It’s after the Fourth of July, which means that it’s high time we turn our attention to fantasy football sleepers, breakouts, and busts for every NFL team. The ADP is per 4for4’s ADP data. We started with the AFC East, switched to the AFC North, and we now move on to the AFC South. Will Houston remember that they have a football team? Have the Texans changed enough to exorcise the Deshaun Watson bad vibes? Will Bobby Slowik get screamed down as, “a nerd with a bunch of spreadsheets?” We answer none of those questions, and more, with the Houston Texans’ sleeper, breakout, and bust!
Sleeper: C.J. Stroud, Quarterback (QB32, Pick 240 Overall)
Stroud is the uncontested starter in Houston, a fact that was made abundantly clear by the fact that the other quarterbacks on the roster are Davis Mills and Case Keenum. While Mills and Keenum had their days in the sun in the past, this is Stroud’s roster, and neither of them is taking it from him. The Texans took Stroud second overall in the 2023 NFL Draft out of Ohio State. Stroud started only two seasons for Ohio State (they had a guy by the name of Justin Fields before, I think you’ve heard of him), but in those two seasons, he threw for 8,123 yards, 85 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions across 25 games, adding in 88 rushing yards (which isn’t much of anything). But, I will take 325 passing yards, 3.4 touchdowns, and 0.5 interceptions per game (10% TD rate, 1% INT rate, and 9.8 yards per attempt) out of my second overall pick any day of the week.
Stroud walks into a situation where he’s lacking significant weapons, but also into a quarterback-friendly offense. New head coach DeMeco Ryans, like Mike McDaniel and Robert Saleh before him, is bringing OC Bobby Slowik and the 49ers system to the Texans. This turned Jimmy Garoppolo, Brock Purdy, and even Nick Mullens into temporary fantasy football stars, and none of them are C.J. Stroud (though, technically, Purdy and Stroud went three picks apart). He also walks into some heady comparisons: Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott, and Jared Goff among them.
Breakout: John Metchie, Wide Receiver (WR77, Pick 216 Overall)
John Metchie lost his 2022 campaign due to a successful fight with leukemia. However, he was a stud for Alabama in the 2021 season prior to tearing his ACL, which caused him to slide a bit in the draft. Now, Metchie is healed from the ACL tear, and the leukemia, and he’s ready to roll. We can probably see a massive target load from Metchie this season, as he showed he can handle that in college, getting 10 targets per game his senior season, on which he totaled 96 catches, 1,142 yards, and 8 touchdowns. While the receiver room does not have a true “alpha” in Houston, Metchie is likely as close as it comes, but he has contenders for the throne in Nico Collins and Xavier Hutchinson (shout out Walker Kelly).
At 216, I want to take a shot on Metchie becoming the go-to receiver for Stroud. Mostly because it would be a great story, but because I felt great about Metchie last season prior to his leukemia diagnosis. By all accounts, he’s ready to roll, so let’s roll with him.
Bust: Dameon Pierce, Running Back (RB20, Pick 53 Overall)
Did Dameon Pierce produce a ton for fantasy football last season? Undoubtedly, yes. He averaged 85 yards per game and had five touchdowns in thirteen games prior to missing the last four games of the season. But, was he good? Well, not really. He was good at creating yards per carry (2.37, top-ten in the league) but his overall juke rate (31%) and breakaway runs (0.7 per game) are both behind new teammate Devin Singletary (32% and 0.76, respectively). Pierce laps Singletary in yards created per rush, with Singletary ranking 24th and Pierce 6th. However, both are still among the best in the league at that statistic.
What’s all this supposed to prove? That Dameon Pierce was good but I don’t think he is good enough to stave off Singletary’s touches. And that’s really what Pierce had last year: a ton of touches. His 19.9 opportunities per game (16.9 carries, 3 targets) ranked eighth in the league last season, and yet, his fantasy point per opportunity ranked fourth-lowest in the NFL last season among the 33 backs with at least 200 opportunities, with his 0.64 ranking just behind Cam Akers’ 0.64 fantasy points per opportunity. All that came together to be the RB20 in fantasy points per game… but that was with getting the eighth-most touches.
If all Pierce had going for him last season was his big role, and the new guy in town might be better than him (he’s certainly a better pass catcher), then that might just mean… that he’s not worth his RB20 price.