Around this time of year, fantasy football managers sometimes need to make bold moves to upgrade their rosters ahead of the fantasy playoffs, as sometimes the unlikeliest of names make a significant impact on your playoff run. Could one of those unlikeliest of fantasy heroes be Houston Texans RB Rex Burkhead, who is out there on the majority of waiver wires? Or is there a reason he remains unclaimed and should stay that way in Week 14 as the Texans take on the Seattle Seahawks?
Despite the workload, Rex Burkhead struggles to put up fantasy points
After watching the backfield go from a four-person committee to a two-man group, we (or at least I) thought maybe, just maybe, Burkhead could stabilize this backfield by giving us something to hold on to when it came to fantasy. By no means did I believe he would be a critical fantasy asset because, after all, this is the Texans in the year 2021. But I mean, come on, throw us some crumbs.
Yet, things did not improve. In fact, they might be worse. In Week 13 against the Indianapolis Colts, Burkhead rushed just 8 times for 30 yards in a shutout loss. After recording 30 carries in the two previous games, this was a considerable decrease. His targets were down as well, as he recorded just a single catch on 2 targets for 15 yards. In the week prior, Burkhead had 30 yards on 3-of-3 receiving. Even his snap rate dropped, going from 61.4% in Week 13 to 46.2% on Sunday.
This makes the fourth game in a row the former Patriot failed to score double-digit fantasy points. Even during this recent stretch where he saw 43 opportunities, Burkhead scored just 17.9 PPR points…combined.
Nonetheless, it’s not like anyone else is doing better in this backfield. In fact, Burkhead has the most recent TD among Texans RBs, and that was all the way back on October 31 against the Los Angeles Rams. To go even further, that’s the only TD since Week 2 for Houston’s RBs, who have combined for 5 scores the entire season. And 3 of those TDs came in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a game we thought would be for the No. 1 pick.
The Houston Texans are the worst team in the NFL at rushing. Full Stop.
I do not mean this as a pure observation or adding in bias. Just from a purely statistical point of view, the Texans are objectively the worst in the NFL at running the ball.
Despite sitting 23rd in attempts with 285, they are dead last in yards (945), touchdowns (6), yards per carry (3.3), and yards per game (78.8). They also have the 11th-most fumbles (16) and are seventh-highest in rush attempts/fumble (17.8).
They even have a clean sweep from a fantasy perspective in pure rushing stats. On the season, the Texans’ backfield is 32nd in fantasy points per rush (0.35), fantasy points scored on the ground per game (10.88), and total season points accumulated via the run (130.5). For context, the NFL average for all three categories is 0.54 pts/rush, 16.88 points/game, and 205.05 on the season.
We all saw this coming in a way given the state of the franchise
I know it seems I have piled it on, and to an extent, I have. Yet, to understand the fantasy value and legitimacy of a waiver wire claim on someone like Burkhead, we need to also understand where the Texans are overall, as not all touches are created equal. Houston is a team in the beginning stages of a rebuild, all the while watching for the latest news report on their polarizing quarterback. You don’t only have two wins by Week 14 by mistake.
I can sit here and rattle off every stat where they are last or bottom-five in the NFL, but we know what we are dealing with here. None of this was unexpected. All offseason, we hoped for at least one viable fantasy player on this roster: WR Brandin Cooks. Sitting at WR23 (somehow), at least we have that. I feel anything else might be getting greedy.
With Week 14 closing in, should fantasy managers place a waiver wire claim on Rex Burkhead?
Well, I feel we all know where this is going. This backfield is as chaotic as it gets — and not in a good way. In a week where David Johnson was out (illness/thigh), Burkhead saw just 2 more snaps than Royce Freeman and even was behind Freeman on routes run 13 to 8.
We also might have another player get in on the fun. Scottie Phillips is expected to return from injured reserve after missing time due to an ankle injury. A few weeks back, the move to release Phillip Lindsay was actually to make room for Phillips’ arrival. That tells me this team has a plan to get Phillips touches, which further complicates this backfield.
This is the time of year I try to load my teams with backup RBs. Guys like Sony Michel, Marlon Mack, Devontae Booker, Khalil Herbert, Samaje Perine, or even Ronald Jones. Not because I want to start them, but because if something happens to the RB ahead of them, they have an instant path to touches. All of a sudden, you could have a league-winning asset on your hands.
Houston’s overall offensive inefficiency limits Burkhead’s ceiling
Even now, I can’t put Burkhead into that same category, as Houston’s offense hamstrings him. We know he is good. For years, Burkhead was the Swiss Army knife of the Patriots’ backfield and proved to be a solid and capable rusher and receiver.
But for right now, barring a rare TD, I struggle to find a way Burkhead is worth starting as anything more than a high-end RB4. If that’s what your team needs, by all means, go for it. He can fill that gap and even has what most would call a favorable schedule, taking on the rush defenses of the Seahawks, Jaguars, and Chargers. I am not brave enough to start him with playoffs on the line, but I am sure there are leagues where Burkhead might be valuable to someone.