The move that had everyone in the fantasy world turning heads this offseason was when Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals for David Johnson and a bag of chips. Now, even though it’s never exciting to trade away your best player, they did save money. And who knows? Maybe the offense can be more explosive with the array of weapons the Texans brought in after trading away Hopkins. Only time will tell. What we do know, is that it opened the door for Will Fuller to smash his 2020 season-long player props.
This one is pretty obvious. Hopkins accounted for 150 targets, 1,580 air yards, and a 30% target share in 2019. I think Fuller will soak up most of those opportunities in 2020. Kenny Stills is oft-injured and has not been all that impressive when given a chance to start. Aside from the playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Stills was most productive in a complementary role. Meanwhile, Keke Coutee seems to have drawn the bulk of O’Brien’s ire for reasons unknown to me.
Randall Cobb had his most productive season since 2015 last year with the Dallas Cowboys. He should be a good slot receiver for the Texans, but neither he nor Houston’s other new addition, Brandin Cooks, has any chemistry with Watson. Speaking of Cooks, he is probably one concussion away from retirement. Given his health, my best guess is that he is a decoy more often than not.
I expect Cobb and Cooks to build that relationship as the season progresses, but due to the tumultuous offseason, Fuller will have the upper hand headed into the year. It bodes extremely well for the over on Fuller’s 2020 season-long player props.
Fuller projects to be Watson’s number one wide receiver
Cooks and Cobb are new, while Stills and Coutee don’t match the upside that Fuller brings to the table. This leaves the door open for Fuller to be the target leader for the Texans in 2020.
O’Brien has always been slightly more run-heavy on early downs in one-score games since Watson entered the league in 2017.
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What the table doesn’t show you is yards per attempt and yards per rush on early downs.
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The Texans have been above league average in yards per pass attempt every year since 2017 while being below the league average in yards per rush attempt. Despite this, they have strived to be balanced or more run-heavy on early downs. I mentioned in my Texans win total article that new play-caller Tim Kelly could look to change these splits in 2020. If you look at their personnel and their performance concerning the league averages, it makes sense that they would strive to be more pass-heavy in 2020.
Duke Johnson has always been an above-average receiver out of the backfield, while Johnson had 80 receptions during his All-Pro 2016 season. I don’t see a “grind it out” running back on this roster. They will probably try to make Johnson their all-purpose back, but it makes sense to feature your best player (Watson) by throwing the ball more.
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Can we expect more pass attempts from Watson in 2020?
As far as the total number of dropbacks goes, Houston had the ninth-most in 2019 (672) and the 22nd most in 2018 (568), according to Sharp Football Stats. This translated to 506 attempts in 2018 (27th) and 534 attempts in 2019 (20th). Fuller played just 11 games last season, receiving 71 targets in the process (6.4 targets per game).
If the Texans don’t end up increasing their pass attempts, Fuller will still have a realistic shot at 120 targets, which would’ve ranked 18th in the league in 2019. However, if Houston does strive to pass more, and Fuller plays all 16 games, we’re looking at as many as 138 targets for Fuller: that’s a 24% target share at 570 pass attempts.
That is all speculation, as there is no guarantee the Texans will pass more in 2020. But, even if they keep the same ratio, Fuller has to stay healthy to receive a volume that will put him in a position to outperform his current Fleaflicker average draft position (ADP) of WR34, 80th overall.
How much of a detriment is Will Fuller’s health to his 2020 season-long player props?
There is no sugar coating the fact that Fuller is an injury liability for your fantasy squads. He’s never finished a full season in his career, even playing as few as seven games in 2018. The reason to be optimistic is that his significant injuries have been to different parts of the body. He had an ACL tear in 2018 and a core muscle tear towards the end of 2019. There is a reoccurring hamstring issue, but I’m willing to bet on it not being a hindrance for just one season.
That said, betting on Fuller’s season-long 2020 player props, and drafting him, isn’t for the risk-averse crowd. There is potential for this to go sideways. You can overcome a bust at the back end of the seventh round, however.
The opportunity cost is up for debate. Missing out on a lower-end QB1 is fine as the position is mostly replaceable, while no one will cry for the lower end RB2’s in that range. There are receivers in this range who have my interest (Michael Gallup, Marvin Jones, Christian Kirk, and Jamison Crowder), but Fuller has a higher ceiling than any of them, in my opinion.
Should we invest in Fuller in fantasy and his 2020 season-long player props?
Like anything else in fantasy and betting, there are no guarantees. Every bet/selection comes with a certain amount of risk. It all comes down to how risky you are willing to be.
At the very least, you can be assured you aren’t wagering on some “slappy” to outperform his projections. Fuller ranked as the WR15 in PFN’s Offensive Share Metric in 2019, while coming in as the WR8 in 2018. He earned an “elite” speed grade coming out of college in Kent Platte’s Relative Athletic Score (RAS), evidenced by his 15.7 yards per reception in 2018.
Fuller has as high a ceiling as any receiver heading into 2020. If you just take his most recent three-year yards per target average (9.7) and multiply it by 130 targets, we’re looking at 1,261 receiving yards, which would’ve ranked fourth in 2019. Who’s to say Michael Thomas can’t have a down year and Fuller can’t find an extra 200 yards or so to lead the league in receiving? Is it a long shot? Sure, but the FanDuel Sportsbook has Fuller priced at 80/1 to lead the league in receiving. At those odds, I think it’s worth a small wager.
As far as his fantasy stock goes, you’re looking at a potential top-five wide receiver priced as the WR34. There are plenty of paths for Fuller to outperform his ADP, and at the cost of a late seventh-round draft pick, I’m willing to take that chance.
Now, if you targeted volatility in the first few rounds, you may not want a risky asset like Fuller. I, on the other hand, prefer to go for high floors with my early-round picks, in which case Fuller fits “like a glove” (thank you, Jim Carrey).
James Aguirre is a betting and fantasy analyst at the Pro Football Network (@PFN365). For all of our up-to-the-minute picks and analysis, follow the betting group @PFNBets, the fantasy group @PFNDynasty, and James @James_AG1.