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2015 Team Report: Houston Texans

Quarterbacks

Starter: Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
Backup(s): Tom Savage

Starting QB: The Texans are one of a few teams who do not have a clear cut starting quarterback heading into the 2015 season. Last year Houston skated by without a definitive future quarterback. No big decisions involving the quarterback position were made in the draft or the offseason two years in a row. In 2014 Ryan Fitzpatrick was brought in, this year it's Brian Hoyer. The Texans would love to see Ryan Mallett develop into their starter and be their future at the position, but unfortunately it's not that cut and dry. Mallett and Hoyer will battle for the starting job in training camp and preseason. Will it be Hoyer's experience with multiple programs and different offensive styles winning the role or will it be the strong-armed, standing tall Ryan Mallett who earns the role? In limited duty last year, before a pectoral injury ended his season, Mallett looked comfortable running the Texans offense. The Texans have weapons with Arian Foster and also at receiver with DeAndre Hopkins as well as journeymen Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington. Whoever wins the starting role will have decent options to help make running the offense an easier task.

Backup QB: The backup quarterback will either be Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer and who's to say there won't be a change at some point this year? The fantasy value is rather cool for the Texans starting quarterback, mostly due to the fact that the running game will be a major part of the offense. Tom Savage is currently the third string quarterback. He'll have the opportunity to gain more experience in the preseason, but he is not considered to be a player on your fantasy radar at this time.

Running Backs

Starter: Arian Foster
Backup(s): Alfred Blue, Chris Polk, Jonathan Grimes, Ben Malena, Kenny Hilliard
Fullback(s): Jay Prosch

Starting RB: Arian Foster returned to a prominent role with the Texans in 2014 after a back injury in 2013 forced him out of action. Foster responded with a Top 5 finish and cemented his legacy as one of the best running backs in his era. Not only did Foster play well, but he did so on a struggling offense with a completely different coaching regime than the previous seasons. Foster is expected to be the team's primary carrier again in 2015, but we've already heard that coach Bill O'Brien wants to limit his usage and keep him fresh. Foster has totaled over 1,500 touches in the last five years, which is a lot of wear and tear for a running back. It's safe to say Foster is one of the best backs in the league when healthy, but there is a certain degree of risk considering he has sustained a multitude of injuries, including calf, hamstring, knee, back and most recently, groin. At some point a player of his workload is going to break down. We've seen it before with players like Priest Holmes. Foster suffered a groin injury in training camp and will be out until the end of September at the earliest. Alfred Blue is expected to handle the rushing load for the first few weeks of the season. As long as Foster is healthy, he'll be the primary back.

Backup RBs: The Texans depth chart at running back after Arian Foster consists of second year pro Alfred Blue, newcomer Chris Polk and veteran Jonathan Grimes. There's also rookie seventh round pick Kenny Hilliard out of LSU, the son of former pro running back Dalton Hilliard. The Texans like to roster backs with size and power. That's clearly evident with Alfred Blue, but also Chris Polk. Both have shown that they can be successful as goal line backs. The most recent training camp injury to Arian Foster gives Blue and Polk decent fantasy value. Blue made good on an opportunity last year where he gained 156 yards rushing on 36 carries in a Week 11 win against Cleveland. As good as Blue was in that game, he failed to capitalize in games that followed and isn't a lock for solid production in the first few weeks of the season while Foster recovers from his groin injury.

Fullback: The Texans project Jay Prosch to be the team's 2015 fullback, however his fantasy value is virtually non-existent. Prosch had zero carries and one catch for 24 yards in 16 games last year. He is primary a blocking back and is not one to be a direct contributor as a ball carrier.

Wide Receivers

Starters: DeAndre Hopkins, Cecil Shorts
Backups: Jaelen Strong [R], Nate Washington, Damaris Johnson, Keith Mumphery, Keshawn Martin

Starting WRs: DeAndre Hopkins quietly had a breakout season in his second year in the league. He totaled 76 catches for 1,210 yards and 6 touchdowns which led the team, with the exception of receptions (Andre Johnson, 86). Hopkins excelled despite being in the shadows of Johnson and he was at the mercy of a quarterback situation that was less than stellar. The 2015 season will feature Hopkins as the main receiving threat now that Andre Johnson has left for greener pastures at division rival Indianapolis. Hopkins is expected to finish with numbers no worse than last year with a strong possibility of an improvement across the board. Many expect rookie third round pick, Jaelen Strong to win the battle against Cecil Shorts for the second wide receiver role on the team. Strong's size and speed combination fits the wide out role, while Shorts appears to be a better fit out of the slot. Hopkins is a Top 15 receiver and there could be fantasy relevance with whoever wins the WR2 role.

Backup WRs: Jaelen Strong, Damaris Johnson, Nate Washington and Keshawn Martin make up the rest of the wide receiver depth chart. Rookie Jaelen Strong has the measurables to be a big target for the Houston starting quarterback, but the lack of elite talent and consistency in the passing game could be a detriment to the growth and development of Strong. Nate Washington seems to be a forgotten receiver every year, but he has experience with the Texans offense and his experience and veteran leadership could propel him into more of a consistent role in the receiving game. Damaris Johnson projects to be more of a special teams ace and does not figure to have much in terms of fantasy value.

Tight Ends

Starters: Garrett Graham
Backups: C.J. Fiedorowicz, Anthony Denham, Mike McFarland

The Texans were dead last in the NFL in receptions to tight ends last year with 32. Garrett Graham led the position with 18 catches for 197 yards and 1 touchdown. Head Coach Bill O'Brien hails from the New England organization where during his time, tight ends were such a huge part of the offensive structure. Some people even likened C.J. Fiedorowicz to a style similar to Rob Gronkowski. The 2014 season was a work in progress for first year coach O'Brien, especially the passing game that was loaded with Challenges. The Texans have three capable options at tight end in Garrett Graham, Ryan Griffin and the aforementioned Fiedorowicz. It's possible that we'll see a changing of the guard in this role in 2015, but early indications suggest the fantasy value will be minimal. Keep an eye on this battle. Fiedorowicz was touted as a decent NFL tight end when he was drafted in the third round in 2014. It's too soon to make a judgment call on his abilities after just one year in the league, especially with questionable talent at the quarterback position.

Place Kicker

Randy Bullock: Bullock's career had some turbulence on takeoff, but he hit cruising altitude in 2014. He made 30 of 35 field goal attempts, including 4 of 5 from 50+ yards. Bullock also gets the benefit of 10 indoor games out of 16 and playing for a team with a limited QB, but terrific running game and defense to keep games somewhat low-scoring and conservative, which is conducive to more field goal attempts. Big ups and downs marked Bullock's weekly scoring on the way to a #9 finish in total points, so his draft position outside of the top 10 is understandable. Winnable early season matchups against the likes of Kansas City, Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta make Bullock a fine option as a last-round pick.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Keith Mumphrey, Quintin Demps, Chris Polk

Houston auditioned returners in preseason and enter the season with a number of players who could see kick returns. Keith Mumphrey had a good preseason as a returner, but some ball security issues may have contributed to safety Quintin Demps winning the kick return job. Chris Polk returned 11 kickoffs for 340 yard and a touchdown while playing for Philadelphia last season and is another option if the team needs. Mumphrey has been tagged as the returner over the stretch that Demps has been nursing an injury.

Punt Returners: Cecil Shorts, Keith Mumphrey [R], Chandler Worthy [R],

Keith Mumphrey began the season as the primary punt returner, but the addition of Chandler Worthy to the roster may cause them to split time. Cecil Shorts has already begun to see returns as the younger players have had mediocre results and shown ball security issues. As with kickoffs, injuries have given Keith Mumphrey opportunities to take over the job.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Duane Brown, LG Xavier Sua-Filo, C Ben Jones, RG Brandon Brooks, RT Derek Newton
Key Backups: T Tyson Clabo, G David Quessenberry, C Cody White, T Jeff Adams, T Will Yeatman, C James Ferentz

The Texans have a strong offensive line and the best player is clearly left tackle Duane Brown. The three time Pro Bowler is a cornerstone player and one of the best pass protectors in all of football. The line could soon have another Pro Bowler in right guard Brandon Brooks. Brooks graded out exceptionally well last season and the coaching staff has called him out for his hard work in the offseason strength program. The team has high expectations for this player and the bulky Brooks should be ready to deliver. The team let center Chris Myers' contract expire (still a free agent) and will slide last year's starting left guard Ben Jones over to the position. Jones should do a solid (but not spectacular) job. In Jones' place steps Xavier S'ua-Filo, a second round pick from two years ago. S'ua-Filo is another solid player with versatility and has also been taking snaps at center. Finally right tackle will likely see Derek Newton starting. Newton had a pretty good year in 2014 and was rewarded with a five year contract. Newton is one of the more underrated players at the position in the league. Overall this line has a high level of cohesion and they should be among the league's better units this season.

Team Defense

When you start the Texans D/ST, you are starting JJ Watt, and that might be enough. Watt helped fuel a defense that tied for the league lead in defensive scores and only fell below four sacks+takeaways twice all season. The Texans only had one real dud from a D/ST fantasy standpoint, and are one of the true few everyweek starters among D/ST's. With the return of Jadeveon Clowney and addition of two defenders in the top 50 of the draft (ball thief corner Kevin Johnson and inside linebacker thumper Benardrick McKinney), not to mention Vince Wilfork in the middle of the defensive line, the Texans defense could be even better this year. If you want to break the seal on D/STs in the second half of your draft, the Texans just might be worth it.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE J.J. Watt, DT Vince Wilfork, DE Jared Crick
Backups: DE Jeoffrey Pagan, DT/DE Christian Covington [R]

Starting DL: J.J. Watt once again posted an amazing season. Not only did he tie his personal sack record with 20.5 sacks, but he also scored an eye-popping five touchdowns. So stellar was his play that he was considered a strong contender for the MVP award, a feat that few defensive players ever manage. This unit was arguably improved via free agency by picking up Vince Wilfork. It was a little bit of a surprise when the Patriots did not pick up Wilfork's option. The Texans were the benefactor of this unexpected move and signed him to a two-year deal. Though age is starting to become a concern, Wilfork will probably have enough in the tank, especially when paired with Watt, to create matchup nightmares along the trenches. Jared Crick is no Watt (to be fair, no one else is on Watt's level in the NFL right now), but did show steady improvement last year as the starter opposite Watt.

Backup DL: Sixth-rounder Jeoffery Pagan played well rotationally as a rookie last year and will continue to fill that role heading into 2015. Christian Covington was taken in the sixth round of this year's draft. He is still recovering from a knee injury suffered at Rice, but is a promising, versatile prospect.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Brian Cushing, ILB Justin Tuggle, OLB Benardrick McKinney [R], OLB Whitney Mercilus, OLB Jadeveon Clowney
Backups: ILB Akeem Dent, ILB Jeff Tarpinian, ILB Reshard Cliett, OLB John Simon, OLB Jason Ankrah

Starting LBs: Brian Cushing once again finished the season with less than sixteen games played and offseason surgeries for multiple issues. There's no question he's a vital chess piece for the Texans when he's healthy, however. The Texans added former Mississippi State's Benardrick McKinney in the second round of this year's draft. It remains to be seen if he will earn a two down role or a three down role this season and beyond. Before joining the Texans last year, Justin Tuggle was a UDFA, but the son of ex-Falcon Jesse Tuggle showed promise in his limited opportunities. Jadeveon Clowney struggled mightily with injury in his rookie season before being shut down for the year to have a microfracture procedure. However, coach Bill O'Brien made it clear in March that he is optimistic about Clowney in year two and believes he can make a big difference rushing the passer. At an early August press conference, Coach O'Brien told reporters he is hoping to have Clowney at full-strength by mid-August. Despite not proving to be the force the Texans were hoping he would be, the team recently made the decision to extend Whitney Mercilus through 2019. Mercilus is due nearly 8 million this year, making him one of the top-five paid options at the position.

Backup LBs: Last year, the Texans acquired Akeem Dent from the Falcons via trade and then re-signed him to a two-year deal this offseason. His contributions last year were mainly on special teams and it will be interesting to see if his role will expand this year. Jeff Tarpinian continues to offer depth and valuable contributions on special teams. The Texans re-signed him earlier in the offseason to a one-year deal. John Simon is an interesting player to watch. Drafted in the 2014 NFL draft in the fourth round, Simon was later cut and spent time on the Ravens practice squad before the Texans signed him. He played extremely well when called upon and Bill O'Brien seems to really like him. Jason Akrah is a player who bounced between the practice squad and the active roster during the 2014 season. The former Cornhusker was asked by the Texans staff to convert from 4-3 DE to 3-4 OLB. It remains to be seen if he will be able to make the jump or not. Reshard Cliett was taken in the sixth round of the 2015 draft. Cliett excels at pursuit, so look for him to eventually see the field in third down situations.

Defensive Backs

Starters: SS Stevie Brown, FS Rahim Moore, CB Johnathan Joseph, CB Kareem Jackson, CB Kevin Johnson [R]
Backups: SS Eddie Pleasant, FS Lonnie Ballentine, CB Darryl Morris, CB Jumal Rolle, CB Andre Hal, CB A.J. Bouye

Starting DBs: In a surprise move, the Texans cut strong safety D.J. Swearinger after the draft. Stevie Brown was signed by the team prior to the draft and will likely be the day one starter. Former Broncos FS Rahim Moore was added via free agency this offseason and will most likely be a good scheme fit for this group. This will probably be the last year with the Texans for Johnathan Joseph, who will be 32 in 2016. After flirting with signing elsewhere this offseason, Kareem Jackson re-signed with the Texans, helping maintain the cohesion of this unit. Kevin Johnson was taken in the first round of the 2015 draft, presumably to be Joseph's successor.

Backup DBs: There isn't much to be excited about in this group. There are perhaps two exceptions, the first being Darryl Morris. He was picked up when the 49ers waived him after training camp in 2014 and he played well as the team's slot corner. The second exception is Jumal Rolle. Rolle spent some time with the Packers in 2013 and 2014 before landing with the Texans. His work with famed Packers assistant Joe Whitt paid off, as Rolle led the Texans in interceptions in 2014. Eddie Pleasant is primarily a special teamer. 2014 seventh-rounder Lonnie Ballentine spent the year on IR and is no lock to make the 53-man roster in 2015. Andre Hal fits into a similar mold as Pleasant. He was also a seventh-round selection in 2014 and did not show much in his limited playing time in preseason last year. Though A.J Bouye certainly looks the part and has the physical gifts, he simply hasn't put it all together on the field.

Last modified: 2015-10-27 18:41:23