It’s hard for the Houston Texans to do anything without having people scratch their heads. Last season, they went all-in on a second-round pick and David Johnson for All-Everything wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. They fired Bill O’Brien, who pulled off that trade, and seemingly little else has changed in Houston. David Johnson turned out to be just fine, missing four games but averaging 84 yards per game when he played. Thank God the Texans can’t leave well enough alone, and decided to jam two additional players into that running back room, both on two-year deals. The Houston Texans adding Mark Ingram (32 years old) and Phillip Lindsay (26 years old) spells nothing but trouble for David Johnson in 2021 and for fantasy football, unfortunately.
First, the contracts. Mark Ingram and Phillip Lindsay both signed one-year deals. The Texans took advantage of situations created by Ingram & Lindsay’s prior teams, as the Ravens cut Mark Ingram before free agency, and the Broncos cheapened out by putting an original-round tender instead of a second-round tender, which saved them about a million dollars. Then, the Broncos went out and got Mike Boone, making Lindsay redundant. The important part: there wasn’t a bidding war for either player’s services, and neither player’s previous team really made any effort to retain their services. That’s… not great. Throw in the fact that the Cardinals gave David Johnson a big contract, then went out and traded for Kenyan Drake and relegated David Johnson to the middle bench and you have three guys whose team didn’t make any effort to keep before they absconded off to Texas.
As an aside, I have 49ers season tickets, on the away team sideline. During the Cardinals at 49ers game in November of 2019 (after Kenyan Drake joined the team), my brother-in-law asked “where’s David Johnson? Is he even active?” I looked around and finally found him behind everyone else, just sort of playing catch by himself. At least he seemed happy.
I’m not super worried about the situations being left behind by these guys. Mark Ingram played 61 snaps in the last 11 games of the season in 2020, as the Ravens frequently left him inactive to play Gus Edwards. Lindsay hit IR in weeks 17 and 17, but only passed 50% of snaps once in 2020. The Broncos made an effort to get him the ball, as he notched double-digit touches in about half his games. Unfortunately, in most of those games, he didn’t do much with his touches; Lindsay passed 80 total yards three times in 2020. David Johnson averaged over 84 yards per game.
As for Ingram and Lindsay on the Texans, I’m not super worried about them taking David Johnson’s role. David Johnson seems to have hit his second act as the new Frank Gore. Subsequently, Mark Ingram is 32 and the Ravens didn’t exhibit “big truss” (remember that, from the before times?) in him. Denver showed Phillip Lindsay the door after signing Minnesota’s #3 running back on the depth chart to replace him. All-in-all, none of that speaks to them taking David Johnson’s role. Now, taking David Johnson’s touches? That’s a different story.
In his first year with Houston, David Johnson averaged 16 opportunities per game. He was effective with those touches, averaging 4.7 yards per carry and 9.5 yards per reception. But those sixteen opportunities per game don’t really give you a lot of wiggle room to come down from. Outgoing running back Duke Johnson Jr. didn’t get all that much opportunity for Mark Ingram and Phillip Lindsay to pick through, either; he averaged just 10.2 opportunities per contest. That’s 26 opportunities per game split three ways, instead of two ways, in 2021.
Should the Houston Texans hang onto both Ingram and Lindsay, that spells trouble. Throw them each 6-7 touches per game, and you’ve cut David Johnson’s workload in half. This will likely send David Johnson down to the RB3 range. Which, actually, sounds pretty good, to me. There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Texans and their RB situation, but I doubt all three make it all the way through the season. We’ve seen David Johnson share a workload with another back in Houston last season. David Johnson is a draft-and-stash, ideally an RB4, but someone I would want on my roster for that cost. Should he go in the top-20 range, I am fully out on David Johnson.
What about Mark Ingram and Phillip Lindsay? Well, they combined to have two games over 15 fantasy points last season in full-PPR, which is about a top-20 game in any given week. Should a path clear for one of them (through a cut and an injury, for example), then we might see some top-20 value. But, I’m not holding my breath. If you’re obsessed with handcuffs, then Lindsay is your guy in Houston. All-in-all, however, we quickly turned a solid-but-productive situation in Houston into a three-way nightmare mess.
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Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/80/Mark_Ingram_Jr._2020.jpg, edited under CC BY SA 2.0