Arian Foster will either resume being beastly when the Texans open their season against San Diego just less than a week from now, or he’ll spontaneously combust, and nothing in between. Scary/sad times indeed.
Notable Additions: None with a fantasy impact, as Ed Reed was the biggest and oldest fish.
Notable Draft Picks: DeAndre Hopkins
The Marquee Men (the elitest of the elite)
Arian Foster (ADP: 4.6): I know, you’re really scared about Foster’s 722 touches over the past two years, and that’s even when we generously exclude the post season. Last year specifically if we include the playoffs, that touch number ballooned to 460, which is just disgusting.
Foster has already battled through offseason back and calf injuries, and he wasn’t on the field for a single snap during the preseason. So there’s a lot of fright to be had here, which is why towards the end of August Foster often fell out of the top five overall, though he still remained a first-round pick. History is a difficult demon with Foster, because although the exact tumble can be highly inconsistent, the jagged rocks are definitely waiting at the bottom of that cliff in the season immediately following a high abuse year for a running back.
But the mild discount was there, and will continue to be for those of you participating in really late drafts over the next two nights. The required caveat is that you’ll have to reach for Ben Tate and secure him as a handcuff, which typically means spending three of your first six picks on running backs. Remember that even if you account for some missed time, Foster can still be effective, as he had 256.1 fantasy points in 2011 despite missing three games. Then also remember that early in the year head coach Gary Kubiak has strongly hinted at a near even split between Foster and Tate as the former is eased in, which is troubling after his eight games last year when he averaged fewer than 3.5 yards per carry.
Foster is easily the most significant risk/reward first-round play of 2013.
Andre Johnson (ADP: 31.5): The Texans are and will remain a running offense, powered by Foster and Tate. However, there’s still no lack of passing, with Matt Schaub’s throws actually eclipsing the Texans’ run attempts by a decent margin (554 to 508). And when he was asked to throw the ball, Schaub preferred to direct it towards Johnson’s trusted hands.
Johnson was targeted on nearly 30 percent (29.6, for you nit-picking jerks) of Schaub’s throws, volume that led to his four games with at least 140 receiving yards, highlighted by his 273 yards on 14 catches in Week 11. But there’s a weee little problem now: DeAndre Hopkins.
Although Johnson didn’t slow down with his 1,598 yards last year, the Texans are aware of his potential for an abrupt dive bomb at the age of 32. That’s why a first-round pick was invested in Hopkins, and if he can stay healthy and avoid his lingering concussion problems (he’s still out with one sustained August 17), it’s reasonable to think the rookie could bite off at least five percent of Johnson’s targets, and become the primary deep option by midseason.
Johnson still has value, but he’s rightly been ranked consistently at the end of the very top tier at his position. Or if you prefer, the beginning of the second, and behind Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, and Brandon Marshall.
The Middle Men (middle-to-late round options)
DeAndre Hopkins (ADP: 106.0): There’s that speed, and that leaping ability, and that speed. Oh, the speed.
But then there’s that concussion problem, which gives us cause for at least mild pause. Hopkins suffered his first concussion in a 2011 car accident, and now in August he’s already logged his first NFL bell donging. Although it wasn’t enough to start a major fall down draft boards, it’s…well it’s something.
A healthy Hopkins (he still hasn’t passed his concussion test yet, though that will likely happen at some point this week), is in position to take on a sort of poor man’s Torrey Smith role. His overall targets will remain somewhat limited in a run-based offense, and with Johnson still vacuuming back the majority of Schaub’s chucking. But when he’s thrown to, the distance he’ll be asked to cover will be vast. Translation: flex this man when the right juicy matchups surface.
Owen Daniels (ADP: 125.5): Daniels is yet another reason why waiting on tight ends is/was a good idea. With 102 fantasy points on 716 receiving yards and six touchdowns last year (a career high), he was the eighth highest scorer at his position. Yet according to the archived ADP data at Fantasy Football Calculator, he wasn’t among the top 15 tight ends, or worse, the top 150 picks overall. Brandon Pettigrew had an ADP of 73.2, and he finished with only 66.6 points.
His scoring is inconsistent, because it always is for tight ends who aren’t Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, or Tony Gonzalez. But yardage-wise, we know what we’re getting from Daniels, assuming he stays healthy. If we exclude his two injury-riddled seasons (2009 and 2010, when he missed a combined 13 games), Daniels has averaged 675 yards per year, a fine pace for a tight end who will be targeted around 100 times, and he required a minimal investment.
The Menial Peons (sleepers, flex plays, and matchup plays)
Matt Schaub (ADP: 139.2): In reality, Schaub can take care of the business. In fantasy, he rarely gives anyone the business.
It’s nice to look at his touchdown column, and see a 22 beside it, which is pretty OK relative to his average draft perch. But then when you look further into that averageness and see that nine of those scores came over two vicious outlier games (one when he had the pleasure of throwing against the Jaguars secondary), Schaub is much less appealing. Combine that with the eight games when his passing yardage fell below 250, and those who draft Schaub as anything more than a bye week filler QB2 are getting what they deserve: a guy who averaged 13.9 fantasy points per game, with six single-digit weeks.
The Mop-Up Men (deeeep sleepers and handcuffs)
Ben Tate (76.3): Tate will have the most production of any backup/handcuff because of the early-season desire to limit the amount of times Foster is bamboozled. Again, though, the problem with Tate leads to a problem with Foster: owning both is a requirement if you spent a first-round pick on Foster, but dammit, the cost is steep.
There will likely be a nice return on your investment, though, as Tate could be so productive that you’ll consider using him in a flex spot even if Foster is healthy. Last year he struggled with injuries and missed five games, but prior to that Tate averaged 62.8 rushing yards per game, even while Foster missed only three weeks. Most importantly, two of Tate’s four +100 yard games in 2011 came with Foster healthy, and they were games when both running backs blew past that mark.