The biggest question for Andre Johnson is obviously if he will even be in the building come Week One. Holdouts are never good for fantasy numbers, and that goes doubly so for holdouts that have to learn entirely new playbooks. If and when Johnson does eventually rejoin the team, he theoretically should still be the number one passing target, but he may not produce like a number one target until well into the season. No matter how much experience you have, getting truly comfortable with a new system takes a lot of reps. The less reps Johnson has under his belt during the offseason, the less he will produce on Sundays. Compounding the issue even further, Ryan Fitzpatrick is developing chemistry with every receiver on the roster but Johnson. It would not surprise me if Fitzpatrick, Tom Savage, and Case Keenum are all much more comfortable throwing the ball up to Hopkins and Posey than to Andre Johnson early on. The more time Johnson misses, the further I would wait to draft him. The middle rounds are an appropriate place to snatch up the future Hall of Famer…for now.
Johnson’s loss is Hopkins’ gain. Hopkins has the reps and the chemistry advantage with Fitzpatrick so far in 2014, and it would not surprise me if he ends up as the Texans’ leading receiver through the first four or five weeks of the season while Johnson gets acclimated. Hell, it would be even less surprising if Hopkins turns into this year’s Alshon Jefferey. 1,100 yards and double digit touchdowns are not out of the question, especially when that question involves the prolonged absence of the one man higher on the pecking order. There are many worse ways to use a mid-round pick.
Contrary to his statistics thus far in his young career, DeVier Posey is a really good wide receiver. He suffered an unfortunate Achilles injury at the end of his rookie year that likely lead to the selection of DeAndre Hopkins in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Now more than a year and a half removed from the injury, Posey should be fully healthy for the first time in a long while. Crisp routes, soft hands, and a great work ethic are the defining traits of Posey, and all of them should serve him well under Bill O’Brien. I could easily see him move into a "big slot" role in three-receiver sets at first, and possibly even challenge for playing time as a starter early on if Andre Johnson is not fully ready to go. Most of Posey’s value will come as injury insurance for Houston’s top two wideouts on the outside. If one of them goes down for any length of time, Posey is talented enough to pick up where they left off without any drop in production. Posey is a late round pick for now, but don’t be shocked if he starts ascending as his role becomes more defined.
In theory, Martin’s quickness and route running should make him the ideal slot receiver in Bill O’Brien’s offense. What Martin does not have, however, is a working pair of hands. Drops have plagued Martin throughout his young career thus far, and until I see anything different on the field I can only assume this problem won’t get better. If you are in a league that counts return yardage, Martin could be a good depth play as Houston’s primary punt returner (or so it would seem). Other than changing field position, it is hard to say if Martin will play any significant role on this offense going forward. I would find it very hard to draft him unless he shows signs of improvement catching the ball.
Despite being lower on the depth chart than Posey and Martin, Mike Thomas could end up being Bill O’Brien’s slot machine in 2014. Small, fast, and laterally explosive, Thomas has impressed a lot of people in the O’Brien regime since being brought in after the 2013 season. If (and that’s a big "if") Thomas wins the job as a full time slot receiver, his value will skyrocket. Posey and Martin will take hits to their stock of course, but Thomas could end up being a very valuable late round steal for owners that keep tabs on Texans camp battles.
Bonner is someone to keep an eye on in dynasty leagues. He likely will not have any significant role this season beyond return duty, but Bonner could end up being the slot receiver of the future if Mike Thomas and Keshawn Martin don’t work out.