The jaw-dropping trade of all-world receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals earlier this year was one of myriad bizarre events of 2020. The Houston Texans landed a former fantasy football stud in running back David Johnson, suggesting the offense will attempt to commit more to the run than in recent years.
In lieu of Hopkins, head coach Bill O’Brien’s offense will have to make do with less individual talent and transform the Deshaun Watson-led passing attack into a game of strategic distribution.
Personnel roles and fantasy football expectations
The likeliest place to find a strong fantasy football season among the wideouts is Will Fuller, and it will require him to stay on the field for 16 games — something he has yet to do as a pro. He’s returning to form from surgery to fix a core injury, which is the latest in a long list of ailments ranging from multiple hamstring strains to a broken collarbone to a torn ACL. Trusting him to play every week is asking for trouble, yet he is bound to come through sooner or later, right?
Fuller has worked hard on improving his body mechanics and conditioning to ensure he can stay on the field. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he has the makings of an NFL WR1. He’s a fringe fantasy No. 1, but the durability factor drives his value down considerably. His ADP is the early seventh round in PPR, and that’s a fine time to take a stab at him.
Opposite Fuller entering the season is journeyman Brandin Cooks, who is coming off of his worst season as an NFL receiver. Cooks has proven he can pick up an NFL playbook on the fly and excel. Concussions are a concern, and it’s unclear how much chemistry he has with Watson at this point, given the offseason’s difficulties. There is considerable value to be found in the veteran with an average placement of Round 7. He has gone as late as the fifth pick of Round 9 in recent leagues polled.
Another veteran on his second team in as many seasons is Randall Cobb. He’s expected to man the slot position and provide a safety valve for Watson. Gone are the days of having any fantasy football optimism surrounding a big year from Cobb, although he can contribute meaningfully with the right matchup. He’s not a draft-worthy option, however, so treat him as a DFS value or a waiver play to survive bye weeks.
Kenny Stills came over from the Miami Dolphins last year in a trade and was erratic. He missed two games with a bum hammy and another with a mild knee sprain. The downfield weapon turned it on late in the year, going for double figures in PPR in four of his last six appearances, including the playoffs. There’s a severe limitation on targets without a player ahead of Stills going down for significant time. He finds the field for matchup exploitation and in vertical sets. It’s often tough to project receivers with limited playing time. His best value is in a best-ball league as a WR6 or so. Stills will be a hot waiver target should Cooks or Fuller miss action.
Watson is good enough to get the most out of this receiving corps, and it’s not like these guys haven’t found success at various points in their respective careers. We’re not talking about an awful cast, just one that isn’t as flashy on paper as it would have been with Nuk Hopkins’ name atop the depth chart. Assume some risk and don’t hesitate to invest a midround pick in Fuller or Cooks.