Houston Texans Fantasy Football Preview: Matt Schaub is the Key

Aug 11, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (8) looks to pass the ball during the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

The Texans are looking for a return trip to the playoffs, but the key to their season and your fantasy season all rests on the shoulders of Matt Schaub.

I'm not a guy that buys a lot of jerseys, but one of the few football jerseys that I ever bought was a Texans jersey. The player that I bought? "TEXANS" with the number "02." I'm sure right now you're say, "Hoo boy, what da heck is you talkin' 'bout?! This guy is crazier than a bucket full 'o varmint droppings!"

It was a jersey that I had bought when they were named as an expansion team, before they had any players. I like expansion teams because I like the idea of watching something grow and build from nothing. The Texans, as are all expansion teams, weren't a rebuilding project ... they were simply a building project. Slowly and steady they were improving, but the Texans could not get over the hump until finally last season when Peyton Manning left the division and Wade Phillips completely transformed their defense into a dominant one.

For the first time in franchise history, the Texans won the division and went to the playoffs. That's good news, but it's also pretty disappointing to see that after Matt Schaub went down, their offense fell apart. In 10 games with Schaub, they averaged 27.3 points per game. In six games without him, mostly with T.J. Yates, they averaged 18 points per game. People often wonder if Andre Johnson makes Schaub what he is, but as great as Johnson is, I think we should wonder how much Schaub helps elevate Andre.

Johnson missed nine games last year, but while Schaub could help the Texans score without Andre, it didn't work the other way around. The Texans had games of 30, 37, and 41 points without Andre but didn't score more than 20 without Schaub except for their playoff win over the Bengals. They also lost to the Panthers, Colts, and Titans to end the season. The Colts.

So yes, as a long-time Schaub supporter (gross?), I feel justified that I've been saying how important he is to that team. He's equally as important to your fantasy team as the most capable player of leading them to touchdowns and keeping the value of your skill players in Houston at a high level. Here is a preview of the 2012 Houston Texans offense.

2011 Record: 10-6

Drafted Skill Players: DeVier Posey, WR (3rd), Keshawn Martin, WR (4th). Also Randy Bullock, K (5th)

Dearly Departed: Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Jacoby Jones, Derrick Ward, Joel Dreessen

QB

Matt Schaub

Like I said, I'm happy that I've stuck by Schaub's side for so long and feel that I've been proven right. Over his last four seasons, covering 53 starts, he's completed 65.1 percent of his passes for 276.6 yards per game, 83 touchdowns, 43 interceptions and a QB rating of 95. Of course, the issue is health, as Schaub has missed 16 starts in five years as a Texan, but even if I ding him a little bit for that, he's a starting fantasy QB.

They're easing off his workload and Schaub attempted only 29.2 passes per game last year after attempting 35.8 per game in 2010. That means less touchdowns perhaps as they move with Arian Foster and Ben Tate, but the Texans also drafted a couple of wide receivers and if you have more talent to throw it to, you'll throw it more. He's one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL.

2012 Projection: 64 percent completions, 4,200 yards, 25 touchdowns, 11 interceptions

T.J. Yates

In his second NFL start, Yates threw for 300 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against the Bengals. In his last NFL start, he was 17 of 35 for 184 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions in a playoff loss to the Ravens. He showed promise as a rookie, actually, but the Texans aren't going to risk having to sign Jake Delhomme at the end of a season again. They signed John Beck and all-time NCAA passing leader Case Keenum to start working with the team sooner.

Maybe Yates could develop into something. Maybe Beck would do better with a better offense around him. Maybe Keenum isn't just a spread quarterback. Houston is hoping that they never have to find out.

RB

Arian Foster

In his last 33 games including playoffs, Foster has rushed for 3,341 yards on 695 carries (4.80 yards per), caught 130 passes for 1,298 yards, and scored 36 total touchdowns. Right now, yes, he's the best running back in the NFL. It's easy in the modern game to expect he could falter after two seasons of greatness, and yes that is possible, but I wouldn't say it's probable. He did his injury time last year and was fully healthy afterwards.

2012 Projection: 300 carries, 1,450 yards, eight touchdowns; 60 catches, 600 yards, two touchdowns.

Ben Tate

If there is any risk to Foster in fantasy football, it's Tate. Behind Foster, he was actually one of the most valuable backs in the league per Football Outsiders. He ran for 942 yards on 175 carries and if he ever needs to start in place of Foster, he's a top 10 back EASILY.

He had three games of 97 or more yards after Foster returned from injury. He's probably the first backup RB that I draft.

2012 Projection: 150 carries, 900 yards, six touchdowns

Justin Forsett

Because of the style the Texans run, you have to be aware of all of the backups just in case. That's why Tate was such a hot late rounder last season (plus the fact that Foster was hurt) but you should know who these guys are because even Derrick Ward had a little value last year. Forsett proved he's not an every down back in Seattle, but he could definitely have some big gains in Houston.

As the full-time starter at Cal when he was a senior, Forsett ran for 1,546 yards and 15 touchdowns. There's definite pop in there and he can catch it a little, too. If anything happened to one of the guys ahead of him and he became the change-of-pace back, he could also have some interesting value in Houston's offense.

Jonathan Grimes and Davin Meggett are the other players fighting for a roster spot.

WR

Andre Johnson

Want to know how good of a wide receiver prospect Charles Rogers of Michigan State was? He was drafted ahead of Andre Johnson. And if I was the Lions GM, I would have done the same. But Rogers is long gone while Johnson is one of the most prolific receivers in history, well on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Injuries derailed his 2011 season, but in the four years before that he had 5,211 yards and 33 touchdowns in 54 games. He led the NFL in yards per game in three of those four seasons. He's caught more than 100 passes three times since 2006 and he was well on his way to catching 100 passes in 2007 and 2010 if it wasn't for injuries. Oh, the injuries.

He missed nine starts in 2011, three in 2010, and seven in 2007. But he's playing now and I'm not going to miss on Johnson with blatantly good value just because I'm scared. I don't like to go into drafts with worry and then realize I missed a Pro Bowler who was available two rounds after he should have been. You think Johnson is old? Thirty-one is not old for a Hall of Fame WR. Is it possible he falls off? Of course. But I'm not going to bank on it.

Johnson played in three full games to start 2011 and had over 90 yards in each of them, totaling 316 yards on 21 catches. I don't believe he was fully healthy for the rest of the year, until maybe the playoffs ... when he had 201 yards in two games.

Yeah, he's still a top 5 receiver.

2012 Projection: 14 games, 85 catches, 1,260 yards, 8 touchdowns

Kevin Walter

Even in the absence of Andre Johnson, Walter never really stood out. He had 81 yards and a touchdown in week five, 70 yards in week eight, and 76 yards and a touchdown in week 13. Otherwise, he didn't do anything. I wouldn't draft him.

2012 Projection: 40 catches, 500 yards, three touchdowns

Lestar Jean

Despite the Texans drafting two receivers this year, 2011 UDFA Jean is running with the ones. He has caught six passes for 92 yards in the preseason after spending 2011 on IR. His experience with this team, this offense, his offseason with Schaub, really seems to be paying off for Jean and he could start in Jacoby Jones' place. Houston isn't a stranger to finding UDFA gems.

2011 Projection: 25 catches for 450 yards and three touchdowns. With potential for much more, because he is relatively unknown but possesses good upside.

Keshawn Martin and DeVier Posey

Despite being drafted before him, Posey is behind Martin right now. Posey has yet to catch a preseason pass and Kubiak has said that he's behind the rest of the group. Both are longshots to contribute this year, but Martin is less of a longshot.

TE

Owen Daniels

I still think he can do better. The loss of Dreessen could be a blessing for Daniels, as right now nobody else is a high profile tight end on the roster. At least not as "high profile" as whatever profile Dreessen is at. But he was a TE TD vulture and now Daniels could be back on his own.

Daniels had a few good games in 2011. He'll a few more than a few in 2012.

2012 Projection: 65 catches, 800 yards, five touchdowns

That be it for them Texans, ya hear?

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