Fantasy Football: Sorting out the Houston Texans RB situation

Will someone emerge from the Houston Texans RB mix and be a viable fantasy option this year?

Houston Texans, Fantasy Football

The Houston Texans project to be one of the worst teams in the NFL this year, with Deshaun Watson unlikely to play and general dysfunction all around. But to write off the entire team in fantasy terms is a mistake. “Someone has to catch passes, get carries, etc.” applies here.

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The Texans created a dreaded RBBC when they signed Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay and Rex Burkhead to join David Johnson. Johnson wasn’t a complete stiff last year (RB19-standard fantasy scoring and half-PPR, RB21-full PPR), but he missed four games and left a void when he didn’t suit up.

Ingram is a notable name, but he fell out of the mix in Baltimore last year as they transitioned to J.K. Dobbins and to some extent Gus Edwards. Burkhead and Lindsay occupied part-time roles for their old teams last year. Johnson’s name value is diminished-this is 2021, not 2016 (or even 2018).

Fantasy Football: Sorting out the Texans RB situation

In early July, Sarah Barshop of ESPN pointed to Ingram as a cut candidate before Week 1. That still seems possible, even though he was listed as a co-starter on the Texans’ first depth chart. The reality is the former Heisman winner is 31 years old and hasn’t gotten to 650 yards on the ground in two of the last three seasons.

As mentioned, Johnson was a solid producer in 2020 with 1,000 total yards and eight total touchdowns. But he’s not the clear lead back anymore. Maybe he is first in line for goal line opportunities. But he may also share what promises to be a low volume of red zone chances with Ingram.

When he was able to play for the Patriots, and able to navigate Bill Belichick’s running back rotation, Burkhead showed solid dual threat ability. But he never had more than 67 carries in any of the last four seasons. If there’s a potential frustrating vulture candidate in this backfield, it’s Burkhead.

Lindsay was an undrafted free agent in 2018, and he followed with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons for the Denver Broncos. They thanked him by signing Melvin Gordon in the 2020 offseason, then they let him go after rescinding a RFA tender this offseason. Justin Edwards of 4for4.com offered the following note.

Lindsay had the unluckiest touchdown rate amongst the 60 running backs who had at least 80 carries (five per game) in 2020, finding the end zone only once on 118 rushes (0.85% TD rate). 

Over his first two seasons, Lindsay had 16 touchdowns on 416 carries (3.8 percent touchdown rate). So he’s ripe for some scoring correction.

Let’s look at an ADP sampling for the four Texans’ running backs, courtesy of Fantasy Pros.

Johnson: RB35 (standard scoring), RB33 (full PPR), RB34 (half-PPR)
Ingram: RB60 (standard), RB65 (full PPR), RB59 (half-PPR)
Lindsay: RB52 (standard), RB49 (full PPR), RB50 (half-PPR)
Burkhead: N/A (standard), RB110 (full PPR), RB107 (half-PPR)

Johnson is in RB3/flex range by ADP, and that also looks like his ceiling in a Deshaun Watson-less offense. Ingram is in RB5/RB6 range, with faint upside should he seize a notable role (goal line vulture?). Lindsay is in high-end RB5 range. Burkhead is wait-and-see waiver wire fodder, as he has always has been on draft day.

No one would be blamed for avoiding all Texans in their fantasy drafts. But someone will get touches/targets/opportunities in their offense. Among the running backs, there is an easy pick based on the virtual certainty he outproduces his draft position. I may be an optimist, but I’m putting Lindsay on a RB2 finish this year.