Fantasy Football Target Practice: The 2020 Houston Texans

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The Target Practice series is here to help you gauge the target ceilings and floors for some interesting teams around the league. With the Texans trading away one of the best WRs in the entire NFL this offseason, I think they qualify as interesting. While no WR is going to outright replace DeAndre Hopkins, the Texans have a trio of WRs that will split his work. If one of them can become an alpha, they may be one of the best sleepers in fantasy football. If any of them can stay healthy, they may end up the alpha by default. Sometimes, the best ability is availability. It’s a long shot though, as the three WRs have combined to miss 24 games in the last two years and the Texans haven’t had two WRs play in all 16 games since 2016.

Vacated Targets

In most of the Target Practice articles, the teams have had their fair share of vacated targets but Houston is the first to lose a true WR1. DeAndre Hopkins and his 150 targets not only led the team, but he was also ranked 5th in the entire NFL for targets. Over the last three years, Hopkins has 487 targets and a staggering 31% target share. His are big shoes to fill. Also gone are Carlos Hyde and Taiwan Jones, neither of which was used much in the passing game, giving us a grand total of 167 vacated targets, 5th most in the NFL. Will a WR step up and take Hopkins’ targets or might we see this team finally start throwing to the RB more?

2020 Outlook

David Johnson– Floor: 35 | Ceiling: 85
Duke Johnson– Floor: 30 | Ceiling: 65
Projecting Duke Johnson will all come down to how David Johnson is used. David Johnson has proven himself to be a great pass-catcher but the fact of the matter is that this team doesn’t throw to their RBs much. There is no way both Johnsons hit their ceiling in 2020. It will basically shake out in one of two ways:

  1. They will  continue to ignore the RB in the passing game and both players end at their floors
  2. One of them is used as the primary pass-catcher, so one hits their ceiling, while the other hits their floor.

Duke took almost all of the RB passing down work for the Texans in 2019, taking 62 of 79 RB targets. David Johnson was targeted just 47 times in Arizona but still caught 36 balls for 370 yards and four TDs. That’s one more TD than Duke and just 40 fewer yards, despite 15 fewer targets. David Johnson will handle the majority of carries, so receptions would just add to his value but there is a real scenario when Duke Johnson ends up with no value in 2020.

Brandin Cooks– Floor: 95 | Ceiling: 125
Understanding the career path of Brandin Cooks is enough to make your head spin. At just 26, he is now on his 4th NFL team entering his 7th year. During his first six seasons, he has four 1000 yards seasons to his name and has finished as a top-15 fantasy WR in each of those years. The only two times he didn’t put up those numbers he also didn’t play 16 games. If he’s healthy, he’s one of the best WRs in football, it’s hard to deny that. He is not close to the same player as Hopkins, his game compares more to Fuller as a speedster. A healthy duo of Cooks and Fuller could cause nightmares for some CBs around the league. During his times as a WR1 in New Orleans and New England, Cooks was between 115-130 targets, so a ceiling of 125 seems fair. His floor should be high too, barring injury. He’s the most reliable WR on the roster, with a career catch rate of 65%, which is great considering he is also over 14 YPC for his career. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where doesn’t get at least 6 targets per game.

Will Fuller– Floor: 70 | Ceiling: 105
The biggest question is when it comes to Will Fuller is simply “How many games will he play?” The closest we came to a 16 game season was his rookie year when he played 14, starting 13. Since then, he’s played 28 games in three years, and while he has looked truly electric while on the field, that kind of consistency only works for Best-Ball leagues. Predicting his targets is a bit easier. His rookie year, he had just under seven targets per game. While in his 2nd year it fell to five, it was back to just under seven for his 3rd and 4th years. So instead of guessing targets, I’m guessing games. If he plays 10 games, he’ll end up at his floor. If he plays 15, he’ll be at his ceiling. He won’t play 16.

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Randall Cobb– Floor: 80 | Ceiling: 110
No WR that changed teams in free agency this year got more money than Randall Cobb. The Texans inked Cobb to a 3-year, $27 million deal just after they traded Hopkins but before they traded for Cooks. Cobb will likely take over the slot role, where he performed pretty well for Dallas in 2019. Cobb was targeted about 6 times per game in Dallas, caught 66% of his passes, and finished with a 55/828/3 stat line. Figuring Cobb out is going to take some digging. Hopkins and Keke Coutee had been the best slot WRs on the team. There is no way Cobb will approach Hopkins and his 150 targets but Coutee gives us an interesting case study. In 15 games with the Texans, Coutee has been targeted 77 times or about five per game. Cobb is undeniably more talented than Coutee but I think that sets a nice floor for Cobb in 2020. His ceiling really is a shot in the dark. With so many vacated targets but so much competition for those targets and the fact that the Texans are likely to throw the ball less, seven targets per game seem like a good ceiling.

Kenny Stills– Floor: 30 | Ceiling: 100
The addition of Cooks and Cobb has pushed Stills to 4th on the depth chart and that is disappointing. Stills averaged four targets per game with the Texans last year and scored three TDs in the last four games of the season. It’s likely to take an injury for Stills to have any relevance but based on his ending to 2019, he could do something with this team if given the chance.

Darren Fells– Floor: 30| Ceiling: 50
New WRs, another pass-catching RB, and further competition for TE targets really put a damper on what could be a breakout year for Fells. Fells ended 2019 with just 48 targets but scored seven TDs and finished as the TE17. Six of his TDs came on 11 red-zone targets, and with Hopkins gone, he could see those numbers increase in 2020. Between the 20s is another story though. He was out-targeted by Jordan Akins last year, 55-48, and this year Kahale Warring is inserting his name into the conversation. Warring was put on the IR as a rookie but has been receiving rave reviews from the coaching staff. Fells will still have a chance to score TDs but it seems unlikely that he becomes a high volume option.

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