2009 Fantasy outlooks: Houston Texans
If only the Texans could stay healthy. As Jamey Eisenberg writes, if the key pieces in Houston can stay on the field in 2009, Fantasy owners will be the primary beneficiaries.
The Texans are the type of team Fantasy owners should be giddy about because they are loaded with stars and have the chance to take off this season.
Matt Schaub is developing into an elite option and just needs to stay healthy for a full year. Steve Slaton turned in one of the best rookie seasons last year and will enter this year as a first-round pick in all leagues. Andre Johnson is arguably the No. 1 wide receiver in Fantasy Football. And when you add in Owen Daniels and Kevin Walter , there is a chance for the Texans to be a juggernaut on offense.
Injuries, however, continue to plague this team. Schaub has yet to play a full season in his two years with the Texans. Slaton's top backup, Chris Brown , missed all of last year, so there is little depth at running back. If this team stays healthy, there is major potential.
On defense, the Texans are also improving behind two of the best players at their respective positions, defensive end Mario Williams and linebacker DeMeco Ryans . If all comes together, it could be a big year in Houston.
Sleeper ... Chris Brown , RB
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Brown didn't play in 2008 because of a back injury that forced him to injured reserve. It would have been interesting if he was healthy because Slaton's emergence might have never happened. Slaton moved up the depth chart last year due to injuries to Brown and Ahman Green . Now, Brown will try to be the No. 2 running back behind Slaton, and the Texans likely don't want Slaton to have 268 carries like he did last year. Brown has to compete with Ryan Moats for the No. 2 job, but Brown has more upside. Remember, Brown had a successful stint in Tennessee when he was healthy, rushing for 1,918 yards and 11 touchdowns from 2004-05. If he wins the job as expected, he's a good handcuff option for Slaton. And if you're looking for good value with a late-round pick, take a chance on Brown and hope he can return to 100 percent.
Breakout ... Owen Daniels , TE
We keep waiting for Daniels to have a breakout season, and it's yet to happen even though he's produced at a high level. He's improved every year in terms of catches and yards, but his touchdowns have gone in reverse from five as a rookie in 2006 to just two last year. If he can put it all together, he would go from a Top 10 Fantasy tight end to a Top 3 option. And the potential is there, especially if Schaub can stay healthy for a full year. Daniels has plenty of motivation this season as he's entering a contract year, and the Texans spent two draft picks on tight ends in Anthony Hill and James Casey . While those two won't cut into Daniels' playing time, they could be the future at tight end for the Texans if Daniels doesn't agree to a long-term deal. Daniels shouldn't be in the first group of tight ends drafted, but he should come off the board in the second tier since he's ready for a big year.
Bust ... Kevin Walter , WR
You want to root for Walter because he's worked his way from nothing to being on the verge of greatness for the Texans. He has earned the right to start opposite Andre Johnson based on his play the past two years, especially last season when he had 60 catches for 899 yards and eight touchdowns. But it's hard to expect Walter to play at that level again. While he might get 60 catches and 800 yards since he's done that the past two years in Houston, prior to last year he had five touchdowns combined in six seasons. He doesn't strike me as a consistent scoring threat, which is why his Fantasy value will decline. At some point, the Texans will start getting Daniels more involved in the red zone along with Johnson. And Walter will face competition this year from David Anderson and Jacoby Jones . Walter does have the extra motivation of entering a contract year, but I just don't see him improving on last year's totals, especially the touchdowns.
Training camp topics
The Texans have an opportunity to make a playoff push after finishing at .500 last year, and a lot will depend on Schaub's health. He's only played in 11 games each of the past two years, and now the Texans don't have a quality backup with Dan Orlovsky expected to replace the departed Sage Rosenfels . If Schaub can play 16 games, especially the way he finished last year, the Texans should be successful. Slaton also needs to stay healthy to provide a strong attack in the running game, and an interesting camp battle should be who wins the No. 2 running back job with Brown and Moats (we like Brown).
The Texans added Cato June on defense to help Ryans, Williams and Dunta Robinson make plays. If the defense improves, the Texans will be a contender in the AFC South even with Indianapolis and Tennessee in the same division. The Texans are on the verge of making the playoffs, and this could be the year ... if everyone stays healthy.
Injury update ... Chris Brown (Back; considered probable to start training camp)
Are you ready for the 2009 Fantasy season? If not, we're here for you. Send us an e-mail at DMFantasyFootball@cbs.com. We'll respond to as many as we can.
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