2020 Houston Texans Outlook
Over six seasons with Bill O'Brien as the head coach, the Houston Texans have a 52-44 record with four playoff berths (2-4). He has provided a winning season five times. O'Brien has been a coach for 11 seasons while taking over as Houston's general manager in 2020.
His decision in the offseason may very well lead to doom in his coaching career. He traded away WR DeAndre Hopkins for RB David Johnson, which goes against the NFL team-building grain. Running backs tend to be easier to find than elite wide receivers. O'Brien did land WR Brandin Cooks to soften the blow at wide receiver for the Texans in 2020.
In 2019, Houston promoted Tim Kelly to offensive coordinator after working in various roles in the system since 2014. His offense finished 13th in offensive yards, which was a third straight year of improvement. They scored 378 points (14th), helping the Texans to a 10-6 record.
Houston promoted Romeo Crennel to associate head coach, leading the way for Anthony Weaver to take over as the defensive coordinator. Over the previous four years, he worked as the defensive line coach. Weaver has eight years of coaching experience in the league, with all other positions coming from his defensive line.
The Texans fell to 28th in yards allowed and 19th in points (385) given up. They allowed 69 more points than in 2018 (316).
The Texans defense lost DT D.J. Reader, CB Johnathan Joseph, S Jahleel Addae, S Mike Adams, and DE Barkevious Mingo.
Reader signed a four-year, $54 million deal with the Bengals. His loss hurts the interior run defense on early downs.
Houston added Randall Cobb to improve their wide receiver depth. He played well as the WR3 for the Texans in 2019 after showing regression in his game over his final couple seasons in Green Bay.
They moved on from RB Carlos Hyde despite playing well in his early-down role last year. The addition of David Johnson should stabilize the running position for the Texans.
The offensive line gained G Brent Qvale while losing aging veteran T Chris Clark. Qvale projects as only a bench player.
This season Houston only had five selections in the draft with no pick in the first round. They focused on their defense with the first two choices (DT Ross Blacklock and LB Jonathan Greenard) in the second and third rounds.
Blacklock brings pass rushing to the interior of the Texans' defensive line with his wins coming from his quickness and athletic ability. He wants to get an edge off the snap, which can put him out of position vs. the run. Blacklock loses value when stalemated against the top offensive lineman with power. His next step is getting stronger while improving his decision making at the point of attack.
Greenard has the feel of a well-rounded player that does his job. He'll upgrade Houston's run defense while also improving their pass rush. His vision and quickness grade well while owning a foundation of moves to create wins. Greenland missed 2018 with a wrist injury, and it may have hurt his explosiveness last year.
In the fourth round, Houston added T Charlie Heck and CB John Reid.
Heck should have more upside in pass protection than in run blocking. His size (6'8" and 211 lbs.) helps his reach while owning better than expected mobility. He'll be tested with power, and Heck needs to improve his lower body and technique against quick-moving targets.
Reid is an undersized player (5'10" and 187 lbs.) that will be challenged by size and elite speed. He plays hard with vision and can chase over the short areas of the field. Reid offers minimal value to help the run while also having a history of injuries.
Their last player (WR Isaiah Coulter) chosen came in the fifth round. His experience vs. top competition is limited, which is also part of the reason his route running is trailing. Coulter has the feel of an explosive player with upside, but he needs more fight in his game while showing he owns his pass routes and the oncoming ball.
The Texans dropped one notch to ninth in rushing yards (2,009) with growth in rushing TDs (17). Their ball carriers gained 4.6 yards per rush, with 13 runs over 20 yards.
Houston ranked 14th in passing yards (4,083) with 27 TDs and 14 Ints while gaining 7.6 yards per pass attempt. Their offensive line allowed 49 sacks and 93 QB hits, which was more than a 20 percent improvement from 2018.
LT Laremy Tunsil
Before the start of 2019, the Texans acquired Tunsil in a package with Miami for two first-round draft picks and a second rounder. After the season, they signed him to a three-year deal worth over $57 million. Tunsil battled an ankle injury in 2019, and he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in March.
Last year he played at an elite level in pass protection while trending toward the league average in run support.
LG Senio Kelemete
Kelemete missed 15 games last year after suffering a wrist in Week 1. In 2018, he minimized the damage for most in pass blocking while regressing as a run blocker. His window to start looks almost over, as Houston needs to find a better all-around option to help in all areas.
Max Scharping brings power with questionable foot speed. He projects to be an edge in a power run game, but Scharping does have risk in pass protections tied to his lack of quickness. The Texans drafted him in the second round in 2019. Over his 14 starts last year, he held serve in pass blocking well struggling in the run game.
C Nick Martin
Martin is an attacking power player who was expected to add value as a run blocker. Over the past two years, he started all 32 games for Houston while showing surprising growth in pass protection. Defenses rarely reached the QB up the middle. The Texans drafted Martin the second round in 2016.
RG Zach Fulton
Fulton has six years of experience. Last year he started 16 games at right guard with failure in run blocking. Fulton has been a steady player in pass protection over the previous four seasons. Overall, the Texans may replace in the starting up to help improve the balance on offense.
RT Tytus Howard
Howard comes to the NFL with athletic ability and a base foundation skill set to have success despite coming from a small school program. He needs development in his technique, along with adding more strength to his game. Howard lacks the power in his hands at this point in his career. The Texans' drafted him in the first round in 2019.
In his rookie season, he missed eight games with a battle with a right knee injury that required surgery in December. Over a half of a season, he played well in pass protection while ranking poorly in the run game.
Offensive Line Outlook
This offensive line is moving in the right direction, but it does need a couple of its young players to stay healthy and show growth. Their most significant area of need is pass protection. A possible big step forward.
QB Deshaun Watson, HOU - Stud (low risk)
The structure of the offense takes a new direction in 2020 after shipping the great WR DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals for RB David Johnson. A second deal for WR Brandin Cooks will soften the hit at WR1, but it leaves Watson looking for a receiver he can trust in the most significant moments of the game.
His completion rate (67.8) was elite over the last two seasons while adding a warrior mentality as a runner (181/964/2). His sacks total (44) remains high despite shaving 18 sacks off his 2018 season (62).
Houston looks positioned to run the offense through the running back position while looking to take some deep shots in the passing game. Randall Cobb helps the depth at wide receiver, but Watson needs WR Will Fuller to stay healthy to hold his top five QB value.
Still a top-five QB for me, but I can't pay a premium for him on draft day based on the questions at WR1. On the positive side, Houston looks to be moving in the wrong direction on defense. Watson is projected for 4,401 combined yards with 32 touchdowns in the first version of his projections.Injury Status: Out - Coach's Decision
RB David Johnson, HOU - Stud (low risk)
Johnson struggled in one (7/14/1) of his first six games, but he gained 613 combined yards with five TDs and 30 catches over this stretch. After leaving Week 7 with an ankle injury, Johnson lost his starting job with minimal playing time and chances (100 combined yards with one TDs and six catches) over the final nine games.
His yards per rush have been low in 2018 (3.6) and 2019 (3.7) while remaining a top threat in the passing game (36/370/4 – 10.3 YPC).
In 2019 for the Texans, Carlos Hyde ranked 29th in PPR leagues (245/1070/6) despite limited chances in the passing game (10/42).
Getting older with many battles with injuries. I have him projected for 1,576 combined yards with 12 TDs and 53 catches, making him a value play for me.
RB Duke Johnson, --- - Fantasy Handcuff
In his first year in Houston, Johnson failed to match his early career success with the Browns. He finished with his lowest total in catches (44) and receiving yards (410) despite gaining 9.3 yards per catch. The Texans had him on the field for 48.5 percent of their plays.
With David Johnson added to the roster, Houston will have the ability to have a pass-catching option out of the backfield on most plays. Only a rotational RB3 in PPR leagues while being drafted well after the tenth round in 12-team leagues.
WR Brandin Cooks, HOU - Solid/Safe Pick
Cooks saw his streak of four seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving end in 2019, and it wasn't due to his two games missed due to a concussion. He ranked 15th in WR scoring (221.20) in 2017 and 13th (243.20) in 2018.
After a slow Week 1 (2/39), he looks on his way to another successful year over his next three games (17/257/1). Over his final ten games, Cooks caught 23 passes for 287 yards and a TD on 41 targets. This year he'll play for his fourth franchise in five seasons.
Cooks can't fill the void created by the trade of DeAndre Hopkins, but he should see a rebound in his game this year while being an easy value play based on his early ADP. I have him projected for 71 catches for 1,050 yards and seven TDs.
WR Randall Cobb, GB - Deep-league Only
After trending downward over his final three seasons at Green Bay, Cobb proved he still had the game to make plays in the NFL for the Cowboys. In his new role, Cobb set a career-high in yards per catch (15.1) while doing the most damage over four games midseason (20/342/2 on 30 targets). He did finish with seven games with fewer than 45 yards receiving as the WR3 for Dallas. Cobb posted ten drops, but he did catch 66.0 percent of his target. The change to the Texans should lead to a slight bump in chances if WR Will Fuller goes down with another injury. A 60/700 floor with a chance at a handful of TDs.
When doing the projections, I struggled to see him have many chances (47/568/3).
WR Will Fuller, MIA - Gamble (high risk)
Fuller remains to be more of a tease than a wise investment in the fantasy market. Over his four seasons in the NFL, he's yet to play a full year while missing 22 of his possible 64 games. In 2019, Fuller did set career-highs in catches (49) and receiving yards (670) with a massive part of his value coming in two games (14/217/3 and 7/140). He missed five of his final nine games in the regular season with a groin issue that was later deemed a sports hernia that required surgery.
An explosive player, who remains a wild card as a WR4 in PPR leagues. Fuller is projected for 53 catches with 737 yards and six TDs.Injury Status: Injured Reserve