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2024 Houston Texans Fantasy Preview

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2023 Stats (rank)

Points per game: 22.2 (13th)
Total yards per game: 342.4 (12th)
Plays per game: 63.7 (14th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks per game: 37.6 (12th)
Dropback EPA per play: 0.06 (13th)
Rush attempts per game: 26.1 (20th)
Rush EPA per play: -0.16 (26th)

Coaching Staff

The 2023 Texans were like a dormant volcano coming to life. Shanified on offense via new offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, they got franchised at quarterback by No. 2 overall pick C.J. Stroud. Stroud’s OROY exploits took the Texans all the way to the Divisional Round even as “PFF Bobby” never entirely put the offense on Stroud’s back. Stroud bafflingly averaged just 27 attempts over his final four regular season starts, but the season-long picture told a more sensible story. Despite a bottom-12 pass rate over expected, the Texans did lead the league in first down pass percentage. The raw volume wasn’t where it should be, but the Texans’ attempts were at least sensibly sequenced. Responding to Stroud’s acing of his rookie test, the Texans have loaded up on weapons ahead of what should be a more up-tempo, spread-out sophomore attack.

Passing Game

QB: C.J. Stroud, Davis Mills
WR: Nico Collins, John Metchie
WR: Stefon Diggs, Noah Brown
WR: Tank Dell, Robert Woods
TE: Dalton Schultz, Brevin Jordan

It’s not just the Texans who have sky-high 2024 expectations for their second-year starter. Fantasy managers have responded to Stroud’s QB9 finish by average points by making him the sixth quarterback off the board in summer best ball drafts. That’s rich for a signal caller who managed just 23 rookie passing scores while adding a modest 39/167/3 on the ground. It’s also a sensible projection based on what we saw last fall and read this spring.

Namely, the Texans acquiring Stefon Diggs and Joe Mixon. Three-receiver sets should be the law of the land after the Texans ranked near the bottom of the league in their deployment of 11 personnel last season. Mixon’s addition in particular signals a more pass-friendly approach. Mixon has long been an early-down plodder who doubles as a check-down magnet. You don’t acquire and extend him if you’re recommitting to the ground game. A phenomenal athlete, Stroud should probably run more, but even if he doesn’t, he has a glide path to a top-eight finish at quarterback. Top five could be a tad aspirational.

Diggs’ addition understandably has fantasy managers wondering about the targets delineation in the Texans’ skill corps, but Nico Collins’ three-year, $72 million extension made it clear he will remain the No. 1. A rare third-round, third-year breakout last season, Collins’ 1,297 yards were 370 more than he managed in 2021-22 combined. His eight touchdown receptions tied for eighth in the league. Those counting stats would have been even more impressive had Collins not missed two games with a calf issue. The advanced metrics say it wasn’t a fluke, with Tyreek Hill the lone wideout to average more yards per route run in 2023. Hill, CeeDee Lamb and Brandon Aiyuk were the only pass catchers with more 20-plus yard receptions. Even with Diggs crowding in on the targets competition, Collins’ dominant boundary game should make for a safe bet on the WR1/2 borderline. The only reason he falls that far is some managers’ preference for raw reception output in the PPR age.

The intrigue arrives behind Collins. Diggs is a superstar who didn’t perform like one in 2023. Tank Dell was a scintillating rookie who nevertheless played into fears about his small stature when he suffered a gruesome leg injury in Week 13. We’ll start with Diggs, whose 70 yards per game were his fewest since 2018 in Minnesota. That number plunged to 51 for his final 11 appearances. After clearing 100 yards five times in his first six contests, Diggs never again reached 75. That suggests some sort of mysterious injury, but none was ever announced. Diggs’ last ailment of note was a minor Aug. 2021 knee issue. Ken Dorsey’s ouster as OC probably didn’t help, but Diggs’ struggles had already been going on for a month before Joe Brady took over.

It was probably some mixture of age and unhappiness, as 2023 was Diggs’ first post-30 campaign, while his Bills frustrations bubbled above the surface. It’s reasonable to expect some sort of Diggs rejuvenation with his latest franchise quarterback, but Collins’ presence is a serious complication. Even if Diggs is resurgent, his WR1 days seem gone, especially since Dell will be fighting for the WR2 looks. Once a safe WR1 bet in fantasy, Diggs is best now regarded as a risk/reward WR2.

Risk/reward is something Dell knows all about. Listed as a pint-sized 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, Dell’s pre-draft profile was gleaming except for that slight frame. An explosive-play machine at the University of Houston, Dell was also a YAC dynamo. That was borne out before last year’s leg break, as an even 50 percent of Dell’s production came on receptions of 20-plus yards. At least via Pro Football Focus’ metrics, Dell did not excel as much after the catch as he did in college. That is at least partly explained by a top 16, 14.4 ADOT. Dell was top 15 in yards per route run. He did most of this on the outside, which is also where Collins and Diggs feature. Dell’s size makes him the most obvious candidate to kick inside to the slot in 2024, though the truth is we don’t know how things might shake out between Diggs and Dell. Tank’s youth and big-play ability in this on-the-rise offense keep him in the top 24 mix despite the obvious downside.

The Texans’ No. 4 pass catcher is TE Dalton Schultz, who parlayed a so-so 2023 (59/635/5) into a new three-year, $36 million deal. That underwhelming statline was still good enough for a TE11 finish by average PPR points. The lengthened Texans skill corps isn’t good for Schultz’s 2024 prospects, but his contract conveys obvious belief from a team that is going to be more pass-focused. Schultz belongs in what has become his ancestral borderline TE1/2 homeland.

Schultz’s primary backup, Brevin Jordan, scored a 76-yard touchdown in the Wild Card Round but compiled just 219 yards during the regular season. Still somehow only 24 years old this month despite three completed years in the league, Jordan does have the allure of untapped upside. It will just be super difficult to tap into it in this loaded skill group. Jordan belongs on 14-team league watch lists.

Robert Woods and Noah Brown are forgotten but not gone. Both guaranteed at least $1.5 million for 2024, they are unlikely but not implausible cut candidates. Valuable depth because of their experience and complementary skill-sets, Woods and Brown will ultimately probably remain on the roster but are unlikely to become 12-team league fodder even in the event of an injury to one of the Texans’ “big three.”

Running Game

RB: Joe Mixon, Dameon Pierce, Dare Ogunbowale, Jawhar Johnson
OL (L-R): Laremy Tunsil, Kenyon Green, Juice Scruggs, Shaq Mason, Tytus Howard

The Texans have made Mixon the surprise, unquestioned leader of their remade backfield. The definition of replacement level for the Bengals last season, Mixon averaged four yards per carry and 0.02 average yards over expected. He was 50th in average yards after contact and pedestrian as a tackle-breaker. He still produced as a PPR RB1 because of his 12 touchdowns and 52 receptions. Both totals were the second-highest of his career, and came despite Joe Burrow missing seven games and being limited for parts of others.

It’s easy to spot the repeat potential in Houston. The Texans are revving up their offense and need someone to finish at the goal line for their ascendant offense. Mixon will continue to plod between the 20s, but his high-value touches keep him RB2 relevant in fantasy. You could argue he has a low-end RB1 floor.

Backup Dameon Pierce probably isn’t quite as bad as he appeared in 2023 — we are talking third to last in average rush yards over expected — but he doesn’t profile as a particularly appealing contingency option in this newly-elite offense. There is no way Pierce would just get the car keys in the event of a Mixon injury. Dare Ogunbowale or rookie Jawhar Johnson would gladly step in to help form a committee. Entirely bereft of standalone value, Pierce is not an appealing insurance back.

Win Total

Installed around 9.5 after last season’s 10-7 finish, the Texans are quietly stuck in one of the league’s most competitive divisions. Everyone loves Houston and its upswing narrative, but Jacksonville and Indianapolis are potential playoff teams, while even Tennessee could be frisky after an offseason spending spree. The media and fantasy managers alike have a tendency to crown ascending teams too quickly, but it’s easy to understand why in this instance. The Texans have young and veteran building blocks alike on both sides of the ball. I want to be a naysayer and take the under, but there is too much talent here for me to avert my eyes after last year’s ahead-of-schedule campaign. I like the Texans to hit the over and win this division.

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