For a long time, serving as Peyton Manning’s understudy was a cushy job. You took some practice snaps, watched how one of the most detail-oriented players in history went about his business, then held a clipboard on Sundays and didn’t even need to shower after the game. That all changed last year, when Father Time horse-collared Manning and forced the Broncos to go to the bullpen for Brock Osweiler. Statistically Osweiler was a little bit better than Peyton, but when push came to shove and Denver made its Super Bowl run it was Manning under center and Osweiler in a baseball cap.
Be it a bitter taste from that benching, the prospect of following in Peyton’s footsteps, or just the $72 million contract the Texans offered, Osweiler left Denver in the offseason and didn’t even return for a White House visit. His rationale was not political; instead, Osweiler says he’s focused on his new offense and new team as he attempts to give Bill O’Brien and the Texans the quarterback they feel is the missing piece for a playoff run of their own.
The Texans are genuinely excited to have Brock in town, and after trotting out Tom Savage, Case Keenum, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Brandon Weeden, TJ Yates and Brian Hoyer for meaningful snaps over the past two seasons you can understand why. O’Brien was unable to forge that amalgamation into much in the way of productivity, as collectively they averaged a pedestrian 19.5 fantasy points per game. You can skew O’Brien’s collective quarterback numbers by including the 2011 season in which he was Tom Brady’s offensive coordinator, though the resulting 39 touchdown passes and 5,261 yards have far more to do with the player than the coach.
Nothing that Osweiler did last season suggests Brady-like numbers. In seven starts Osweiler threw multiple touchdowns just twice and topped 300 yards once, with two games north of 20 fantasy points and a sub-Hoyer average of 18.8 fantasy points per game. Yes, he’ll gain DeAndre Hopkins and the speedy rookie duo of Will Fuller and Braxton Miller… but it’s an uphill argument to say that group is better than the tandem of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders he had in Denver.
The only factors working in Osweiler’s favor are a less restrictive offensive scheme under O’Brien and the burning desire to prove wrong those who thought leaving Denver was a bad decision. The upside is a younger, stronger-armed version of what Hoyer gave them, presumably minus the playoff interceptions. Ultimately it will take a leap of faith—the fantasy world’s equivalent of Houston’s $72 million investment—to trust Osweiler with a starting spot in a fantasy lineup.