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2024 Free Agency Preview: Biggest Positional Needs for the Houston Texans

C.J. Stroud - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

The Houston Texans were the darlings of the 2023 season. Despite having a first-time head coach and a rookie quarterback, the Texans still managed to make the playoffs. They excelled when very few thought they could. The hiring of DeMeco Ryans and the selection of C.J. Stroud have made Houston a team to watch out for in the coming years. As we will discuss in greater detail, the Texans are loaded with cash and enough draft picks to make a splash. Given their 2023 season, they might not be as far behind as previously thought.

Previous Divisional Editions breaking down each team's 2023 season, their offseason assets, and their top-three positional needs going into the 2024 NFL Season can be found here:

The defense is further behind than the offense, but both units exceeded expectations. They might not be ready to challenge Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs just yet but given the resources and assets they have at their disposal; they can close the gap again this offseason with some sound decisions. We'll be looking at the primary positions Houston should be looking to address going into the 2024 NFL season. If you want to take advantage of all of our great premium tools, please use promo code, "BOOM" to receive a 10% discount. 

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

Season Review and Offseason Assets

Not many expected the Texans to do what they did this past season. The hiring of DeMeco Ryans and the selection of C.J. Stroud exponentially increased the speed of the team’s rebuild, essentially skipping it altogether. In their very first year together, the Texans finished with a 10-7 record and made the playoffs. In the first round of the playoffs, they destroyed the Browns, 45-14. In the divisional round, they went up against the Baltimore Ravens and fell 34-10.

It was an amazing season considering Houston was largely expected to struggle. Stroud won Offensive Rookie of the Year and Will Anderson won Defensive Rookie of the Year. Nico Collins had a third-year breakout and third-round rookie Tank Dell also had a breakout rookie season.

Their offense, despite a myriad of offensive line injuries, played extremely well. They finished 13th in points scored and 12th in yards gained. Their starting right tackle, Tytus Howard, played just 36% of the snaps. Their starting guard Kenyon Green did not play all season after suffering a season-ending injury in the preseason. Starting center Juice Scruggs played just 39% of the snaps.

They had nine offensive linemen play at least 20% of the snaps or more and a 10th who was at 18%. Their team’s offensive performance given the turnover at the offensive line, especially having a rookie quarterback, becomes even more impressive. There were rumors that their offensive coordinator, Bobby Slowik might take a head coaching job, but his return to Houston cannot be understated. It’s a huge development.

Their defense finished 11th in points allowed and 14th in yards given up. As previously mentioned, Anderson won Defensive Rookie of the Year. Derek Stingley Jr., their first-round pick from the 2022 NFL Draft who only played in nine games as a rookie, had an excellent sophomore campaign.

Houston has just under $68 million in cap space this offseason. They do not have a single, "got to re-sign them" kind of player. There are several free agents, some they’ll bring back, but most are role players or depth guys. The biggest free agent may be Devin Singletary. He took over for Dameon Pierce midway through the season. However, with their cap space and hole at running back, the team could elect to target a more talented player, especially with the depth of the free agent class at running back. Regardless, Houston has plenty of cap space to target just about anyone they want.

Houston owns the No. 23 (first-rounder), No. 59 (second-rounder), No. 86 (third-rounder), No. 123 (fourth-rounder), No. 127 (fourth-rounder), No. 244 (seventh-rounder), and No. 249 (seventh-rounder) overall picks in this year’s NFL Draft.

 

Biggest Needs

1. Defensive Line

Sheldon Rankins, Jonathan Greenard, Derek Barnett, and Jerry Hughes are all free agents. These four players combined for 140 tackles, 24 sacks, 36 tackles for a loss, 46 quarterback hits, and 64 pressures. Houston had 44 sacks as a team, which means these four free agents had 55% of the team’s sacks. They also had 71% of the team’s quarterback hits, 38% of the pressures, and 34% of the tackles for a loss. That is a lot of production to replace.

These four players combined for 1,925 snaps played. Rankins and Greenard were starters while Barnett was added midway through the season. They need to find a mixture of starting-caliber defensive linemen and rotational/depth pieces. Houston will need to determine who they want to re-sign and assuming it’s not all four players, they’ll need to add reinforcements at this position via the draft or free agency.

2. Cornerback

Steven Nelson, Tavierre Thomas, and Desmond King II are all free agents. They also released Shaquill Griffin midway through the season. These four cornerbacks played a total of 2,133 snaps. Nelson alone played 1,088 snaps. He’s the biggest name that needs to be replaced or re-signed. These four players combined for five interceptions, 19 pass deflections, and 194 tackles. The only “for sure” starting cornerback they have under contract for 2024 is Stingley Jr. With how important pass defense is in the NFL today, expect plenty of resources to be devoted to this position.

3. Tight End

You could put wide receiver here or tight end. Robert Woods is a cut candidate and Noah Brown is a free agent. Dalton Schultz is also a free agent. Either way, Houston needs to identify and add a third option in the passing game. I believe tight end is the bigger need because the team has John Metchie III and Xavier Hutchinson at receiver who could play that third receiver role, especially if they have a quality tight end.

Schultz finished with 88 targets (second-most on the team), 59 receptions (second-most), 635 yards (third-most), and five touchdowns (third-most). He’s a dependable third option in the passing game and per PFF’s run-blocking grade, was a quality blocker as well. With him as a free agent, the top tight end on the depth chart is Brevin Jordan. He’s been a sleeper name in fantasy circles, but it’s never materialized. Given the state of the free agent group of tight ends, re-signing Schultz is their only option.  Unfortunately, the draft class is also underwhelming after Brock Bowers, whom they are not in a position to draft.

4. Other Positions of Need: Running Back, Linebacker

 

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