Exactly one year to the date, I wrote this very same article predicting each Texans’ targets for 2018. How'd I do? Well let's just say a lot can happen in a year, but at least we got one or two predictions almost spot on. Deshaun Watson was predicted to have 512 pass attempts - he threw 506 passes... not too shabby in my opinion.
Editors note: players with less than 10 targets in 2018 are not included.
2018 Texans Targets
|Player||Predicted 2018 Targets||Actual 2018 Targets|
|Player||Predicted 2018 Targets||Actual 2018 Targets|
Looking back, I was obscurely high on TE Stephen Anderson. Clearly Anderson was not as proficient as the rookie tight ends that would replace him. Another thing... do you remember when Bruce Ellington was on this team? It’s like Keke Coutee has wipes Ellington from our collective memory. Injuries to Will Fuller V and Bruce Ellington distributed a significant portion of the targets to unexpected receivers Jordan Akins and Demarius Thomas.
Now onto 2019... because Bill O’Brien controls the realm and his unwavering stubbornness keeps this offense sputtering just above mediocrity... we will keep the predicted pass attempts at 32 per game. Even with many more credible options at Watson’s discretion, it is reasonable to say that the elite talents of Hopkins and Fuller will continue to see the overwhelming abundance of receptions.
DeAndre Hopkins: Projected Targets: 148 (9.3 per game)
Week in and week out, Hopkins is the best player on the field. He is all about embarrassing opposing defenses that throw everything they have at him with no avail. He is among the greats all time in terms of catching the ball in traffic. He currently sits at number 127 on the NFL Receptions Career Leaders list, and with another spectacular season of around 100 receptions, he could be approaching the top 60-70 career receiption leaders. That’s a major leap for a player in his seventh season. Hopkins had over 10 targets in 11 of 16 games last year, so there’s no doubt that he will be Watson’s primary target heading into 2019
Will Fuller Projected Targets: 93 (5.8 per game)
This is of course considering Fuller is healthy for a full season. Fuller doesn't need a bounty of targets to rack up massive numbers. Last season he averaged 6.4 targets a game before his ACL injury sidelined him for the rest of the year. The combination of a long recovery process, other receivers demanding more attention, and a poor offensive line limiting down-field throws partially hinders the quantity of targets Fuller will receive. Though 93 is a plentiful amount for any NFL receiver, Fuller’s talent and potential for explosive plays renders him an integral part of the Texans offense moving forward.
Keke Coutee Projected Targets: 73 (4.6 per game)
Two games against the Colts last year cloud our judgement on the impact he will have on the Texans. Though his hamstring issues appear to be in the rear-view, Coutee will be the third option on the team and therefore limited in the full quantity of targets. Expect Coutee’s route tree to expand this year to more down field plays and less gimmicky behind the line of scrimmage quick passes. How reliable, available, and healthy Coutee is will greatly affect this offense as he is the key to unlocking deeper throws and 3rd down conversions.
Jordan Thomas Projected Targets: 57 (3.6 per game)
This number may be aggressive seeing that he only received one target each of the last three regular season games last year. Ideally, Thomas does what Ryan Griffin could not do... and then some. His massive frame and dependable hands make him an intriguing part of this offense heading into 2019. The buzz around him may be greater than his talent level, but his use case as a red zone target is undeniable. Between the other tight ends, Thomas has the highest projected targets and most likely to break out this season.
Lamar Miller Projected Targets: 29 (1.8 per game)
Now to the cluster of players whose projected production should all be fairly similar. Last year was the lowest number of targets and receptions for Miller since his rookie year. He certainly has a couple good years left under his belt, but he could potentially be splitting snaps with D’Onta Foreman by the end of the season. As well, there are increasingly better quality receivers on the roster for O’Brien to dial up plays for, so Miller may not need to be featured in the pass game as often. Mainly in the form of screen passes and short curls over the middle, Miller is a solid safety valve for Watson.
Kahale Warring Projected Targets: 28 (1.8 per game)
There’s no telling if Warring projects out to be a stud multi-talented tight end in the league or just another tumbleweed in the desert of failed projects, but there’s a ton of intrigue surrounding the Texans’ third round pick. His athleticism jumps off the page when studying his collegiate highlights, but his resume of opponents certainly lacks the luster of other incoming tight ends. Around two targets per game seem right for the player who will have to battle to find a spot in the offense. Unsure about what distinctly Warring brings to the table the the Texans don’t already have, but he is a candidate for a breakout first year that is for sure.
Jordan Akins Projected Targets: 27 (1.7 per game)
I want to like Akins. Maybe because he was a third round pick and the Texans should maximize his talents based off his draft value. Maybe because I like the concept of the Jordan Twins (Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins). Or maybe because I feel he may never get a fair shot to develop, but I’m in Akins camp to succeed this season. Last time I felt this way about a tight end they didn't make the roster (I’m talking about you Stephen Anderson). Akins is a load to bring down and cerebral player on the field. The team hopes he can develop into a three-down tight end with both run blocking and pass catching capabilities. A major leap from year one to year two is necessary for Akins to break through this tier of pass catchers.
D’Onta Foreman Projected Targets: 21 (1.3 per game)
If there is one player I’d be happy about being wrong for, it’s Foreman. The road back from an achilles injury has been long, but Foreman is finally ready to step back into the spotlight and pick up where he left off his rookie season. Foreman’s presence will be more apparent in the run game, but as Texans fans learned in 2017 he can catch the ball out of the backfield with impressive consistency. Foreman made several impactful plays in 2017 by getting open down the field while Watson scrambled out of the pocket. The running back should be rearing to go by the time the season begins.
Vyncint Smith Project Targets: 18 (1.1 per game)
There is one game in Smith’s future where he makes 5-6 receptions and scorches a team unprepared for him. Who that opponent is I have no clue, but just like in the Week 16 game against the Eagles, Smith could be the player teams purely cannot account for in their preparation. He will be entering his second season in the NFL, and the WR out of Limestone College has a lot to prove before worrying about the number of targets he will receive. Smith steps in for Fuller as a downfield threat in case of injury. As the number four option at WR, Smith’s potential targets hinges on injuries to other players at the position.
Darren Fells Projected Targets: 18 (1.1 per game)
Everyone loves to see a big man catch the ball. The thing is Fells is actually pretty good at it. A fourth tight end on the roster is doubtful, but Fells’ leadership, blocking ability, and red zone potential compiles the Texans to not only keep him on the roster but implement him in the passing game. Expect a lot of play action pass receptions and broken plays to be the source of Fells’ targets.
Other players to consider are DeAndre Carter, rookie Johnnie Dixon, and RB Josh Ferguson. All three could see a few targets here or there depending on depth and their ability to make the roster. Carter played a role in the offense last year as the slot receiver and motion man on jet sweeps.
This is an abundantly better receiving group than in the past, but can they put it all together is the question.