The 2020 NFL Season is nearly upon us, and in anticipation of the new season we’ll be previewing the action team-by-team, using the draft order from last season. The previews will kick off with the Bengals and run right through the reigning champion Chiefs. Come back each day to check out your favorite team. All ADP and Rankings reflect PPR scoring. 2020 Projections are based on a 12-team league (i.e. WR1 (Top 12), WR2 (13-24), WR3 (25-36)).
The Texans went all in for the 2019 season, looking to make a playoff run. The team made a big trade to secure a left tackle prior to the season and seemed poised to take control of the AFC South. That happened, after a fashion. The Texans were able to get off to a 6-3 start, finishing 10-6 and winning the AFC South. The team also beat the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs to advance.
In the Divisional Round, the Texans surrendered 51 points to the Kansas City Chiefs, blowing a huge early lead in the process. Meanwhile their division rival—the Tennessee Titans—made it all the way to the AFC Championship. This off-season has seen huge change in Houston, and the question is whether their playoff window is closing.
The huge move of the off-season was the trade between the Texans and Arizona Cardinals that saw Texans’ receiver DeAndre Hopkins—one of the league’s best—sent to the desert. In return, the Texans got a Second-Round pick and running back David Johnson. In 2019, the Texans saw incumbent starter Lamar Miller lost with an injury prior to the season, while Carlos Hyde came in and rushed for more than 1,000 yards but has since departed for the Seahawks. The Texans are hoping Johnson can look more like the dominant form he had in 2016, or even his solid 2018 form. In 2019, Johnson was limited by injuries and competition, amassing just 345 yards and two TDs, catching 36 passes for 370 yards. In 2018, coming off injury, he rushed for 940 yards and seven TDs, and caught 50 passes for 446 yards. The Texans are banking on him carrying the backfield load in 2020.
To replace Hopkins, the Texans signed veteran Randall Cobb and traded a Second-Round pick to the Rams to snag Brandin Cooks. Cobb caught 55 passes for 828 yards and three TDs with the Cowboys in 2019. Prior to that, he was a big contributor to the Green Bay Packers’ pass offense. Cooks has been on three teams—the Saints, Patriots and Rams—the past four seasons, contributing everywhere. He rattled off four straight 1,000-plus yard seasons before taking a step back in 2019. The Texans hope a change of scenery and a more prominent role can help Cooks get back on track.
The Texans had a lot of changes on offense, but the one stable presence is quarterback Deshaun Watson. He was QB5 in 2019, throwing for 3,852 yards and 26 TDs, rushing for 413 yards and seven TDs. He’s a QB1 even with the loss of Hopkins. In the backfield, a lot of hopes are pinned on two DJs—David Johnson and Duke Johnson. David should carry the rushing load, and figures to be a low-end RB2. Duke is more of a weapon in the passing game, and I think he’s got low-end RB3 potential.
In the passing game, Cooks and Cobb join returning receivers Kenny Stills, Will Fuller V and Keke Coutee. All five could potentially have a role, but the question is how big? Fuller has been exceptional with Watson when healthy, but his 11 games in 2019 were the most he’d played in three seasons. Cautiously I have him as a middle tier WR3 and Cooks as a high-end WR3. I think they’re the most reliable. Next best would be Cobb, who could have WR4 potential. If Fuller plays 16, though, I think he could break into WR2 territory. But that feels like a big IF given his history. The tight end group includes veteran Darren Fells, who caught seven TDs in 2019, Jordan Akins and Khale Warring. I wouldn’t count on any of them in 2020.
The Texans still have some good pieces on offense and defense, where they’re led by J.J. Watt. Bill O’Brien has had some success as a coach, but it’s fair to question his GM decisions this off-season. The team is taking a big swing with David Johnson, Cooks and Cobb, hoping to repeat at least last season’s level of success. But I think Tennessee and the Indianapolis Colts are strong teams, and the Texans will wind up closer to .500 and just short of the playoffs.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.