Andre Johnson has unfortunately missed significant action in the last 5 seasons. Out of a possible 80 regular season games, he has played in 61 during that time, significantly missing 7 games in 2007 and 9 last year. When he is fit however, he is a force to be reckoned with and undoubtedly an elite receiver. He makes the whole Houston offense dangerous and improves the players around him. Without Johnson, the Texans will have to reckon with opposing defenses stacking the box to defend the dominant Houston run game, while the passing offense would be forced to drop down a gear or two. As Johnson accounts for such a dominant percentage of the Texans passing game, if he were lost for the season the ripples spread through the entire offense.
The Texans were able to put together a nice winning streak without Johnson last year that eventually resulted in a playoff run, so the Texans are capable of adjusting well.
Ben Tate, RB – Once Johnson was injured last year, the Texans increased their rushing attempts significantly. Arian Foster was used with great success as a receiver out of the backfield and this would allow Ben Tate to get on the field for more than just relief of Foster. Tate is a very capable runner in his own right and worth rostering even if Foster is fully fit. An injury to Johnson would require a fundamental shift towards the ground game.
Owen Daniels, TE – Presuming Owen Daniels is fit, he benefits significantly from an Andre Johnson injury. The dynamics of the passing game change and with the Texans facing more pressure in the box, Daniels will be a very popular dump off man for Schaub.
Matt Schaub, QB – While losing Johnson would drop Schaub from being a potential QB1, to a QB2, he still has use. The Texans are going to be behind in games and Schaub was able to spread the ball around without relying on the one receiver as he tends to do when the elite presence of Andre Johnson is fit. If you can sell him at a good price, do so, but it is unlikely that anyone will bite your hand off if Johnson goes down.
Justin Forsett, RB – Forsett appears the favorite for the number 3 role right now. Should Jonathan Grimes or Davin Meggett win it, just insert their names here. These guys should only appear on deep rosters right now and with Foster and Tate likely to see 90%+ of the carries are not worth much unless either Foster or Tate goes down.
Kevin Walter, WR – With Johnson out, Walter misses the space he needs to get his average 3 catches for 40 yard games. The temptation is to immediately jump on the number 2 guy, and most will presume Walter to be that guy. As we have seen from his career to date, he is a consistent and reliable guy that is difficult to use on a week to week basis in fantasy football. You may be able to get an inflated price if you can sell it in the right way, with a Johnson injury.
James Casey, RB/TE – Casey will have more of a role in the passing game this season with the departure of Joel Dreessen, but if an injury to Andre Johnson were to occur he is the guy that the Texans will move around to create space for others. He should be worth rostering dependent on his designation in your fantasy league. Some leagues have him as a Tight End, others as a Running Back. Check carefully, as he only has 1 career rushing attempt to date and will only be valuable as a receiver.
Lestar Jean, WR – At this stage Jean is favorite to beat out Keshawn Martin and Devier Posey, but don't discount any of these guys making their presence felt sooner rather than later. Right now Andre Johnson is the main guy, but should he be unavailable the Texans know Walter isn't going to be a number 1 target, so the opportunity for Jean, Martin or Posey is there. All are unproven at this level and could be similar to a long line of receivers the Texans have tried to help Johnson with in the past. Pay careful attention to preseason, depth charts and once the season starts to see how many snaps each hits the field for. This should give you an idea of how much confidence the coaching staff have in their ability to contribute. Pouncing on the right guy could be vital if Johnson goes down.
T.J. Yates, QB – Yates showed poise in his rookie season, but without Johnson last year he was not ready to become a fantasy factor. The team is pleased with the development of the 2nd year man and with Schaubs injury history, should do well with Johnson fit. With Johnson out, we are back to circa 2011.
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