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Fantasy Football Breakouts, Busts, and Locks - Houston Texans 2022 Outlook

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Welcome to our fantasy football Breakouts, Busts, and Locks, a new series on RotoBaller where our writers look at three key players on each NFL team. Today, we're talking about the Houston Texans.

There's not a lot to like about the Texans this season, so I figured it would be a good exercise for this to be the first one of these pieces. Knock the toughest one out first, you know?

Below, you'll find a fantasy football breakout candidate, a fantasy football bust candidate, and a safe fantasy football pick for the Texans based on early ADP for fantasy football drafts in 2022.

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Fantasy Football Breakout: Nico Collins

Throughout this piece, I'm going to remind you that we need to be cautious with the Texans' offense. No Texan is going to finish top-12 at their position. Only two have a real shot at finishing top 24—Brandin Cooks, who I'll talk about later, and quarterback Davis Mills, who only has a chance to finish top-24 because injuries are unpredictable and it's possible that a few guys get hurt and Mills finishes as an overall low-end QB2, though he probably would still be a QB3 in per-game production.

But in terms of guys who could exceed their ADP, Collins is the one I like. He's ranked as WR77 right now but could end up providing top-50 value if things go well.

Collins was targeted 60 times last year, pulling in 33 of them for 446 yards and a touchdown. He saw his on-field time increase down the stretch, with a snap rate of 60% or better in Houston's final seven games.

Collins ranked 31st in true catch rate, per PlayerProfiler. Just 60.7% of his targets were ruled to be catchable, so his actual catch rate doesn't look nearly as good. But if Collins sees a rise in usage this year, that's accompanied by increased accuracy from Mills, he'll be a viable fantasy play, especially when the game script is factored in as Houston should be playing from behind a lot of the time.

 

Fantasy Football Bust: The Running Backs

The thing about Houston is that there isn't really a clear bust candidate because no one on this team really arrives with the level of hype that would usually be needed for someone to truly bust. Looking at FantasyPros' consensus rankings, we can see how most Texans players rank really low at their position:

The only person ranked among the top-24 at his position is Cooks, who also projects to be the safest pick from this team (see below). So instead of targeting one player who will gravely underperform his ADP, my bust is a position that I think will be disappointing across the board: the running backs.

While Pierce and Mack aren't even ranked as RB4s going into the season, I think there's been a decent bit of discussion around them, especially Pierce. It makes sense that people would think a rookie running back might be a sleeper, but I don't see it, and it's not Pierce's fault.

It's this whole offense's fault. Houston won't be good this year, and bad offenses don't run the ball a lot.

Last season, the bottom four teams in rushing attempts were the Jets, the Buccaneers, the Jaguars, and the Falcons. Three of those teams were really bad. The one that wasn't was quarterbacked by Tom Brady and coached by Bruce Arians.

Houston ended up with the ninth-fewest rushing attempts last season and the 11th-fewest pass attempts. It was a low-volume offense across the board, helmed by a rookie quarterback. Hopes are high that the rookie QB will look better as a second-year QB, but if he does, that would just encourage more early-game pass attempts, limiting how many rushing attempts there were in the first half. And in the second half, Houston projects to be behind often, which is another thing that leads to more pass attempts. Unless Mills makes some profound leap, I expect Houston to ask him to do more but not get the desired result out of that, which would be winning football games.

Winning teams have the luxury of running the ball. Of the top-eight teams in rushing attempts per game last year, only one didn't have a winning record, and that was Baltimore, which finished one game under .500 and was a team with a rushing quarterback.

So, that's my Texans bust pick: running backs, or rather, expecting any individual running back on this team to be a sleeper. Maybe Pierce or Mack gives you low-end RB3 production if you're lucky. Maybe.

 

Fantasy Football Lock: Brandin Cooks

There is one safe draft pick on this Texans team and that's Brandin Cooks, who will continue to be a reliable option for quarterback Davis Mills.

Cooks, who played in 16 of Houston's 17 games last season, ranked 12th at his position in targets and 10th in target share. He was seventh in air yard share, 13th in deep targets, 13th in receptions, and ninth in true catch rate, catching 96.8% of his catchable targets. His actual catch rate was 30th among receivers, in large part because his catchable target rate of 69.9% was 77th. In other words, he wasn't consistently getting good targets, but when he did, he caught them.

Mills should be better this year, just from spending a full offseason working as the starter. I don't expect a leap from him, but I do expect him to be a little better at getting Cooks the football, making Cooks a low-end WR2 option this year. In this offense, that's about as good as you can expect.



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