Acquired from the New England Patriots during the 2014 offseason, Mallett spent most of last season buried on the depth chart behind journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. Given an opportunity to start near the end of the season, he played well in one start before suffering a torn pectoral muscle in his next game which landed him on injured reserve. While Fitzpatrick was traded in the offseason, Brian Hoyer was signed in free agency and he will battle Mallett for the starter’s spot. While Hoyer’s experience gives him a slight edge, look for Mallett to win the job based on his higher upside and stronger arm. However, even if he becomes the starter, look for the Texans head coach Bill O’Brien to replicate his winning formula from 2014 which consisted of a strong running attack and solid defense. Mallett should be waiver wire material in redraft formats.
Hoyer’s career prospects appeared to be on the rise during the first half of the Cleveland Browns season last year as he guided the team to a 6-3 record to open the year. From that, his performance declined badly as he struggled over his final five games, throwing just two touchdowns with nine interceptions and winning just one game. Benched for Johnny Manziel, Hoyer wasn’t re-signed during the offseason by Cleveland and will spend 2015 in Houston. While Hoyer has more experience for the starting position with the Texans than his competition in Ryan Mallett, it is difficult to predict him winning the job given his lack of upside and poor finish to the 2014 season.
When healthy, Foster rates amongst the top running backs in the league both in real world and fantasy football terms. Equally adept as a runner and a receiver, Foster has proven capable of delivering big plays and of handling a workhorse role. Of course, the caveat there is when he is healthy. He missed eight games during the 2013 season as well as three games last year. Despite the missed time, he was one of fantasy’s most valuable running backs last season totaling 1,246 rushing yards, 327 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. With head coach Bill O’Brien having stated that the Texans will once again lean heavily on Foster in 2015, the only issue with adding him to your fantasy roster is his injury history. At 29 years of age, Foster is worth the risk as a mid to lower tier RB1 due to his workhorse role as a runner/receiver in Houston’s offense.
Taken in the 6th round of last year’s NFL Draft, Blue emerged as Arian Foster’s main backup in his rookie season, finishing the year with 528 rushing yards, a pair of touchdowns to go along with 15 receptions for 113 yards and another score. Filling in for an injured Foster, the 6’2”, 222 pound Blue played well in games against the Giants (88 total yards) and Browns (156 total yards) but struggled badly against a strong Bengals run defense, gaining just 46 yards on 16 carries. A middling talent, Blue averaged just 3.1 yards per carry which would generally relegate him to low end handcuff status. However, Arian Foster has missed 11 games over the past two seasons and has played in 16 games just twice during his six year career. Did we mention the Texans run the ball a lot? Blue rates as a must have handcuff for Foster owners but we have a hard time rating him as being worthy of a late round flyer if you didn’t draft Foster.
Released by the Eagles in the offseason, Polk joins a crowded running back depth chart in Houston where he hopes to emerge as Arian Foster’s main backup. To do so, he will have to unseat second year player Alfred Blue who is coming off a decent but hardly spectacular rookie season. Polk earned a role at midseason last year working as a short yardage specialist, finishing the season with 172 yards and four touchdowns in eight games. With a nose for the end zone (seven career touchdowns in 14 games over two years), Polk would rate as a worthy handcuff to Foster owners provided he wins that role in the preseason.
What to make of Hopkins fantasy prospects in 2015? Well, the 2013 1st round pick supplanted future Hall of Famer Andre Johnson as the Texans top wide receiver last season and his emergence resulted in Johnson requesting his release given his expected reduced role in Houston’s offense had he stuck around. In his second season in the league, Hopkins caught an impressive 76 of his 127 targets for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 15.9 yards per reception, topping 15 yards-per-reception for the 2nd consecutive year. An emerging talent, the only question marks with Hopkins are whether he is a true number one receiver, capable of maintaining his production with more attention from opposing defenses, along with the Texans subpar quarterback depth chart. Well, the team’s quarterback shouldn’t be much worse (or better) than a year ago and we view Hopkins as having more than enough talent as a team’s leading wide receiver. He rates as an upper tier WR2, albeit one who brings some inconsistency. He had eight games last year with eight or fewer fantasy points.
After a solid coming out party in 2012 when Shorts caught 55 passes for 979 yards and seven touchdowns, he has struggled over the past two seasons with injuries, inconsistency and subpar quarterback play as contributing factors in his declining production. With Jacksonville choosing to go with younger players at the wide receiver position, Shorts was left to sign with the Texans this offseason where he will battle Nate Washington and rookie 3rd round pick Jaelen Strong for playing time. With Shorts having caught barely more than half of his career targets (176 of 350) and his yards-per-reception having declined from 17.8 to 11.8 to 10.5, we aren’t confident that a career resurgence is in store for him in Houston, especially given the team’s issues at quarterback. Even if Shorts emerges as the starter opposite DeAndre Hopkins and given the team’s lack of a proven receiving options at tight end, we still rate him as little more than a WR5.
Entering his 10th year in the league, Washington joins the Texans in 2015 after spending the last six years with the divisional rival Tennessee Titans. After topping 1,000 receiving yards for the 1st time in his career in 2011, over the past three years Washington has reverted to his main role for most of his career, that of a deep threat who occasionally pulls off a big week. With a reduced role last season in Tennessee, he managed just 40 receptions (his lowest total since 2008), 72 targets (lowest since 2007) and two touchdowns (the lowest total of his career). In Houston, Washington will battle fellow free agent signee Cecil Shorts and rookie 3rd round pick Jaelen Strong for a spot in the starting lineup. While Shorts is the favorite to win that role, Washington should emerge as a solid deep threat given his career average of 15.3 yards per reception. With Shorts’ injury history and Strong’s lack of experience, Washington should once again reel off a handful of strong performances. He rates as a potential waiver claim should injuries strike Shorts or DeAndre Hopkins.
With the departure of Andre Johnson, the Texans spent the offseason replenishing their depth chart at wide receiver. Part of that equation was drafting Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong in the 3rd round. At 6’4” and 212 pounds, Strong has the size to emerge as a solid blocker in the Texans run heavy offense. However, he lacks top end speed and faces competition from veterans Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington for the starting position opposite DeAndre Hopkins. While we don’t rate Strong as being worthy of a roster spot in redraft formats, he does rate as a mid-tier prospect in dynasty formats and a player that could emerge as a starter at some point during 2015.
After posting career highs across the board in 2013 with 89 targets, 49 receptions, 545 yards and five touchdowns, there was some optimism that Graham would emerge as a low end TE1 last season. However, with the tight ends in new head coach Bill O’Brien’s offense not being heavily utilized in the passing game, and Graham suffering a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss five games, he managed just 18 receptions for 197 yards and a single touchdown. With 2014 3rd round pick C.J. Fiedorowicz nipping at his heels and the Texans going with a tight end unfriendly offensive game plan, Graham shouldn’t be on the fantasy radar until he strings together a few solid performances.
The Texans spent a 3rd round pick to acquire Fiedorowicz in last year’s draft and watched him languish on the bench in his rookie season. Used primarily as a blocker, Fiedorowicz was targeted just seven times but possesses the most upside of the Texans tight ends at 6’6” and 265 pound with decent speed. Due to the Texans lack of size at the wide receiver position, Fiedorowicz could emerge as a weapon in the red zone and that is likely his avenue to being fantasy relevant in 2015. He rates as a waiver wire addition in redraft formats and as a low end dynasty prospect.