It’s going to be difficult for the Houston Texans to have the kind of one-year turn-around that the Kansas City Chiefs pulled together last year after holding the No. 1 pick in the draft, because the Texans don’t have a viable quarterback on the roster (the Chiefs do in Alex Smith, who was solid last season despite having little help at WR). They do, however, have a strong foundation after making some incredible picks at the other positions this year, as they managed to come away with Jadeveon Clowney, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Louis Nix, C.J. Fiedorowicz, and the underrated Andre Hal. Let’s take a look at five topics pertaining to the Texans in this week’s “Friday Fades”, with a special focus on the skill positions.
1. Huge things on the horizon for DeAndre Hopkins?
The type may be in boldface, but this is far from a bold prediction of any sort. While I’ve had Keenan Allen ranked ahead of DeAndre Hopkins ever since the pre-draft process in 2013, it’s clear to me that Hopkins is the second-best WR from that class. Cordarrelle Patterson is a dangerous playmaker who should have a great year with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm, but Hopkins is the far more complete receiver. This is a guy who managed to catch 52 passes for over 800 yards for the Texans last season despite having an imploded Matt Schaub and Case Keenum throwing passes to him, and he also had just 91 targets. Andre Johnson pretty much hogged the touches in the Texans passing offense, as he was thrown at a whopping 181 times.
That number gap is going to decrease next season, unless if Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, or Tom Savage screws up by over-targeting the franchise icon too often. Hopkins has shown that he can bring an awful lot to the table as a wide receiver, as he averaged over 15 yards per reception and is easily the team’s best deep threat. At this stage of their careers, Hopkins is much more explosive than Johnson, and he has the hands and route-running to move the chains. I think he’ll have a phenomenal 2014 season, and he won’t need a Johnson trade in order to shine. Of course, the most important thing for Hopkins is getting better quarterback play so that his numbers can adequately reflect his ability, but that will be hard to come by next season.
2. Speaking of a Johnson trade…
It’s not happening. If the Texans somehow trade him away, then I will pick my teeth off the floor after immediately collapsing once I hear the news, because it makes absolutely no sense. I’m sure he’s pissed that the Texans idea of building the team involved waiting until drafting Savage to address their huge hole at quarterback, but I have a feeling he’ll get over it. Bill O’Brien should be able to talk Johnson out of doing anything drastic, especially if the Texans plan is to draft a top QB next year like Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, or Bryce Petty (and no, I don’t have Brett Hundley on that shortlist at this moment in time).
Here’s what it boils down to: the Texans would never get fair value for Johnson. Ever. What team is going to give proper compensation for a disgruntled, 32-year-old wideout who is signed until 2017. There’s no financial flexibility in that, and veterans almost never net a team fair compensation in a trade. Don’t believe me? The Buffalo Bills had to settle on getting a conditional fourth-round pick from the San Francisco 49ers when they traded Stevie Johnson. Stevie has less value than Andre, but the Texans star wideout wouldn’t even score Rick Smith a first-round pick. They would be crazy to trade Johnson, unless if they get desperate; I doubt it gets to that point.
3. Arian Foster and expectations
My expectations for Arian Foster next season are pretty much through the roof, and I’m not overly concerned about injuries issues yet. Foster played in just eight games last season and showed some wear-and-tear after years of Herm-Edwards-on-Larry-Johnson-like abuse when Gary Kubiak was leading the way, but the Texans feature back will get a bit more rest next season after the team signed Andre Brown. I mean, they didn’t add a quality RB2 in free agency to have him warm the bench, so Foster will get some much-needed breathers.
Norv Turner stated earlier this offseason that he’s interested in giving Adrian Peterson more looks out of the backfield in the passing game, and O’Brien also stated that he’s looking to get Foster more involved in the passing game. It would be borderline-ridiculous not to use Foster as often as possible as a safety valve out of the backfield, especially considering just how limited the Texans QBs are. Last season, Foster had just 22 receptions, which was inexplicably less than Ben Tate‘s 34. In the three years before 2013, Foster had reception totals of 66, 53, and 40. That steady decrease in receptions will end in 2014, and it would be disappointed to see a RB with his hands and ability/savvy after the catch net less than 40 receptions.