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2020 Fantasy Football: Texans Outlook without Will Fuller V

In yet another 2020 classic, the PPR WR2 of Week 12 is done for the season—but not due to injury. On Monday night, Will Fuller V announced that he has tested positive for a prohibited substance. He will be suspended six games and, consequently, can be dropped in all re-draft fantasy football leagues in 2020. 

Fuller, a top 10 fantasy wide receiver this season through Week 12, will forfeit over $3 million in salary and might have played his last snap with the Houston Texans as his contract expires at the end of this season. Fuller played in 11 games as the No. 1 pass-catching option after the trade of DeAndre Hopkins. He made 53 catches on 75 targets for 879 yards. He scored 8 touchdowns, including 2 in his Week 12 second-half explosion against the Detroit Lions, a performance that many are conjecturing triggered the revealing drug test from the league.

In today’s brief analysis, we will break down the outlook for the remainder of the season for every relevant Texans offensive player in the absence of Will Fuller. 

Texans cornerback Bradley Roby also announced on Monday that he will be suspended 6 games for a banned substance. We will only be giving you the rundown on fantasy football centering the Texans’ offense. 

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The Texans Without Will Fuller

QB Deshaun Watson

Naturally, the man throwing to Will Fuller V, has reaped the benefits of the talent and perhaps enhanced speed and route-running of the star wide receiver throughout 2020 and in his last 6 games, Watson has been one of the game’s best at his position, amassing 16 touchdowns and turning the ball over 0 times. In that span, 31.3% of his passing yards and 33.3% of his passing touchdowns have been received by Fuller. In 2019, Watson played in 15 games for the Houston Texans and in every single one, he had DeAndre Hopkins to throw to and Will Fuller V as well in 10 full games. Having neither? Fairly new territory for 25-year-old Clemson stud.

Perhaps in the unluckiest organizational situation amongst elite-talent quarterbacks, Watson now has to deal with a pass-catching crew of wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Keke Coutee, and Isaiah Coulter, and tight ends Jordan Akins, Darren Fells, Pharaoh Brown, and Kahale Warring. He also awaits the return of Randall Cobb, whose stint on the IR will last until at least Week 15 and starting running back David Johnson, who used to take on a minor role in the pass-catching game. The two-headed prong of Duke Johnson and C.J. Prosise currently leads the Texans backfield. 

Watson’s upcoming matchups should also concern his owners. In the next three weeks, he faces the Indianapolis Colts (#3 defense against fantasy quarterbacks) twice and the Chicago Bears (#4 defense against fantasy quarterbacks). Watson hasn’t had to deal with a 3-game stretch of matchups this tough all year long. In fact, the last time he faced three above average quarterback defenses in a row was during Weeks 1-3 of this season; indeed, while he was still a startable quarterback in that span, he was far from his recently brilliant self. 

Matchup (rank vs. fantasy QB in 2020) Passing Rushing
Week 1 KC (#6) 20/32, 253 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT 6 carries, 27 yards, 1 TD
Week 2 BAL (#14) 25/36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT 5 carries, 17 yards
Week 3 PIT (#2) 19/27, 264 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT 1 carry, 5 yards

Apart from Week 10, these three games accounted for Watson’s 3 worst fantasy point totals of the season. Going forward, if Watson continues to start at quarterback for the Texans, his ability with his arm and his legs gives him one of the best floors of all quarterbacks despite yet another downgrade to the talent surrounding him. 

However, fantasy owners may still want to have a backup plan. With the Houston Texans at 4-7 and more than likely out of playoff contention in 2020, the possibility does exist that they rest their franchise quarterback at any point for the final regular-season stretch. Furthermore, for fantasy owners who need a high ceiling out of their quarterback to win playoff games, perhaps you will not be content with the type of fantasy production you got from him during Weeks 1-3. Especially in shallow leagues, if there are streamer quarterbacks remaining with attractive matchups, pick them up and don’t rule out benching Watson after we get more information on the Texans’ offensive game in Week 13. 

After the three daunting matchups coming up, Watson finishes out the season facing the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16 and the Tennessee Titans in Week 17. If he plays in those, he will likely still be a priority option at quarterback in those matchups, so do not consider dropping Watson in any league as long as he is the Texans’ man under center. 

WR Brandin Cooks, WR Keke Coutee

In 2020, the only wide receivers to make a reception for the Houston Texans other than Will Fuller V have been the two names we’ll discuss now (Brandin Cooks and Keke Coutee), Randall Cobb (currently on IR), and Kenny Stills (currently a free agent). A new look at the Texans’ depth chart with Cooks taking over the #1 role and Coutee the new #2 should not come up as a shocker. Here is a look at all current Texans WR and how they have fared this season so far. 

Average snap share Receiving
Brandin Cooks 90.3% 52 catches (78 targets), 719 yards, 3 TD
Randall Cobb (IR) 63.9% 38 catches (48 targets), 441 yards, 3 TD
Keke Coutee 39.5% 6 catches (9 targets), 38 yards, 1 TD, 1 2PC

Isaiah Coulter is also listed on the depth chart but does not have a target this season. 

At the time of Fuller’s departure, he led the 2020 Texans wide receivers in receptions (53, Cooks only 1 behind), receiving yards (879), and touchdowns (8). His 75 targets was second to Cooks’ 75. Fuller was also the only wide receiver to register a rushing attempt (it went for 0 yards).

Brandin Cooks is clearly set to be the favorite to earn the lion’s share of attention—but it’s a two-way street. Cooks be the #1 pass-catching talent for Watson but he will also be the assignment for the opposition’s best defensive backs instead of Fuller. Cooks, now 27 years old, hasn’t spent much time in his career as the #1 receiving option of his team. In New Orleans, he played alongside Marques Colston and Brandon Coleman as a 22-year-old and recorded a career-high in receptions. In 2017 for the New England Patriots, he played alongside Julian Edelman. In 2018-19 for the Los Angeles Rams, he played alongside Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods and in his first year in Los Angeles, he achieved his career-high in receiving yards. 

Cooks was once one of the fastest men in the NFL and served as one of the scariest deep threats among wide receivers. At 27 years old, he hasn’t been producing as consistently as he always has but he is still sporadically productive on deep balls and running after the catch. In 2020, he ranks top 20 in the NFL in yards after catch (3.6 per target) and receiving yards (65.4 per game). He has also drawn 11 deep targets this season and has run a route in 100% of the Texans’ pass plays this season. There is no reason to believe that Watson’s strong arm will shy away from the big play involving Brandin Cooks. However, now as the #1 option, the floor of Cooks remains suspect and he will be a risky play against matchups like the Colts and Bears, both of whom are defenses that are stingy with allowing explosive pass plays.

It is noteworthy that in Fuller’s 2020 stint, he was out-targeted by Cooks, opening up the doors for a guy that should be one of the top priorities on the waiver wire in Week 13 — Keke Coutee

In the absence of Randall Cobb, it is clear that Coutee will now be the second option at wide receiver for the Texans. Since the release of Kenny Stills and the injury of Randall Cobb, the 23-year-old Texas Tech product has played over 50% of the Texans’ offensive snaps in back-to-back games. With Cobb not set to return until at least Week 15, fantasy managers in need for a wide receiver with a healthy ceiling should look to pick up Coutee. While Coutee has only scored 2 career touchdowns in his career of nearly 3 years, he is set to enter a window of opportunity previously unfamiliar to him—the #2 spot on the depth chart. Until Cobb returns, Coutee should serve as a relative target monster for Deshaun Watson and provides excellent upside, especially in PPR leagues.

The rookie, Isaiah Coulter, is currently listed as the third option on the depth chart for the Texans but in most leagues, there is no reason to rush to use up a roster spot on Coulter quite yet. 

TE Jordan Akins, WR Darren Fells

With the connection between Deshaun Watson and his talented wide receivers being as prominent as it has been throughout 2020, the tight end position has often been overlooked on the Houston Texans. Through 12 weeks, the Texans have targeted their tight ends 17.7% of the time, the 10th-lowest percentage in the NFL. 

Here is how the current Texans’ tight ends have performed in 2020. 

Average snap share Receiving
Jordan Akins 54.5% 22 catches (28 targets), 275 yards, 1 TD
Darren Fells 63.7% 19 catches (24 targets), 275 yards, 3 TD
Pharaoh Brown 34.3% 7 carries (9 targets), 75 yards, 1 TD

Only one rushing play this season has been by a Texans tight end. It was a 4-yard gain by Jordan Akins. Kahale Warring also drew his only target of the season in Week 12 but he is not a threat to be a fantasy difference-maker as of now.

While Darren Fells started off the year raising some eyebrows with his production without eating away from Jordan Akins’ relevance, the former pro basketball player Fells has recently not been heavily involved in the pass-catching scene. Instead, the only recent fantasy-relevant performance from a Texans tight end came from Akins in Week 11 against the Patriots when he caught 5 of his 6 targets for 83 yards. 

With the Texans’ opportunity split still unclear for both tight ends, it doesn’t make much sense to target any of them for your fantasy team in the upcoming matchups but if you must pick one of these two low-floor options, Akins’ trend upwards in opportunity is the way to go. It is possible that none of the Houston tight ends end up seeing a boost in fantasy production so Coutee still needs to be the priority after the Fuller news. 

RB Duke Johnson & David Johnson

As long as Watson starts at quarterback for the Houston Texans, the decent touchdown potential means that the starter in the Texans backfield should be owned in your league. For the time being, that is Duke Johnson, who has averaged 11 carries, 35.3 rushing yards, 2 catches (3.3 targets), and 21 receiving yards per game in his 3 starts since the injury of David Johnson. He has 1 total touchdown in that span. 

One shouldn’t fall prey to the naive assumption that the Texans will magically start running the ball more without the talent of Will Fuller V to throw to. Instead, expect the Texans to treat the run more or less the same way. 

David Johnson’s earliest possible return is Week 13 and he is set to face fourth straight tough fantasy defenses against running backs. Before his injury game, he played in 7 games and averaged 56 rushing yards on 14.4 carries per game. He also averaged 2.3 receptions per game so he is far from a PPR monster. Notably, his snap share was wildly inconsistent but has been higher against elite run defenses, with his season-low in a game at 55% (vs. Minnesota) and season-high at 96% (vs. Pittsburgh). 

This is not the time to buy Duke Johnson’s low floor or the injury-bitten David Johnson and his uncertain ceiling post-return; instead, I will remind you to use the Fuller suspension as a way to turn your attention to Keke Coutee

The Texans losing Will Fuller V is not the first and may not be the biggest heartbreaking fantasy news in the showcase of a year that many call 2020. Make sure you continue to value those roster spots and follow our recommendations for loves, hates, and waiver wire pickups to win you a championship.

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