Training camp battles are what starts the fantasy cogs turning, here we focus on the battle in Texas. The next few months will consist of 32 training camps as we have never seen before, and I am sure the players will echo those thoughts.
Staggered player schedules, no clear COVID-19 procedures and the confirmation of no preseason games would be disruptive for any player.
All this uncertainty will translate to our fantasy teams. Many leagues are already adding Injured Reserve (IR) spots and/or leagues being pushed back until we get a clearer picture of this ever-changing situation.
I asked you for some of the pressing battles that you feel need to be decided through these training camps and will have huge impacts on your fantasy teams.
Training Camp Battles: Your Chosen Faceoffs: Texans Wide Receivers
With 332 targets allocated to wide receivers in this Texans offense in 2019, there are plenty of targets to go around now that DeAndre Hopkins plays his football in Arizona, and takes his 150 targets with him.
This leaves Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller V, Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills all to battle it out for the WR1 job. So where are these targets likely to go?
Texas Battle: Brandin Cooks
After acquiring Cooks in a trade with the LA Rams, the wide receiver sees his third team in four seasons. On reflection, that does not look great, especially when you see in 2019 that Cooks only got 583 yards off 72 targets. But in those same four seasons referenced too, Cooks topped 1000+ yard seasons in three of those and at 26 is at a good age as is still a solid athlete with elite speed.
Cooks health concerns are a massive grey area. The numerous concussions over the years are worrying and have a chance of re-occurring in Houston but I struggle to see anyone else morphing into an alpha on this offense other than Cooks. The amount of games that Cooks has played over the years is a bit deceiving for me.
Watson is going to need someone to rely on when games are on the line and Cooks is certainly going to have to be that man. He has the speed to create separation and the talent to make plays. Also, if you believe in trends, then Cooks is set for another 1000+ yard season on another new team.
Texas Battle: Will Fuller V
Fuller V is the definition of high risk, high reward in your fantasy lineups.
The wide receiver has missed 22 games in just four seasons since being in the league with continuous hamstring issues. However, unlike Cooks concussion issue, a hamstring injury, and a continuous one at that is so detrimental to any football player. We have seen over the years that Fuller V cannot get over the injury bug and you have to assume this continues into 2020.
It is unfortunate as Fuller V has all the talent and the landing spot to succeed. Watson loves to target Fuller V, shown by his 6.45 targets a game in 2019, alongside having 23% of the Texans total air yards when on the field. You just cannot rely on Fuller V.
Most importantly, my targets projection would be his highest since his rookie year (90 targets) if he was to achieve it. However, the chance of that happening seems to get slimmer as each season passes on.
Texas Battle: Randall Cobb
The former Cowboy comes over from Dallas after signing a 3 year, $27 million contract in the offseason, to the feature receiver in the slot for Watson.
This likely means that ‘11’ personnel will be optimal for Houston in 2020, meaning Cobb will operate primarily from the slot with Cooks and Fuller on the outside. The slot receiver in this offense appeals a lot to me, let me try and explain why.
With the deep threats in Fuller and Cooks being the main worries in this offense, the slot receiver or WR3 can generate a lot of separation from his man and gain easy first downs. Cobb showcased this skillset in Dallas last season. For example, finishing tied-12th for target separation among wide receivers, gaining 15.1 yards per catch, the highest of his career so far.
Above all, those two stats matter so much as with a lack of a receiving tight end or short and immediate threat in the passing game, Cobb instantly becomes this guy and absorbs all these targets.
O’Brien, as explained earlier has thrown the chequebook at Cobb this offseason to give this offense some versatility. The days of Watson falling over himself trying to find a receiver open downfield as I witnessed with my own eyes in London could be far and few between whilst Cobb is producing in the mid-field.
It is not an exciting fantasy pick for your teams, however, Cobb will be a very valuable one throughout the 2020 season.
Texas Battle: Kenny Stills
A player who will only see targets once again due to injuries to players above him in the depth chart, 2020 could be looking a bit bleak for Stills.
Above all, Stills is coming up on the final year of his contract. Stills may even be cut before Week One commences with the $7 million he is owed if O’Brien decides to keep him on the 53 man roster.
I guess that O’Brien will keep Stills and the former Miami receiver sees limited production week-to-week.
In conclusion, if we are going off the same total of 332 targets that Watson threw to WRs last season, here is how I have it broken down based off just these 4 WRs (saying hypothetically that Coutee does not see the field):
- WR1: Brandin Cooks – 116 targets
- WR2: Randall Cobb – 90 targets
- WR3: Will Fuller V – 75 targets
- WR4: Kenny Stills: 52 targets
Image Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel – USA TODAY Sports