AFC South Fantasy Watch: Texans' Training Camp Issues to Monitor Pre-Draft

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistJuly 10, 2012

Don't waste a pick on this guy unless it all breaks right.
Don't waste a pick on this guy unless it all breaks right.Rob Carr/Getty Images

It's easy to get excited about the return of fantasy football.

The temptation is to get all your friends together on August 1, have a huge party and draft to your heart's content.


I can't speak for the rest of the NFL, but if it's anything like the AFC South, there are too many questions that will be answered in training camp for you to draft that early.

Waiting until after the third preseason game gives you more time to get the first wave of injuries accounted for. Beyond that, every team has unknowns that won't be clear for a few weeks, at least.

The Texans are no exception.

I'm not going to take the easy route and just pose questions about the health of Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. Both are elite players coming off of surgeries. Concerns about their durability will likely linger all season, so I don't know that training camp will give you the answers you want there.

Here are three major fantasy questions that training camp and the preseason could answer.


How High Should You Draft Owen Daniels?

The loss of Joel Dreessen to the Denver Broncos means that the Houston Texans will have to replace his elite red-zone production in other ways.

The big beneficiary of this change could well be Daniels. He has always been a mid-level tight end, in part because he puts up good yardage totals but doesn't score touchdowns. He's posted 10-point weeks in just five of his past 27 games.

Watch how the Texans use Daniels inside the 20. If he gets a high number of targets, he could wind up with four or five more scores in 2012. That would take him from being a late-round value to a mid-round value.

He could be the steal of your draft.


When Should You Grab Ben Tate?

If you are looking for a second or third running back and the pool is getting thin, consider Tate. Obviously Arian Foster is going to be the big cheese in the Texans backfield, but unless you are drafting in the top three, you probably won't land him.

If the Texans get a strong camp from Tate and/or the wide receivers struggle and the team decides to load up even more on the running game, you might be able to get RB1-type totals from Tate at RB3 prices.

Tate nearly had 1,000 yards rushing last year and put up six 10-point games and a nine-point game in just 15 outings.

Tate isn't without risk. He also went for fewer than five points seven times his rookie year.

Pay close attention to how he's used and how the Texans offense develops, and you might find a bargain. If  Foster is slowed at all by any type of injury, jump all over Tate early.


Does Kevin Walter Have Value?

Back in 2008 Walter was a nice find for fantasy owners who took a flyer late in the draft. Since then, his production has dropped every year.

The upside to Walter as a fantasy player is that the Texans have to throw the ball somewhere. Schaub is a top-shelf quarterback, and Walter is his de facto No. 2 wideout. Normally, that position in a good offense would be a cinch for 800 yards and five touchdowns.

The problem is that Walter is now 31 years old and hasn't put up those kinds of numbers for four seasons.

There are three factors that affect Walter's value. The first is his own play. If it looks ragged or he struggles to get open, you have to run the other direction.

The second is the healthy of Andre Johnson. Any signs that he's not 100 percent up Walter's value. If Johnson goes down, the value for Daniels and Walter sky-rockets. After all, the Texans have to throw the ball somewhere.

Finally, keep a close eye on the other Texans receivers. I don't think any will have any fantasy value in 2012, but if someone challenges Walter for snaps in the two-wideout set, it crushes whatever value Walter may have.

If the stars don't align perfectly in camp, stay far away from Walter. He's had only seven 10-point weeks in the last three years combined.


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