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Fantasy Football Outlook for Houston Texans Passing Game with CJ Stroud and Dalton Schultz

Nico Collins - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

The Houston Texans offense is going to look drastically different than it did last year. At least, that’s the hope after using the second overall pick in this year’s 2023 NFL Draft on quarterback C.J. Stroud. The team is hoping he’ll be their franchise quarterback for years to come and can revitalize one of the worst offenses from 2022.

Here are some of the previous Fantasy Football outlook articles covering some of the biggest NFL free agency moves this offseason:

Historically, rookie quarterbacks have struggled, but fantasy managers shouldn’t overlook this offense in regards to some of its pass-catchers. There’s some value to be had here, including not one, but two possible gems. Let’s dive in and please be sure to use promo code "BOOM" for 10% off of any premium purchase.

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2022 Season Review

If the Houston Texans were not the worst offense in the NFL last season, they were damn close. They were awful across the board, in just about every category you could possibly think of. On the bright side, there’s only one way to go, theoretically anyways.

Overall, the Texans finished 32nd in plays per drive with just 5.28. They averaged a league-worst, 24.3 yards per drive and just 1.43 points per game, which magically was not last — it was second-to-last. The 289 points they scored on the season were better than just two other clubs and only one had fewer total yards than the 4,820 Houston gained.

Their overall offensive DVOA according to Football Outsiders was -27.5%. Surprisingly, they weren’t last in this category, just 31st. At this point, you should be noticing a trend. We’re probably just beating a dead horse, but we opened this up, so we’re going to finish it.

Texans 2022 Rushing Attack

Nothing worked last season and I mean nothing. Their rushing DVOA was 32nd in the NFL at -26.7%. Pick a category — any category — and the Texans were bad at it. Rush attempts, just 398 of them, 30th in the NFL. Rushing yards, just 1,476, 31st. Rushing touchdowns, only seven, 31st. Bad, terrible, worse.

According to PFF, they finished with the 26th “best” offensive line in the NFL. However, the only reason they weren’t lower is because of Laremy Tunsil’s exceptional pass-blocking skills. In PFF’s 2022 yearly review of the NFL offensive lines they stated the following,

“Houston finished as the worst team in the league at generating yards before contact in the run game, averaging just 0.8 yards all year.”

I know what you’re thinking, right? This can’t get any worse, but then it does and we haven’t even gotten to their passing ranks yet so hang on.

Texans 2022 Passing Attack

Due to a defense that ranked just 27th in points allowed, the Texans’ offense often found themselves trailing on the scoreboard, eventually being out-scored by their opponents, 420–289 last season. That negative point differential forced the Texans into many contests with a pass-heavy game script.

While they finished 14th in total pass attempts with 579, their efficiency waned in comparison. They finished just 25th in passing yards with 3,344 and just 18th in passing touchdowns with 20. However, they did manage to finish with the second-highest number of interceptions (19). Not surprisingly, their passing DVOA ranked 31st at -21.3%.

While being a rookie quarterback is no easy task, the bar left behind by former starter Davis Mills appears to be a pretty easy one to leap over. Mills finished with a 61.0% completion percentage. Among 33 qualifying quarterbacks, this ranked 28th. He finished 23rd with a 3.5% touchdown rate, 30th with a 3.1% interception rate, 28th with a 6.5-yard-per-attempt average, and 31st with a 78.8 quarterback rating. Stroud doesn’t need to light the world on fire to give this team much better quarterback play than what it received last season.

Not a single player on the team finished with more than 95 targets, 60 receptions, or 700 yards. In fact, their two leading receivers — Brandin Cooks and Chris Moore — are both no longer on the team. They accounted for 167 targets (28.8% of the team total), 105 receptions (29.8%), 1,247 yards (37.2%) and 5 touchdowns (25.0%). So, who wants a piece of this offense?!

 

Offseason Changes

While the 2022 season was undoubtedly catastrophic, the team has since turned the page. In doing so, they hired former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans. One of the first moves he made was hiring former 49ers’ passing game coordinator, Bobby Slowik to be the team’s offensive coordinator.

Based on their San Francisco ties, fantasy managers should expect a stronger commitment to the running game. This belief was strengthened when they traded for former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Shaq Mason. PFF gave him a 68.9-grade last year, which ranked 25th among qualifying guards. He’ll be a welcome addition to what was a weak offensive line last season.

They also drafted Juice Scruggs, a center out of Penn State at the end of the second round. He’ll be expected to be the team’s starting center. Lance Zierlein, lead draft analyst for NFL.com had this to say about the rookie offensive lineman,

“Scruggs is dependable and consistent in carrying out his assignment to the best of his ability. He plays like a block of granite that is difficult to push back or knock off-balance, but he’s more of a neutralizer than road grader. He plays with solid technique and possesses the play strength to hold his own in the middle.”

With Tunsil at left tackle and former 2019 first rounder, Tytus Howard at right tackle, the Texans could have a solid offensive line for C.J. Stroud. The fifth starter will be Kenyon Green, their 2022 first-round selection.

New Skilled Players

The Texans knew they needed to add more weapons to their offense, but with their trade to acquire the third pick in the NFL draft and the rights to select Will Anderson, Houston didn’t have the ammo to truly accomplish this task. In the meantime though, they did their best to put some duct tape on the problem.

They signed veteran receiver Robert Woods, who has been a very good and dependable receiver with the Rams. He seemed to have lost a step in Tennessee following a torn ACL, but he should be able to provide Stroud with a trustworthy target.

Former Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz was also brought onto a very team-friendly one-year deal. He brought with him his former Dallas teammate, receiver Noah Brown.

The team will also welcome back, John Metchie III, who will be attending OTAs and will be a part of the team’s game plan this season after having been diagnosed with APL (Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia). He was their second-round pick just a season ago. With so many newcomers and a rookie quarterback, predicting this team’s 2023 offense will be one of the more difficult tasks.

 

2023 Final Expectations

Houston averaged just 59.7 plays per game last year due to the terrible efficiency metrics we’ve already covered above. With some better play across the board, which should be expected based on the coaching changes and talent improvement, the overall volume should increase in 2023. Most significantly, the rushing volume.

With both coaches coming over from San Francisco and with a rookie quarterback behind center, fantasy managers should expect a much larger emphasis on this part of their offense. With the improvements along the offensive line, they should be much more efficient at it as well.

We’ll be working off of the Texans’ rushing attempts increasing from 398 to 435 this season, which would’ve ranked just below the league average last year. While their passing volume might decrease some, their defense likely will require this offense to pass a decent amount again in 2023. We’ll be assuming it slightly decreases to 565 attempts.

The likely leading receivers for the team will be Woods, Schultz, and Collins. The wild card will be Metchie and how quickly he can push Woods for more targets, but these four will likely be the team’s starting pass-catchers in 11-personnel.

Over the past three years, we’ve seen Woods’s target share drop from 23.0% to 21.5% to the 20.7% it was at last year. Another new offense and another year of wear and tear is not likely to help the now 31-year-old receiver in this department.

Schultz had an 18.7% target share while missing large chunks of games and Collins was at 19.1% last year. These two players should be expected to be Stroud’s favorite targets. Below is a table of what I believe the Houston passing volume distribution will look like in 2023.

Player Target Share Targets Receptions Yards TDs Half-PPR PPG
D, Schultz 19.5% 110 73 717 6 8.4
N, Collins 19.0% 107 61 824 5 8.4
R, Woods 16.8% 95 57 598 4 6.6
J, Metchie 14.1% 80 50 592 3 6.0
RBs 16.8% 95 71 532 3 6.2
Depth Players 13.8% 78 43 493 2 4.8

Schultz is likely to be Stroud’s favorite target during his rookie season. He’s been the most productive player the past two seasons among Houston’s group of pass-catchers and his targets are often much closer to the line of scrimmage, making him an easy outlet for Stroud.

His 8.4 half-PPR PPG average listed above would’ve finished as the TE9 last year. He’s currently being drafted as the TE12 with an ADP of 129.6, often coming off the board late in round 10.

Over the past three seasons, his per-game averages amount to 100 targets, 70 receptions, and 708 yards over 17 games. That’s despite ample target competition from CeeDee Lamb (all three years) and Amari Cooper (two years). He’s one of the better value picks this year at tight end and someone fantasy managers should be targeting.

Nico Collins is another interesting target for fantasy managers. He had a 19.1% target share and while he missed seven games, his per-game averages had him pacing at 112 targets, 63 receptions, and 818 yards. That was with Mills at quarterback. His 8.4 half-PPR PPG average above would’ve resulted in a WR41 finish last season.

However, he’s currently being drafted as the WR63 with an ADP of 140.8. He can be had in the middle of round 11. He’s a cheap target who could very likely be his team’s No. 1 receiver. Fantasy managers should be circling Collins’ name on their draft sheet. He’s a great player to target with a good amount of upside despite a very minimal cost.

The only other player fantasy managers should be interested in here is John Metchie. He’s being drafted as the WR81 with an ADP of 186.8. He costs a 15th-round pick, so he’s basically free.

However, Collins is primarily a downfield threat and Woods is 31 years old and clearly losing a step. Metchie was a second-round pick and an early declare. Over his last two years in college, he had 212 targets, 151 receptions, 2,058 yards, and 14 touchdowns. In his final season, he had a 23.2% target share.

It is not out of the question that Metchie finishes as the team’s No. 1 receiver. While that might not be likely, Collins and Woods are not overwhelming competition, and the price of admission — basically free — is too cheap to ignore.

After such a catastrophically bad 2022 season, fantasy managers seem very hesitant to invest in the Texans this season. That’s also likely due to so many moving parts with the new coaching staff and rookie quarterback, but those depressed costs have created several buying opportunities fantasy managers can take advantage of.

Schultz, Collins, and Metchie all present good fantasy football value right now. They all have cheap price tags and a good deal of upside considering how inexpensive they are. While none of them should be considered league-winners by any means, they certainly have the potential to be positive additions to any fantasy football roster.

If you’re wondering where 2023 third-round pick, Nathaniel Dell is, he hasn’t been forgotten. He’s just listed with the depth players. Dell comes in at just 5’8 and 165 pounds. These kinds of players have been historically pretty bad and even worse as rookies.

Since 2000, there have been 48 receivers who were 5’10 or shorter and 175 pounds or lighter (we’re trying to help Dell out here) and of those 48, just three had more than 70 full-PPR points. Just three had more than 25 receptions. Not that 300 yards is a big ask, but only three of the 48 cleared this marker in their rookie season.

As for Stroud, the numbers above represent a final stat line that looks like this: 355/565 (62.8% completion percentage), 3,756 yards, 23 TDs, and 12 interceptions. This represents 218.24 points via passing stats.

Over his two seasons as the Buckeyes starter he rushed for 88 yards on 79 carries. Fantasy managers expecting a dual-threat quarterback are going to be disappointed. If we give him an even 150 rushing yards, one rushing score, and two lost fumbles, he'd finish with 235.24 points and a 13.83 PPG average. This would’ve been roughly the same as Ryan Tannehill last season (13.9). Stroud is nothing more than a QB3 for redraft leagues this season.

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