2012 Fantasy outlooks: Houston Texans

Andre Johnson Fantasy value is in question for the first time in his 10-year career. Owners want to know if he is still an elite receiver heading into 2012.

I still consider Johnson one of the best players at his position. He is my No. 2 Fantasy receiver this year behind Calvin Johnson , and I expect him to play well. I'm not afraid of him getting hurt even though he hasn't been able to play 16 games each of the past two years.

But my colleague Dave Richard has Johnson ranked No. 13, which means in a standard format he is a No. 2 Fantasy option. He has Johnson ranked behind some potential one-year wonders in Jordy Nelson and Victor Cruz and unproven receivers like A.J. Green and Julio Jones , but Dave is concerned about Johnson's health.

Last year, Johnson was limited to just seven games due to hamstring problems. He also missed three games in 2010, and in May he had arthroscopic surgery on his knee. He should be fine for training camp, but there is some fear he's slowing down since he will be 31 when the season starts.

I get the argument, but I'll take my chances with Johnson in most leagues with a Round 2 pick. Prior to getting hurt last year, Johnson had 21 catches for 316 yards and two touchdowns in his first three games (an average of 14 Fantasy points a week in standard leagues). He also had 13 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown in two playoff games, both with T.J. Yates at quarterback. And in 2010 when he missed three games he still finished with 86 catches, 1,216 catches and eight touchdowns.

Matt Schaub (foot) will return this season, which will help Johnson. He also has no real threat for targets, and Johnson has averaged at least 10 targets a game from 2006-10. Sure, the Texans are a run-first team with Arian Foster and Ben Tate , but Johnson had 162 Fantasy points (12.5 points a week) in 2010 during Foster's breakout season.

Fear Johnson if you want because of his injury history, but just keep in mind what he's capable of doing when healthy. I have no problem taking a risk on him because the rewards should be great.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Matt Schaub 7
Running Backs
Arian Foster 1
Ben Tate 8
Wide Receivers
Andre Johnson 2
Kevin Walter ND
Lestar Jean ND
DeVier Posey ND
Tight Ends
Owen Daniels 13
Randy Bullock 14
Texans DST 13
ND - not expected to get drafted

Sleeper ... Matt Schaub , quarterback
The quarterback pool is so deep this year that Schaub isn't ranked in the Top 12 on our site or many others. We have Schaub ranked at No. 13 this year, and he could be the steal of many drafts. If you're the owner who prefers to wait on drafting a quarterback then Schaub is someone to target. He was limited to 10 games last season due to a Lisfranc sprain in his foot, but he should be ready for the start of training camp. He gets Johnson back at 100 percent, and the Texans gave him a new weapon in rookie receiver DeVier Posey . Prior to last season, Schaub averaged 4,570 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2009-10. He was averaging 18.1 Fantasy points a game last year, and only 10 quarterbacks did better in 2011. Look for Schaub to rebound and play at a high level, and he should be drafted anywhere after Round 7 in the majority of leagues.

Keeper-league target ... DeVier Posey , wide receiver
The Texans drafted Posey in the third round of the NFL Draft out of Ohio State, and he is expected to compete for playing time right away. The Texans have a need at receiver with Jacoby Jones gone, and if Johnson is slow in his recovery then Posey's playing time could increase. Posey will compete with Kevin Walter and Lestar Jean for targets. Jean is another receiver to consider for this category, but Posey probably has more long-term value. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Posey caught only 12 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns in three games last year after being forced to serve two five-game suspensions for taking improper benefits, but he totaled 60 catches for 828 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore. He is not worth drafting in the majority of leagues, but he is someone to put on your scout team as a potential waiver-wire addition during the season. Spend a mid-to-late pick on him in dynasty/keeper leagues and a third- or fourth-round pick in rookie-only drafts.

Bounce-back candidate ... Owen Daniels , tight end
No one missed Schaub more than Daniels last year. Through the first 10 games of the season in 2011, Daniels had at least six Fantasy points in six games. Once Schaub went down, Daniels had just one game with more than three points. If Daniels had maintained his Fantasy point average with Schaub, which was 6.2 per week, for the entire season he would have finished as a Top 12 tight end in standard leagues. Daniels might go undrafted this year in some shallow formats with how deep the talent pool is at tight end. We have him ranked No. 15 this year, but he could definitely re-emerge as a starting option now that Schaub is expected back at 100 percent.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
The Texans offense should get off to a solid start until a three-game stretch against the Jets, Packers and Ravens before their Week 8 bye. From there, it's hard to imagine the Texans slowing down on offense, especially with two games against the Colts in their last three games of the season. We love the prospects for their Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit -- they might total 80 points in that game. With their toughest matchups over by Week 11 (and only four tough matchups really on their schedule), the Texans should meet expectations.

Training camp topics

Last year I felt alone in saying Foster should be the No. 1 overall pick. Many of my peers ran away from Foster at the top spot because of the hamstring injury he sustained in training camp, but I stuck with him.

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Arian Foster 278 carries, 53 catches
Ben Tate 175 carries, 13 catches
Owen Daniels 54 catches
Kevin Walter 39 catches
Jacoby Jones 31 catches, 4 carries

The result: He finished No. 4 at running back in total Fantasy points, but he was the No. 1 non-quarterback in Fantasy points per week at 18.3. He was a beast from Week 4 on.

This year, no one doubts Foster as the No. 1 overall pick. Tate is a viable handcuff option, and he should be drafted in Round 8. Tate finished last year as a Top 30 running back and can stay in that range this season since the Texans do a great job of rotating both backs. Tate had eight games with double digits in carries, and he reached double digits in Fantasy points six times in those games.

Aside from Foster, Tate, Johnson, Schaub and Daniels, two other Texans who should definitely be drafted are rookie kicker Randy Bullock and the Texans DST. Bullock is expected to beat out Shayne Graham for the starting job, and he should be a No. 1 Fantasy kicker this year. He will replace Neil Rackers , who signed with the Redskins, and Rackers was No. 6 in Fantasy points in 2011.

The Texans DST was No. 9 in Fantasy points last year, and they should once again remain a Top 12 option in all leagues. The loss of standout pass rusher Mario Williams will hurt, but defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has enough talent for the Texans DST to succeed in all formats.

Injury update

Schaub (foot; probable for the start of training camp) ... Johnson (knee; probable for the start of training camp)

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