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Houston Texans Writers
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After a surprising season from rookie quarterback Davis Mills, the Texans promoted quarterback coach Pep Hamilton to offensive coordinator for 2022. Hamilton has started borrowing West Coast concepts from Mills' Stanford offense to help make the young quarterback more comfortable. Hamilton also prefers to lean first on a power running game to take the pressure off of his quarterbacks, and that seems unlikely to change with an inexperienced signal-caller under center.
The saga of moving on from Deshaun Watson is in the rearview, and now Houston can focus on their primary starting quarterback Davis Mills. In 13 games in 2021, Mills quietly put forth typical rookie numbers passing for 2,664 yards with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He added 44 yards on 18 carries. Looking deeper into his stats, he finished with four games of 300-plus yards passing and five games where he had multiple touchdowns. The last five games of 2021 saw him throw nine touchdowns with two interceptions and an average of 251 yards passing. We normally see improvement from second-year quarterbacks, especially those with moderate success in year one. Mills is one to watch as a player who could take a big leap forward in 2022.
Kyle Allen is a decent backup quarterback option. His biggest contribution in the league came in 2019 when he was named the starter for Carolina after Cam Newton went down long-term with a foot injury. Allen produced decent, but not jaw-dropping, numbers which earned him a role as the backup quarterback with Ron Rivera's Washington Football Team. He saw limited action with Washington in 2020 and 2021 and recently was signed by Houston for the same role. Allen is the type of quarterback who can tread water but will not win many swim races. He will be the veteran help to Davis Mills and can contribute decent numbers when called upon.
Dameon Pierce has impressed and earned an opportunity to occupy a significant role with the team in 2022. Pierce, at 5-foot-10 and 218 pounds, fits the starter role.. He has the tools to perform well despite not taking flight at Florida due to occupying a part-time role on the team. He has good vision and the size to push forward after contact. He is a physical back with adequate receiving skills and has all but cemented the starting role in the preseason after putting on a display rushing 49 yards on 5 carries against the Saints. The team rested him for the second preseason game which strengthens the belief that he will be the team's starting back in Week 1. Any running back with draft capital potential is one to watch for fantasy purposes, and Pierce fits that category well as we head into the 2022 season.
Both Rex Burkhead and Marlon Mack will battle for carries in what is expected to be a backfield that will include rookie Dameon Pierce. Mack saw limited action one year removed from a torn Achilles, but that should improve in 2022. He and Burkhead will occupy a particular niche role while potentially giving way to Pierce mid-season, if not sooner.
- Chris Conley, Chris Moore, Phillip Dorsett, Jalen Camp, Damon Hazelton, Davion Davis, John Metchie III [O-Illness]
Brandin Cooks is the defacto No. 1 wide receiver and top target for Davis Mills. Cooks dominated targets with 133 compared to the next closest option of 61 targets from rookie Nico Collins. A second receiver may enter the fray for Houston in 2022, but it appears safe to assume Cooks will again be the top threat. Cooks has six 1,000-yard seasons in eight years in the league, and he is coming off a career-best 90 catches on 133 targets. Those numbers may take a slight dip in 2022, but there is also a scenario where that could increase, especially if second-year quarterback, Davis Mills continues to develop and grow as a capable young quarterback in the league. Cooks is a reliable, consistent fantasy wide receiver who has missed only three games since 2015. He has five top-20 finishes and six top 25 seasons. He is expected to put up similar numbers at worst in 2022. Nico Collins played second fiddle to Brandin Cooks in his rookie season of 2021. He is expected to occupy a similar if not larger, role in 2022. The third-round pick from Michigan has the length and size (6-foot-4 and 215 pounds) to be a threat for Davis Mills in year two after a decent rookie campaign that saw him reach ten games with multiple receptions. A fantasy breakout may be a stretch with the presence of Brandin Cooks in the lineup, but Collins is capable of taking the leap forward that may see his fantasy appeal rise.
The Texans drafted Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III in the second round of the 2022 draft. He is coming off a torn left ACL that he suffered in early December 2021 but it won't matter for his development as he was sadly diagnosed with leukemia before the season and will miss the 2022 campaign. Metchie brings a 6-foot-0 and 195-pound frame to the game and can play the Z-receiver role or slot. While he is an above-average route-runner and can gain good separation on his routes, he struggles to be a force regarding contact with defenders. He is best used when he can receive the ball in space where he can run after the catch or have minimal on-the-ball contact. If you can hold him on injured reserve in your dynasty league, he might be worth it. Chris Conley, Chris Moore, and Phillip Dorsett round out the other receivers capable of providing a spark in the Texans offense. While none appear to have fantasy value, any could play a role giving needed help and contributions when called upon.
The Texans tight end role is open for an increase in usage and involvement, and Brevin Jordan is slated to benefit the most. Jordan finished his rookie campaign in 2021 with 20 receptions for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns which isn't bad considering he didn't get his first snap until Week 8. Once he got on the field, he produced, scoring a touchdown in his first game and finishing with two catches or more in six of his next eight games. At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, Jordan has a great size/speed combination that yields a tough matchup for opposing linebackers and defensive backs. Jordan has the potential to enter into the top 15 among fantasy tight ends in 2022, especially with limited target options outside of Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins.
- LT Laremy Tunsil
- LG Justin McCray
- C Justin Britt
- RG A.J. Cann
- RT Tytus Howard
- Charlie Heck, Max Scharping, Kenyon Green [R], Jimmy Morrissey
Former Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil returns from season-ending thumb surgery, which is welcome news. Veteran left guard Justin McCray beat out rookie Kenyon Green (First round, Oklahoma) for the spot. This allows Tytus Howard to slide back to his natural right tackle position. Justin Britt plays an average center while A.J. Cann (FA from Jacksonville) will be a significant upgrade over Max Scharping at right guard. Charlie Heck is the swing tackle with upside. This line is middle of the road, with room for improvement at guard.
Fairbairn missed the beginning of the 2021 season because he was hurt and was shaky enough upon his return that the team affirmed that he was still their kicker. He set a career-high with a 61-yard field goal during the season, but was as anemic as the Texans offense for fantasy purposes. Don't expect that to change this year. Fairbairn is the uncontested kicker coming out of the draft but is also due $3.55 million with only a $1.5 million cap hit if he is cut, so the team could reconsider their position on him if he doesn't look like he's going to improve from a campaign that saw him hit on only 15-of-19 field goal attempts and 13-of-16 extra points. He's a bottom-of-the-barrel fantasy kicker.
While Desmond King has experience as a kickoff returner, his teams have preferred to scale back his special teams workload and let him focus more on punt returns and defense. In his place, Tremon Smith finished 2021 as the team's primary kickoff returner.
Desmond King has been returning kicks since he first entered the league. As his role on defense has expanded, his teams have taken away kickoff return duties, but they have continued to let him field punts.
The Texans team defense was lowly regarded in fantasy leagues heading into the 2021 season, but they came around under Lovie Smith in the second half of the season. Strong performances against the Dolphins, Titans, Jets, Jaguars, and even Chargers gave us some faith in them as a streamer. The defense added shutdown corner Derek Stingley Jr and do-everything safety Jalen Pitre in the first and second rounds, which should help ease the pain of the loss of Justin Reid in free agency. They open with the Colts and Broncos but could be streamable in Week 3 against the Jaguars if they continue to gel under Smith.
- Derek Rivers, Demone Harris, Jordan Jenkins, Ron'Dell Carter, Ross Blacklock, Michael Dwomfour, DT Kingsley Keke
This unit was relatively unknown even in fantasy football circles, but the most notable of this unit was Jonathan Greenard. In his first year with significant statistics, Greenard tallied 33 total tackles, including nine tackles for loss and eight sacks. A 2020 3rd-round pick, Greenard amassed these stats in just nine games. If he can avoid injury, he has a serious case to be a double-digit sack guy and a cornerstone of the defensive line. The next most notable player is Maliek Collins, although the stats leave much to be desired. The 27-year-old finished with a career-high 28 tackles and seems consistent in his production otherwise. Lastly, Roy Lopez had a decent rookie year and has an opportunity to be a productive part of the defensive line, but the sample size is limited to one year. Thirty-one total tackles were more than Maliek Collins's career-high. The best part about Lopez was his ability to stay healthy. He was active in 16 of the 17 games, and when it comes to the defensive line, that can make all the difference in a stud or bye week filler. Look for Lopez to have a good second year on a unit that maybe has more questions than answers.
As far as depth goes, Houston doesn't have any marquee players that are backups, but there were some young bright spots that are worth noting, starting with Ross Blacklock. Blacklock played in all but three games his rookie year and totaled 22 tackles and two sacks in a backup role. The second-round pick from TCU may not be a backup long, considering the draft capital used on him, so expect this year to be the "prove-it" year. Jordan Jenkins had a less than stellar year for Houston, which is a surprise considering his consistent performance over six years. His years for the Jets have been the benchmark for his success, but an injury-riddled year for Houston doesn't help keep up with his high expectations early in his career. Don't expect a repeat performance on this down year. Jenkins has proven to be a solid contributor to the team, and his stats speak for themselves. He will be a solid backup here.
Christian Kirksey has made a living being a stat sheet stuffer. No matter the team, no matter the scheme, he is going to show up on the box score. Last year he finished with 93 total tackles and is a no-doubt fantasy stud year in and year out. Kirksey seems to be the sure-fire answer on a defense with many questions, and fantasy managers and football fans should note this. Of all the defensive positions on this team, he has the most secure role in this defense. The best statistical performer on this list was Kamu Grugier-Hill. Listed as a backup, with stats like he produced last year, it will be a hard sell to any coach not to put him on the field. Finishing with 108 tackles, three sacks, and two forced fumbles, Grugier-Hill may be a sneaky add for any manager in leagues where he falls further than he should. He popped last year with 20 tackles and a sack in week 13 against the Colts. Not many players can put together a 20-tackle performance starter or not. Newly signed free agent Jalen Reeves-Maybin also has an opportunity to make a name for himself in this unproven defense. Coming off his career year of 82 tackles for the Detroit Lions, Reeves-Maybin signed a two-year deal worth $7.5 million to help give the Texans linebacker depth, but being just 27 years old, there is an opportunity to do more than just fill a hole.
The most important player here is third-round pick Christian Harris, who projects as a future starter and could arrive sooner than later with only injury-prone players and journeymen ahead of him. Another name that IDP fantasy managers may be familiar with is Neville Hewitt. A consistent middle-tier linebacker, his 134 tackle career year happened one year before he arrived in Houston. Finishing last year with 60 tackles may seem like an underwhelming year considering the previous year, but anyone who can achieve these numbers even once has qualities that should transfer no matter what team. Hewitt is someone you should keep your eye on for potential eye-popping statistics. Kevin Pierre-Louis is the only other name that fantasy managers and football fans should recognize. The eighth-year linebacker has seen his better days go by and will likely be a depth guy at best. Watch for Garrett Wallow to emerge as more of the behind-the-scenes guy coming off his rookie year and ultimately take playing time away from Pierre-Louis.
- CB Tremon Smith, CB Reggie Robinson II, CB Isaac Yiadom, S Jonathan Owens, S M.J. Stewart, NCB Desmond King, NCB Tavierre Thomas
The Texans used two of their first three picks on players who should be long-term starters in the secondary, likely from day one. Stingley was an All-American as a true freshman at LSU back in 2019. Injuries hampered his performance since then, but the Texans see him as a shutdown corner. Pitre is a good all-around safety who can also play slot corner if needed. He should have an instant impact in IDP leagues. Fresh off a new two-year deal, starting safety Eric Murray has found some stability in a defensive unit that could use it. The seventh-year man has an opportunity now to build on the consistency he has shown over the last two years without having to do prove-it deals. Sitting in the 75-tackle range over the past two years, look for Murray to improve those numbers due to more playing time and the front office signing the new deal. Steven Nelson has been around the NFL since 2015 and has produced notable statistics everywhere he has been. Although he has seen these stats dip since his career year in 2018, he is still productive when given the chance and gives Houston solid depth in the secondary.
The stud and overall performer of this group is cornerback Desmond King II. King compiled a career-high in tackles, tied his high in picks, and had his second-highest defended passes in a season all last year. He is 27 years old and is ascending into his prime years as a productive corner. Whether it is a fantasy lineup or a defensive depth chart, King is a no-doubt roster guy who will produce for this team.
A former second-round pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, M.J. Stewart has always been a decent depth player throughout his four years of playing. Last year he had his best year with 45 tackles and five defended passes. In a secondary with more questions than answers, he was a good addition from the Cleveland Browns. Another player with dual position versatility, look for him to emerge at minimum as the best backup here. A player to keep your eye on here is cornerback Tavierre Thomas. Finishing last year with his best year since entering the league, he accumulated 86 tackles, four defended passes, two picks, and scored a touchdown. He is going into his fifth year and will need to continue producing this to have a shot of continually playing this position for Houston. An interesting player going into his fourth year, Lonnie Johnson has been a tackle machine who has shown a lack of consistency over his first three years. The second-round pick out of the University of Kentucky was given the draft capital to be labeled disappointing, but the upside to this player is his positional versatility. Depending on where you look, he can be labeled a safety or a corner, and in some fantasy leagues, this versatility alone is worthy of the roster spot. This year is crucial to the career trajectory of Johnson. Will he be a staple of this defense, or will he need to go somewhere else and prove he is a worthy starter?