2014 Fantasy Football: Stay Away from Houston Texans, and Other Trends

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2014 Fantasy Football: Stay Away from Houston Texans, and Other Trends
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No one cares about the results of a Week 1 preseason game? Tell that to the Houston Texans.

Head coach Bill O'Brien lost 32-0, has had Arian Foster unhappy and talking about retirement this preseason (see below) and barely was able to lure Andre Johnson to training camp.

Oh, and then shaky "starting" quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick goes out and throws two interceptions in his debut.

Yeah, O'Brien has some serious work to do. Fantasy owners should probably cover their eyes, or at least look away.

O'Brien reportedly started Monday and dropped the ax on running back Andre Brown, releasing the disappointing veteran, according to a tweet from NFL insider Ian Rapoport.

Brown was supposed to be a fantasy sleeper as Foster's handcuff. Brown was the 58th-ranked running back and 176th overall in FantasyPros.com's consensus rankings.

But that's not the disconcerting news. It has to be the awful vibe coming from Foster and Johnson, two well-regarded fantasy veterans who didn't like the situation going in and now have to be real perturbed. 

Where would you pick Arian Foster?

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Foster was supposed to be a fantasy first-rounder—he ranks 11th in the FantasyPros.com average draft position consensus, but falling—while Johnson is a top-35 pick, roughly a third-rounder, in those aforementioned consensus rankings.

Both veterans are among the biggest decliners in early fantasy draft trends.

Frankly, they are two of the biggest fantasy busts right now. Things currently look so down for Foster, Johnson and the Texans, eventually they might not even be drafted high enough to be considered potential busts by the time the season comes around. 

Foster Talks Retirement

Everyone got a good laugh out of Foster's cryptic camp interview where he said nothing but "I'm just trying to be the best teammate I can be," as Comcast SportsNet Houston's Dave Zangaro reports.

The Texans cheerleaders even spoofed it.

The laughs turned to a grimace for fantasy owners when Foster told ESPN's Hannah Storm, as reported by ESPN.com's Tania Ganguli, he considered retirement after having surgery on his back.

Foster was saying a lot more than he wants to be a good teammate. He was saying he wanted out, not exactly the tone you want from your first-, or now second-round pick.

He told Storm, as Ganguli chronicled:

Any time an athlete goes through an injury like that—a back, a neck, even knees or hips, something that puts you out for the entire season—you kind of re-evaluate your life. You see what's really important. Is getting paralyzed more important than playing with your grand kids when you're 50, 60 years old. People die on the football field. This is a really brutal sport. Going through an injury like that, being 27 years old, I'm young, still I'm at the prime of my career. Is it worth it to try to come back?

Then training camp with O'Brien's Texans happened. Foster cannot be real happy with his decision right now, even if O'Brien is optimistic Foster has a chance to play in Week 2 of the preseason, according to Deepi Sidhu of the Texans' official website.

No one should pick Foster, at any point, as Will Carroll told us for Bleacher Report's fantasy running back blueprint last week:

Arian Foster remains as risky a back as there is. When he's healthy, he's productive, but he's had one healthy season going back to high school. As he ages and wears, that's not likely to get better. Add in a new system, a new quarterback and a confusing backup situation, and I'm staying away from him completely. Not only "Well, if he falls to me in the second round," but completely away.

We slid Foster down from the top 10 of the running backs and out of the top 15 all together. He no longer belongs in Round 2 even, despite still being ranked and picked there (see FantasyPros.com links above). 

2014 Running Back Draft Rankings—Eric Mack
Rank Running Backs Team ECR vs. ECR
1 Jamaal Charles KC 1 0
2 LeSean McCoy Phi 2 0
3 Adrian Peterson Min 3 0
4 Matt Forte Chi 4 0
5 Eddie Lacy GB 5 0
6 Marshawn Lynch Sea 8 +2
7 DeMarco Murray Dal 6 -1
8 Doug Martin TB 14 +6
9 Zac Stacy StL 12 +3
10 Montee Ball Den 7 -3
11 Le'Veon Bell Pit 9 -2
12 Alfred Morris Was 13 +1
13 Giovani Bernard Cin 10 -3
14 Andre Ellington Ari 15 +1
15 C.J. Spiller Buf 16 +1
16 Arian Foster Hou 11 -5
Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) from over 100 experts provided by FantasyPros

Fitzpatrick Experiment Looks Like a Fail

We have written many times this past offseason, including in B/R's Fantasy Football Questions Left to be Answered in Training Camp here, the Texans having the No. 1 overall pick amid a complete makeover and slotting journeyman Fitzpatrick was one of the biggest mistakes in football.

After Fitzpatrick went and threw two picks in his preseason debut, it looks even worse.

Johnson, already a risky fantasy pick at age 33 amid a dicey past with injury woes, didn't even want to play football for the Texans this season—perhaps because of the quarterback situation. O'Brien and the Texans lured him back, and Johnson reported to camp on time.

Johnson has been held out amid a hamstring issue, according to the Houston Chronicle's Brian T. Smith. As bad as Fitzpatrick and the Texans looked against the Arizona Cardinals this past weekend, Johnson's fantasy prospects for 2014 look even worse.

Somehow the fantasy analysts are not catching on...yet. Johnson is still 13th in FantasyPros.com's consensus rankings, which roughly makes him a No. 1 fantasy wideout by the masses.

We have him at No. 28, some 15 spots lower than the overall average and a backup receiver in two-receiver leagues.

Johnson is the biggest variance from the masses among the top 25 receivers.

2014 Wide Receivers Draft Rankings—Eric Mack
Rank Wide Receivers Team ECR vs. ECR
1 Calvin Johnson Det 1 0
2 A.J. Green Cin 4 +2
3 Demaryius Thomas Den 2 -1
4 Dez Bryant Dal 3 -1
5 Brandon Marshall Chi 6 +1
6 Julio Jones Atl 5 -1
7 Alshon Jeffery Chi 8 +1
8 Antonio Brown Pit 9 +1
9 Jordy Nelson GB 7 -2
10 Randall Cobb GB 10 0
11 Pierre Garcon Was 15 +4
12 Victor Cruz NYG 14 +2
13 Larry Fitzgerald Ari 16 +3
14 DeSean Jackson Was 24 +10
15 Michael Crabtree SF 18 +3
16 Roddy White Atl 17 +1
17 Keenan Allen SD 12 -5
18 Vincent Jackson TB 11 -7
19 Wes Welker Den 21 +2
20 Torrey Smith Bal 23 +3
21 Jeremy Maclin Phi 29 +8
22 T.Y. Hilton Ind 26 +4
23 Julian Edelman NE 31 +8
24 Michael Floyd Ari 19 -5
25 Eric Decker NYJ 30 +5
26 Marques Colston NO 28 +2
27 Percy Harvin Sea 22 -5
28 Andre Johnson Hou 13 -15
29 Cordarrelle Patterson Min 20 -9
30 Sammy Watkins Buf 37 +7
Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) from over 100 experts provided by FantasyPros

Don't touch him at his current draft price. Fitzpatrick stinks. O'Brien's Texans are a mess. Johnson is past his prime, and he tends to be often rehabilitating some sort of injury.

The Texans need an answer at quarterback. Rookie Tom Savage is just third on the depth chart.

The New England Patriots' Ryan Mallett, who comes from the O'Brien coaching tree, was equally a mess in his audition for a potential trade. For now, the answer is still Fitzpatrick, and it is a prayer.

"This whole thing is a work in progress," Fitzpatrick told the Chronicle's Smith. "It's a process where we're kind of moving along and we'll continue to get better, and hopefully that shows leading up to the season."

Don't hold your breath.

Anyone on the Texans Stepping Forward?

Everyone loved the idea of the Houston Texans defense with new defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel calling the shots for defensive end J.J. Watt and No. 1 overall pick this May Jadeveon Clowney.

The Texans were dead last in fantasy among defense/special teams units a year ago, according to FFToday.com, but you shouldn't trust any defense that has a suspect offense in its supporting cast.

The Texans were a horrible excuse for a fantasy defense, because Matt "Pick Six" Schaub was a horrible quarterback. Fitzpatrick isn't changing anything at this point.

As far as which Texans to consider in fantasy, you could say second-year wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but he is also tied to the play of his quarterback this season.

After Brown and Dennis Johnson's reported release, the backup running backs are currently Jonathan Grimes and unheralded rookie Alfred Blue.

Blue is a sleeper as a rookie late-round handcuff for Foster, but that's about the only positive thing we can say about the fantasy prospects for any Texans right now.

Fantasy Rap Amazingness

The Manning brothers are at it again, rapping about an all-fantasy channel to coincide with the Red Zone Channel this season on DirecTV.

It is entertaining and almost makes a fantasy owner not despise the error-prone Eli Manning.

Recapping Week 1's Takeaways

We have a blow-by-blow account of the fantasy takeaways from the first full week of the preseason here at B/R, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Bishop Sankey was impressive for the Tennessee Titans, especially as a pass receiver. He is still out of the top 15 running backs above, but once he rises above Shonn Greene on the depth chart, he will make a case to be among them.
  • Brandin Cooks isn't high enough of the depth chart, but he sure was impressive in his New Orleans Saints debut. The hype is going to get loud and raise his draft position, but you have to watch him right now.
  • Terrance West wasn't impressive on the stat sheet (10 rushes for just 22 yards), but he sure looked like a future star, cutting and slashing for the Cleveland Browns behind Ben Tate in the pecking order. We didn't get a good look at Isaiah Crowell, but fellow rookie West is an intriguing late-rounder right now.
  • We expected this, but Rob Gronkowski getting cleared for training camp was changing people's minds: Don't expect to get a look at Gronk before having to draft him. That makes him a risk, particularly since you have to expect the worst with one of the biggest injury risks in football.

Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.

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