It is that time of year again – time to prep for fantasy football drafts! The Houston Texans, as always, come well-stocked in 2014 with solid fantasy starters and backups, featuring names like Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Garrett Graham, and even Ryan Fitzpatrick. Before diving into the receiving corps and signal callers, however, what can owners specifically expect from the Texans running game? If you are a believer in Bill O’Brien’s commitment to building the trenches, probably a whole lot of points.
Foster has been plagued by nagging injuries for the past few years, but all reports out of Houston suggest that he is 100% ready to go. With point-leech Ben Tate in Cleveland and a vastly improved offensive line (hello there, Xavier Su’a-Filo), Foster should be primed for a return to dominance. Bill O’Brien also loves using running backs as receivers, so I would expect a good amount of receptions for Texans backs this year. Foster’s health and whether or not he will be as successful in a running scheme that is not so "zone heavy" are still the two biggest lingering questions, but if anyone can make it work, it’s Arian Foster. 1,400 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns are not out of the question. I personally would not be shocked if those numbers are even higher come Week 16.
Brown has been even more snake-bitten by injuries than Foster throughout his career, but he has flashed potential to be a fine rotational running back in the past. I doubt that Brown’s body would ever hold up to a full season load as a starter, but he is a good athlete with little tread on the tires. Six to eight carries a game while Foster gets his rest should help Brown get some cheap touchdowns on occasion, and ideally will help keep Foster from wearing down towards the end of the year. If Foster does get hurt again, however, Brown is talented enough to be a reliable handcuff in emergency situations. He is not Ben Tate (few people are), but he could get some decent point totals in a pinch. I would not blame anyone for spending a late round pick on Foster insurance.
Dennis Johnson has potential to be "Shane Vereen Part Deux" in Bill O’Brien’s offense this season. With blazing speed and excellent quickness, Johnson is more of an open space weapon than he is a true running back. I foresee a lot of third down situations where Johnson is used as a mismatch receiver on slower, clumsier linebackers, and he may get a couple nice touchdowns out of that role as well. It would be prudent to wait until about five or six games into the season to plug Johnson into the lineup while his role develops, but he is an intriguing late round flyer in PPR leagues.
Blue is the wildcard in the Texans’ running back stable. It is tough to tell just how many running backs O’Brien will be keeping on the roster after camp; other than Foster, nobody is a true "lock" to make the team. I imagine that Blue will be battling with both Brown and Johnson for the number two spot while also fending off Deji Karim and Jonathan Grimes further down the depth chart. Considering that the front office did use a draft pick on him this past May, it is okay to assume that Blue will be given a fair shot to earn the job. If O’Brien decides to keep Brown, Johnson, and Blue after camp, dynasty owners should take notice. He might not get many chances this season (or any at all, really), but Blue’s slashing running style and solid receiving ability could pay dividends in the future as a possible Robin to Arian Foster’s Batman.