Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In the next edition of the series, we head back to the AFC South and check out the second-place Houston Texans. The Texans were 9-7 last year, with an offense that scored 24.2 ppg (10th among 32 teams) and a defense that yielded 20.8 ppg (17th).
Matt Schaub - Schaub led the NFL in passing yards (4,770 yards with 29 TDs, 15 INTs) and that was despite an unsettled running game and the loss of his starting tight end, Owen Daniels. Schaub has made significant improvement in every category over the past two years and it's not a coincidence that his star wide receiver, Andre Johnson, has played in all 32 games during that span. Fantasy owners now trust him to run their offense and his Average Draft Position of 36 puts him just outside top-five quarterback status. That could come this year if Daniels returns to form as well.
Ben Tate - There is opportunity for a running back to star in this offense despite the presence of a dynamic passing game. Steve Slaton showed it was possible in 2008 (1,659 yards from scrimmage, 10 TDs), but couldn't sustain the production level last season. As a second-round pick, Tate might be able to fill the bill, but as a rookie it's hard for head coach Gary Kubiak to start him. At this moment I'd have to take a wait-and-see attitude before picking one of the three running backs (options are Tate, Arian Foster and Slaton), all of whom could succeed in this system. Tate is currently being drafted first among the three with an ADP of 70.
Arian Foster - When called upon to carry the load last year, Foster produced. He ran the ball 19 times for 97 yards and a score in Week 16. The following week Foster put up 119 yards and two touchdowns, which is why fantasy owners were excited about the possibilities for him in 2010. Then the team drafted Tate in the second round and a three-way "running-back-by-committee" situation seems the likely result. Foster is the third of the trio being selected, at No.186. Defining this situation will take a careful eye in summer camp and preseason.
Steve Slaton - If only he could hold on to the football. Slaton's problem is that he fumbles the ball too often for the coach's liking (10 times in two years) and it has left him in Kubiak's "doghouse." It didn't help matters that Slaton's yards-per-carry fell from 4.8 in 2008 to 3.3 last season. He's still not been cleared for contact following off-season neck surgery which confuses the situation even more. Slaton has an ADP of 107 and if everything were to work out to his advantage (health, fumbling, opportunity) could be a nice value pick. However, that's a lot of "ifs."
Andre Johnson - After five years of struggling with injuries and a questionable quarterback situation (think David Carr), Johnson has blossomed into a superstar over the past two seasons. He and Schaub have been the best passing combination in a league which has some great ones (Tom Brady-Randy Moss, Peyton Manning-Reggie Wayne, Kurt Warner-Larry Fitzgerald). But Johnson's numbers are the best with more than 100 receptions, 1,500 yards and at least eight touchdowns in each of the last two years. Barring an injury to either end of this hookup I can think of no reason that they shouldn't put up great numbers again. It will cost you though, as Johnson is the No.1 receiver off the board and a mid-first round selection with an ADP of 6.
Kevin Walter - Walter had seemed on the cusp of becoming a solid fantasy value, but injuries last season slowed his rise. His numbers fell from 899 yards to 611 and total touchdowns dropped from eight to just two last season. Worse, his injury opened the door for the team to see what Jacoby Jones could do opposite Johnson and Jones showed he could put the ball in the end zone, scoring six times. Although Walter is healthy again, Jones could steal some targets and if tight end Owen Daniels is healthy, Walters is the third option at best. Walter's ADP has taken a corresponding "hit" dropping from 86 in 2009 to 133 in early 2010.
Jacoby Jones - As noted above, Jones has shown some skills and should get more opportunities in 2010, but he's still not going to have much fantasy value unless the injury bug hits the Texans' starting receivers. Jones' ADP is 196, meaning you could make him a late-round flyer. Barring a barrage of injuries, neither David Anderson or Andre Davis should have much fantasy value either.
Owen Daniels - When Daniels was injured in game No.8 last season, he was on pace to post the best numbers of his career. Extrapolate his eight-game production for an entire season and you come up with 80 receptions for 1,038 yards and 10 scores. Those statistics would have ranked him as the fourth-best tight end, behind only Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark. Now the bad news. He's coming off major knee surgery and no guarantee that he will be ready for training camp. Because of injury concerns, Daniels is only the No.8 tight end off the board (ADP 82), but should he appear healthy in preseason, his ADP will jump much higher. You will have to watch this situation carefully, but if healthy, he's a very good bargain as a seventh-round selection.
Neil Rackers - Rackers must first beat out incumbent Kris Brown for the job, but whichever player wins the spot should be a low-end starting fantasy kicker given the high-powered offense in Houston. Rackers should be the eventual winner based on his better reliability. He's hit 41 of his last 45 attempts versus Brown who was just 21-for-32 last season.
The Texans tied for ninth (with Pittsburgh and Arizona) in fantasy defense scoring at 113 points. They sacked the quarterback 30 times, forced 27 turnovers (13 fumbles, 14 interceptions) and scored four touchdowns. They should be equally as good in 2010, yet they aren't being selected in the top-15, which could make them a decent value selection.