2011 Houston Texans Fantasy Outlook
Going into 2010, the Houston Texans were looking to become a more balanced team offensively compared to 2009 when they finished first in passing and 30th in rushing. Lucky for them, they discovered during the preseason that they had a beastly running back on their roster by the name of Arian Foster. Ben who? Feeding Foster to the tune of 393 total touches (327 carries + 66 receptions), the Texans were indeed a well-balanced offensive machine. Their combined ratings of fourth in passing (259 yards per game) and seventh in rushing (127.6 yards per game) enabled them to finish third overall in total offense (386.6 yards per game). Mission accomplished on the offensive side of the ball.
How about the defense? Well, there’s bad and then there’s historically bad. This group managed to give up 24 or more points 14 times last year. Ouch! The only respites were Week 12 against Tennessee when the Titans handed rookie quarterback Rusty Smith his first (and probably last) NFL start, and Week 17 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, minus Maurice Jones-Drew. They ended up finishing 30th overall in total yards against, so it was definitely a year to forget for the Texans defense.
Hmm, what we appear to have here is a potent offense and a lame defense. Sounds like a perfect environment for fantasy stats, so let’s have an early-June look at each position.
The other Texas quarterback (Tony Romo) gets all the attention, but Matt Schaub has quietly put up back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons. After warming the bench behind Michel Vick for three years in Atlanta, and then missing five games each in 2007 and 2008 in Houston, Schaub had developed a reputation for being injury-prone in fantasy circles. Things have changed – take a look at his last two years as a Texan and you’ll see that he hasn’t missed a game and has averaged the following numbers: 66 completion percentage; 4,570 passing yards (285.6 per game); 26.5 touchdowns; 13.5 interceptions; 95.3 passer rating.
That’s not too shabby for a guy who is typically drafted somewhere as the eighth to 11th quarterback in fantasy drafts. With his two favorite targets Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels both healthy and a checkdown option by the name of Arian Foster, the 2011 season appears to be teed up again for Schaub. So if you don’t land a top-tier quarterback in your draft, don’t sweat it. Schaub will be put up solid numbers again and will only cost you a mid-round pick.
While most fantasy prognosticators have the good sense to rank Arian Foster in the Top 3 overall, I have seen some blogs recently that suggest Foster should be ranked outside the Top 5 with some variation of the following logic: 1) Ben Tate will be healthy and will steal touches from Foster, and 2) The undrafted Foster might be a one-year wonder because his success has more to do with the Texans’ zone blocking scheme (borrowed from fromer offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan) than his own talent, and 3) Foster took opposing defenses by surprise last year and will regress because teams will game plan to stop him, or 4) Foster took a lot of hits last year and is bound to get hurt this year. Most of this “logic” is pure gibberish.
OK, maybe I concede a little credence to No. 4 because getting 393 total touches in an NFL season is a beating. But the Foster haters are missing the obvious – Foster has elite talent and led all running backs in fantasy scoring by 60 points. Last year he proved several things. He has the size, power and mindset to run tough inside the tackles and at the goal line. He has enough speed to take it outside (4.9 yards per carry). He is elusive and is rarely taken down by the first tackler (he led the NFL with 45 broken tackles). He is a good receiver (66 receptions, 604 yards, 2 TD) and he is durable (played all 16 games). What more do you want from the guy? He’s a beast!
If you’re looking for Foster’s handcuff, 22-year-old Ben Tate is the guy to own. The Texans thought highly enough of him to invest a second-round pick on him last year. And yes, they would like to get him some touches to see what he can do as well as keep Foster fresh. However don’t buy into the rhetoric suggesting Tate will be in a timeshare with Foster. The Texans won’t employ a Peyton Hillis-Montario Hardesty type timeshare; it will be more like an Adrian Peterson-Toby Gerhart timeshare. General Manager Rick Smith recently stated that Coach Gary Kubiak did a good job managing Foster’s work load last year. Translation – there will be limited touches for Tate. The same can be said for the soon-to-be 31-year-old Derrick Ward who did a decent job spelling Foster last year and is currently No. 2 on the depth chart. He’ll likely be overtaken by Tate in the preseason but those guys should only combine for 5–10 touches per game.
The forgotten man in the Houston backfield is Steve Slaton. The rumors are that they plan to showcase Slaton in preseason games (assuming there are any) so they can get something for him in a trade. That would be a win-win scenario because Slaton’s only chance of resurrecting his career is a change of venue.