Faceoff: Owen Daniels
Anthony Borbely: Owen Daniels was having a career-year in 2009 before a torn ACL ended his season in week eight. Prior to that, Daniels had 40 receptions for 519 yards and 5TDs. Had he stayed healthy and maintained that pace for the entire season, Daniels would have shattered all of his single season records and likely finished as a top-5 fantasy TE. The timing of the injury could not have been worse for Daniels because he was in search of a long-term contract and this injury virtually eliminated any chance of that. Although both Daniels and the Texans believe he will be ready to play in week one, there are questions about how effective he will be.
Although the injury is a major factor in ranking Daniels this season, there are other issues to consider. With Daniels' contract situation up in the air, it is natural to wonder if the Texans will offer him a long-term contract after this season. They have drafted a TE in each of the last two seasons; James Casey in 2009 and Garrett Graham last year. It is difficult to say whether they drafted them as potential replacements, but the fact remains they are both talented and could steal some snaps from Daniels this year, especially if his recovery from the knee injury is slower than the Texans expect.
The Texans' running game struggled mightily last season and the offense was forced to air it out for most of the season. The Texans threw the ball almost 600 times and their RBs only had 356 carries. The Texans are hoping to have a more balanced attack this season and that will cut into the targets of anyone not named Andre Johnson.
Another thing to consider is the development of WR Jacoby Jones. The reports regarding the maturity and work ethic of Jones have been very good throughout the offseason and his development could also cut into Daniels' targets.
While I believe the above issues could cut into Daniels' numbers for the upcoming season, the main reason I am skeptical of drafting Daniels as a fantasy starter is the torn ACL he suffered last year. Players generally take well over a year to get their speed and explosiveness back. Those are not Daniels' strengths, but he still has to separate and it is not easy to do when your knee is not 100%. Daniels will only be about 10 months removed from surgery at the beginning of the season and that is a big red flag to me. Because of that and the other issues I mentioned, I cannot justify drafting Daniels as anything more than a backup this season.