32 Questions: Houston Texans
Thirty-two teams, 32 burning fantasy questions. Throughout the preseason, we put one of these questions to an ESPN.com analyst for an in-depth look at the most interesting, perplexing or dumbfounding fantasy facet of each NFL team. Be sure to check out all 32 questions.
What does Matt Schaub mean to the Houston Texans, and your fantasy team?
Honestly, I don't think Matt Schaub means a lot. Head coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman are schooled in the ways of the run-first offense, and that's what they've got planned for 2007. Sure, the fact that it's not David Carr running around in the offensive backfield like his hair's on fire will tempt these coaches to throw a little more, but given the state of the tackles on this offensive line, the depth (or lack thereof) of this receiving corps and the signing of Ahman Green this offseason, the Texans are mostly going to ask Schaub to play a caretaker role, at least this season.
For all the frenzy surrounding the starting quarterback on Schaub's old team, what's lost is the enormous risk the Texans took in deciding on the 26-year-old University of Virginia product as their leading man. Houston gave up two second-round draft picks and swapped picks in the first round of the '07 draft, all for a guy who has two career starts and 161 total NFL passing attempts for 1,033 yards. It's almost as if the Texans said to themselves, "OK, spending the first pick in the draft on a quarterback didn't work out so well; what's say we grab a late third-rounder from a few years back whose name nobody knows, and try him?" I'm not saying it can't work out. I'm just saying the odds Schaub smoothly transitions from fantasy nonentity to fantasy starter in 2007 aren't good. I think he'll toss about 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, and be a bye-week quarterback this year.
Another question that arises when it comes to Schaub is whether or not this move helps or hurts the other fantasy elements on this team. Most importantly: Does Carr's departure free up Andre Johnson to become a top-10 fantasy receiver? I'm going to say not quite, though Johnson should remain a top-20 guy. AJ led the NFL in receptions last season with 103, but was just 11th in receiving yards and scored a paltry five touchdowns. Some of that was no doubt because of Carr, but also the offensive line rarely gave the quarterback enough time to throw controlled passes down the field, and there were so few other weapons in Houston, teams could key on AJ to the exclusion of everyone else. I like the fact that Schaub throws a nice deep ball, and I do think Johnson tops five scores this year, but to me, 10 touchdowns is a real stretch.
Why? Well, the O-line isn't much better; while the interior line could be decent with converted tackle Chester Pitts playing guard and Mike Flanagan returned from broken ribs, I don't trust tackles Jordan Black (assuming the free-agent signee wins the job from Ephraim Salaam) and Eric Winston. In other words: Poor pass protection, which resulted in 41 sacks allowed last season and 68 in '05, is still going to be a problem. Also, you have to be concerned about the Texans' apparent inability to locate a complementary receiver for Johnson. Eric Moulds was a mess last season, and he's gone. Right now journeyman Kevin Walter and his 47 catches in four NFL seasons are slated to line up opposite AJ, with rookie Jacoby Jones a possibility in the slot. Otherwise it's an assortment of David Anderson, Charlie Adams, Bethel Johnson, Andre Davis, et al, and my point is: None of these guys will provide a reason not to double-team Andre Johnson.
The running game could perk up this year. As I said, I think the interior line could be all right, and while I'm not so sanguine about Ahman Green by himself (I don't have him among my top 30 running backs), I think some combination of Green, Wali Lundy, Ron Dayne, Chris Taylor and Samkon Gado can add up to one productive fantasy back. Maybe some of that is due to Schaub. Generally speaking, though, while Schaub offers the possibility of a brighter future for Andre Johnson and tight end Owen Daniels, I think it's a stretch to say he represents a major boost. The Texans continue to be a work in progress, and if you're going far out of your way to start anyone on this team except Johnson, you're drinking the Houston Kool-Aid.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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