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Last year's team was disciplined (4th in penalty yards and 4th in special teams DVOA). The issue: they had no talent. Coach DeMeco Ryans has his hands full with a barren depth chart in year one, but the offense at least looks watchable this year thanks to the 2nd-most expensive OL and a 2nd overall QB. If the defense can also improve with EDGE Will Anderson, that'd be gravy for the Texans' projected run game, one that finished 30th in carries in 2022.
3-WR Sets (26th in snaps, 54% of snaps)
WR: Nico Collins --> Xavier Hutchinson
WR: Robert Woods --> Noah Brown
SLOT: John Metchie --> Tank Dell (R)
TE: Dalton Schultz --> Teagan Quitoriano
2-WR Sets (11th in snaps, 32% of snaps)
WR: Nico Collins --> Noah Brown
WR: Robert Woods --> John Metchie
SLOT TE: Dalton Schultz --> Brevin Jordan
INLINE TE: Teagan Quitoriano --> Mason Schreck
RB Usage (17th in expected half PPR)
GOAL LINE: Dameon Pierce --> Devin Singletary
PASSING DOWN: Dameon Pierce --> Devin Singletary
Offensive Line (big leap candidate)
LT: Laremy Tunsil (top five OL)
LG: Kenyon Green (2022 1st rounder)
C: Juice Skruggs (2nd round rookie)
RG: Shaq Mason (3-year, $30M addition)
RT: Tytus Howard (average returning starter)
Our CJ Stroud in-depth video is here. In short, I think he can really play. He had +0.46 and +0.33 EPA per play on non-play action and non-RPO dropbacks, both clearly the best in college football. His 3.8% sack rate on those dropbacks are a major positive, too. He led college football in QBR in his first Ohio State season and was third in 2022, which puts him in the 92nd percentile among drafted QBs since 2005. Stroud's weapons are really bad, but his OL is quietly better than people expect. When he had time to throw, Stroud lit it up. His rushing was sub-par in college, but he let it rip in harsh weather conditions and when pressured against Georgia. I won't be surprised if he scrambles more in the NFL, purely out of necessity while trailing instead of when winning by 3+ TDs every week at OSU. Stroud should provide a floor for this offense as a rookie.
Limited athletically, Dalton Schultz has been a quality zone beater with limited YAC skills. That won't change in Houston, but will his actual role be different? Perhaps! He likely keeps up his strong 80% route rate in 1-TE sets because he's a mediocre blocker and the Texans don't have strong WRs, but there's a lot of room for 2-TE set improvement. With the Cowboys, he only ran a route on 51% of 2-TE set dropbacks because there were finesse TEs behind him on the depth chart. Houston's backups are pure blocking types, so when they do go to 2-TE sets, Schultz's route rate could jump up from his poor 51% clip that he had las year. In general, he'll be a bigger focal point of the offense out of necessity. That means he'll largely cancel out the downgrade from Dak Prescott to rookie-year CJ Stroud with a slightly better role. He was the TE6 and TE5 in fantasy points over replacement per game over the last two years.
Nico Collins benefits from the Stroud QB upgrade in particular because Collins only caught 9-of-23 deep targets. His 62% catchable target rate on all targets was amongst the worst in the NFL, too. Collins scores well in Matt Harmon's Reception Perception, and I agree with the film evaluation. He can run deep routes well but can sink his hips a little more than given credit for. In year three, Collins could turn into a more well-rounded possession receiver and is a cheap way to buy an offense that will take a tier jump in 2023. He was on pace for 119 targets in his 9 healthy games last year and saw a season-high 10 targets in his lone game without Brandin Cooks. ... Robert Woods ($10M guaranteed) is well paid, but he's not a half PPR best ball player. He'll be 31 years old and has 4-straight seasons with a sub-9.0 average depth of target. Bobby Trees didn't force a single missed tackle last year for the first time in his career, leading to his worst yards per route run season of his career (1.1). ... John Metchie offers more upside with the same low floor. Metchie is essentially a 2nd-round rookie after missing last year with a Leukemia diagnosis. He projected as a slot player with a do-everything well but not great profile coming out of Alabama. If healthy, this front office wants him to be the underneath option next to Collins. We'll see how healthy he is in training camp, but he's a player worth rooting for. ... Metchie will compete with 3rd-round rookie Tank Dell (5'10/165), who is tiny and played in the slot on 67% snaps last year. Dell was production at Houston, yet doesn't have many successful fantasy comps when adjusting for his size, four-year status, and 69th overall draft capital. That's especially true in half PPR best ball.
Dameon Pierce ran behind the 29th-best PFF run blocking unit. Despite that, Pierce was the RB19 on RB15 fantasy usage per game as a rookie. Things look better up front and with the offense as a whole this year, and Pierce's fantasy stock will benefit more than anyone. This coaching staff features RBs heavily, and he has the physicality to handle big workloads. In fact, he had 20+ opportunities in 9-of-11 healthy games. We loved his tape and underlying advanced stats. Pierce forced a very strong 0.28 missed tackles per carry for example. He's one of the most exciting young rushers in the NFL. ... He'll be backed up by Devin Singletary, who is a less bursty version of Pierce. He signed a one-year, $3M contract this offseason. I wouldn't hate if 50% of my best ball teams had one of these two RBs.
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RB21 Dameon Pierce (65.6 overall) --> BUYING
TE13 Dalton Schultz (136.0) --> Buying
WR63 Nico Collins (136.9) --> Buying
RB49 Devin Singletary (155.0) --> Buying
WR78 John Metchie (176.5) --> Mixing in
QB26 C.J. Stroud (186.6) --> Mixing in
WR85 Robert Woods (201.0) --> Fading
WR87 Tank Dell (206.2) --> Fading