What's the Fantasy Football Impact From Deshaun Watson's Injury?
Football, the game we love, is a wonderful sport. However, it’s one main flaw is how brutal the nature of the sport can be on the bodies of the players. As it is every year, it's been apparent this season, with players like Aaron Rodgers, Odell Beckham, and Zach Miller suffering injuries that will keep them sidelined for quite a while.
But sometimes, it doesn’t always take contact for a serious injury to occur. Sadly, that’s what we saw when the Houston Texans' star rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson went down with a non-contact ACL tear in practice on Thursday.
Any injury is unfortunate, but it's even worse after seeing Watson take the league by storm in his rookie campaign. Despite not starting in Week 1 and also having a bye week, the signal caller is tied for the league lead in passing touchdowns.
He was well on his way to winning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, especially since his passer rating had found itself among the best ever for a first-year quarterback.
Deshaun Watson's 103.0 passer rating this season is the 2nd-highest in NFL history by a rookie QB (minimum 200 pass attempts) pic.twitter.com/aqMmUudnaq
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 2, 201
As the 11th-best passing offense according to numberFire metrics, the Texans are on pace to score 491 points in 2017, a total that will almost certainly not be reached with Tom Savage now under center. If the offense regresses to the 2016 version, it'll be a bottom-10 unit.
With that being said, Watson's injury not only puts Houston in a tough spot, but also plenty of fantasy football owners who have invested heavily in the other offensive weapons on this squad. What kind of ripple effects will this news have?
As noted in the chart below, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins leads the NFL in target market share.
Weird seeing two RBs this high up on the list, but here are the current leaders in target market share: pic.twitter.com/waIn8KTJdV
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) October 31, 2017
Even with this injury, Hopkins should still continue to get targets. In the two games last season in which Savage had double-digit pass attempts, Hopkins accounted for 35% of the targets, which is nearly identical to the target market share he's posted so far in 2017. This is certainly a small sample, but it's at least somewhat encouraging from a volume standpoint.
Touchdowns are inherently random, but with Watson under center, Hopkins was on pace to post a career-high 16 touchdowns. We'll never know if that would've actually been attainable or not with the rookie signal caller, but it'll be hard to feel confident in the wideout's scoring upside since Savage has yet to throw a touchdown pass in his career, which spans 105 total attempts.
As mentioned, the volume will still be there, but the overall production certainly takes a hit. In non-Watson starts since the beginning of 2016, Hopkins is averaging 45% fewer PPR points.
Even if Watson didn't get hurt, wide receiver Will Fuller was bound to see regression at some point -- that's what happens when you're scoring touchdowns on 54% of your receptions. Unfortunately, that regression will be coming much quicker with the unexpected change under center.
He wasn't getting a ton of targets in the four games he's played in this year, with the only time he's eclipsed six targets in a game coming in Week 8. Now without a quarterback that's proven he can get him the ball deep, Fuller's value takes a precipitous drop.
Despite the incredible (and unsustainable) production he's provided this year, Fuller was the WR61 in standard formats in 2016 and can be considered no more than a WR3/Flex going forward.
While pass catchers like Hopkins and Fuller will likely take the biggest hit without Watson tossing them the pigskin, it's not as if running back Lamar Miller escapes unscathed. After all, we can't just assume that his value goes up because Houston will have to lean on the running game more now.
Only the Jacksonville Jaguars (199 pass attempts) have thrown the ball fewer times than the Texans (217 attempts) this season, so it'll be difficult for them to be more run-heavy than they already are. And without the threat of Watson throwing the ball, opposing defenses will be able to plan their attack against the run much differently than before.
With four touchdowns in seven games (compared to six all of last year), Miller was enjoying the benefits of a more efficient offense around him. He should remain the workhorse in the backfield and will retain his value for the most part because of the volume he'll receive, but it's still not looking nearly as rosy as it was earlier this week.
While we'll have to wait and see exactly how the impact of Watson's injury actually shakes out on the field, it's hard to feel overly optimistic at the moment with regard to the three main beneficiaries of his stellar rookie year -- especially based off how we've seen them perform thus far.