anything from one week to the next. Even Quick had to do that before we bought into him in Fantasy.


Dan Herron does fine Ahmad Bradshaw impression
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:02 am ET) The Colts may have lost Ahmad Bradshaw for the season Week 11 against New England, but they didn't miss a beat with his replacement Week 12 against Jacksonville. Dan Herron not only started the game, but he was also the team's leading rusher, picking up 65 yards on 12 carries to Trent Richardson's 42 on 13. And like Bradshaw, he was a factor in the passing game as well, making five catches for 31 yards. Bradshaw himself only once had more than five catches.

Granted, it was against the Jaguars, so let's not go pinning all our hopes on Herron just yet. But if you yourself owned Bradshaw or were envious of the person who did, Herron is clearly a player to target off the waiver wire.

With all the attention opposing defenses pay Andrew Luck and the passing game, Bradshaw's production may have been more a product of the role than anything else, which means it wouldn't take an exceptional talent to put up similar numbers.


Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray tallies 121 rushing yards vs. Giants
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:00 am ET) Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray rushed for 121 yards on 24 carries and added another 22 yards on two receptions in his team's 31-28 win over the Giants in Week 12.

Murray delivered his 10th 100-yard performance in 11 games Sunday, and he's now up to 1,354 rushing yards, 303 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on the year. However, he hasn't reached the end zone in any of his last four games. Murray has a big showdown against the 8-3 Eagles set for Thursday.


Cowboys QB Tony Romo throws four TDs in win vs. Giants
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/23/2014) Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed 18 of his 26 pass attempts for 275 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in his team's 31-28 win over the Giants in Week 12.

Romo looked healthy and at the top of his game against a division rival on the road, and it took a game-winning drive with less than three minutes left on the clock to move the Cowboys to 5-0 on the road this season. He hit No. 1 receiver Dez Bryant for two touchdowns, including the game-winner. Romo and the Cowboys have a huge matchup coming up against the Eagles on Thursday. The two teams are tied at 8-3 atop the NFC East.


Giants G Adam Snyder suffers knee injury Sunday, will not return
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/23/2014) Giants guard Adam Snyder suffered a knee injury in his team's matchup with the Cowboys Sunday night and will not return, the team announced. However, tackle Will Beatty (eye) was able to return late in the fourth quarter after being deemed probable.

Denard Robinson picks odd week to struggle
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11/23/2014) Though his Week 12 opponent, the Colts, had struggled against the run, having allowed the third-most yards per carry coming into the game, Jaguars running back Denard Robinson looked more like his predecessor against them, picking up 25 yards on 14 carries.

Meanwhile, his predecessor, Toby Gerhart, was inexplicably productive in limited chances, leading the team with 31 yards on four carries.

Granted, Gerhart's four carries were more or less his usual allotment since Robinson assumed the lead role, so there's no reason to think the Jaguars are having second thoughts about the distribution of carries. Still, given that Robinson had averaged 97.3 rushing yards in his previous four games, including 108 against a tough Dolphins run defense in Week 8, this performance wasn't what his Fantasy owners were expecting to see.

Chalk it up as just a bad day for Robinson and give him another chance Week 13 against a Giants defense that entered Week 12 ranked dead last against the run.


Giants T Will Beatty (eye) probable to return Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/23/2014) Giants tackle Will Beatty is probable to return to Sunday's game against the Cowboys with an eye injury, the team announced. Beatty was one of several players on both sides to suffer injuries in the fourth quarter Sunday night, but it appears the injury is minor in his case.

Timothy Wright predictably annoying
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11/23/2014) Guess who's back in the headlines in Fantasy? The same tight end who sent everyone flocking to the waiver wire after his five-catch, 85-yard, touchdown-scoring performance in Week 5 and his seven-catch, 61-yard, touchdown-scoring performance in Week 8. The Patriots' Timothy Wright did one better Week 12 against Detroit, scoring two touchdowns on five catches for 36 yards.

But here's the problem: Aside from those three games -- which are pretty well spaced apart, you'll notice -- he has a total of six catches for 38 yards.

So should we be flocking to the waiver wire to add him again? A tight end doesn't score two touchdowns every week, you know.

Yeah ... but Wright doesn't do anything, not even catch a pass, every week. Why would that change now? The proper response to this performance is indignation that those two touchdowns didn't go to someone else. Don't make it anything more.


 
 
 
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