Now that the NFL draft is over and the high-impact free agents have found their homes, we can starting doing some early 2016 fantasy football projections. Today: the Houston Texans, including why running back Lamar Miller deserves all the hype he’s getting.
First things first, using our staff projection machine I set some baseline team-wide assumptions:
I went with the league median for average scoring margin. While I personally think the Texans have a fairly weak roster overall, I can’t ignore the fact that they have an 18-14 record under Bill O’Brien in the regular season. For pace tendency (how many total plays they execute relative to expectations), I went with the mean of their 2014 and 2015 numbers. For pass tendency (how often they pass relative to expectations), I went with the 25th percentile mark. That’s because when I went with the mean of their 2014 and 2015 numbers, it actually ended up being even lower, which felt like a bit of an extreme outcome to project.
Charles Kleinheksel has explained why Brock Osweiler is not the QB Houston needs, and this projection bares that out. For sack rate, I went with Osweiler’s 2015 rate of 7.7 percent, which also happens to be the 75th percentile mark league-wide. For interception rate, percentage of team rushes, and yards per carry, I went with the means of Houston’s QB1s from 2014 and 2015. For interception rate, that mean happens to coincidentally be Osweiler’s own 2015 rate as well.
This projection is quite frankly dreadful, but that’s what happens when a mediocre QB doesn’t pass much. Osweiler’s projection is also informed by those of his receivers which, aside from DeAndre Hopkins, are not particularly promising. It is the worst of any QB I have projected thus far, and I wouldn’t be shocked if it ends up being the worst period. Osweiler merits consideration as a best ball QB3, but nothing more.
For Hopkins, I went with the mean of his 2014 and 2015 numbers for percentage of team targets, yards per target, catch rate, and touchdown rate. I considered bumping up his target rate since Andre Johnson was still on the team in 2014. But even including 2014, his target rate is projected to be over the 75th percentile mark for a team’s WR1. So I just decided to leave it be.
This projection works out to 17.5 PPR fantasy points per game. That’s considerably less than the 20.6 PPG he scored last season, and would have only made him the WR13 on a per game basis. Per the Best Ball ADP App, he is currently being drafted as the WR4. So is he overpriced? According to this projection, he is. However, this projection is on the conservative side. The team could end up being significantly more pass-heavy and he could see a larger share of the targets than projected here. I think it may be more accurate to say that anybody drafted as the WR4 is unlikely to live up to that projection. So I don’t think he’s nearly as bad of a pick as this projection suggests, though I would prefer A.J. Green.
I projected Will Fuller as the team’s WR2, which seems fair given no one else has proven they deserve the job and he was the second WR selected in this year’s draft. Because Fuller profiles as a deep threat a la DeSean Jackson, I set his catch rate and target percentage to the 25th percentile mark for a WR2, but his yards per target to the 75th percentile mark. I set his TD rate to the median. That gives you a, “good for a rookie projection,” which seems fair given that Fuller is actually a very good prospect.
I set Cecil Shorts as the team’s WR3, but as you can see, I projected the team’s remaining WRs to outproduce him. For Shorts, I went with the means of his 2014 and 2015 numbers. For the remaining WRs, I bumped up their yards per target to 7.5, because Jaelen Strong and Braxton Miller both have some promising attributes.
No significant changes at the TE position, so I just with the means of the 2014 and 2015 numbers for Houston’s TE1 and TE2. It does not figure to be a source of fantasy relevance this season.
I love Lamar Miller, but even I was shocked to learn he had the best composite projection of all RBs. The overall RB1? Seemed over-exuberant. I thought that my projection would be more conservative. And while he doesn’t come out as my overall RB1,1 I still have him projected to score over 19.1 PPG and to outscore DeAndre Hopkins.
So how did I get there? For his percentage of rushing attempts and targets, I not only went with his data from 2014 and 2015, but I also averaged in Arian Foster’s data from 2014 and 2015. That allows me to account for Bill O’Brien’s past usage while also factoring in the possibility that Miller’s limited past workloads are based on something inherent to him and not just coaching preferences. For Miller’s yards per carry, TD rate, catch rate, and yards per target I just stuck with the mean from his own 2014 and 2015.
I projected Tyler Ervin to be the RB2 because he’s a great prospect who was relatively highly drafted and also because Alfred Blue sucks. Ervin is more of a diminutive receiving back, so I set his percentage of rushing attempts and TD rate to the 25th percentile for a RB2. I set his yards per carry to the median. I set his target percentage, catch rate, and yards per target to the 75th percentile for a RB2.
I set Blue’s percentage of the rushing attempts to the 75th percentile mark for RB3s, his target percentage to the 25th percentile mark, and for the rest of the settings I went with the the means of his 2014 and 2015 numbers.