Every new season in the NFL, established veterans begin their inevitable decline and new players spring themselves into the spotlight. For the upcoming 2018 season, we at FPC Texans have decided on three of those breakout players who will help Deshaun Watson and the potent Texans offense reach new heights.
1. Keke Coutee – Wide Receiver
Texans general manager Brian Gaine selected Coutee out of Texas Tech with the 103rd overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Now that he is on the Texans, Coutee will compete against the likes of Braxton Miller and Bruce Ellington. But I’d argue that this won’t be much of a competition, as Coutee’s natural speed, elusiveness, and solid hands will easily land him the slot receiver job.
This explosiveness was not seen by last season’s starting slot receiver Braxton Miller, whose abysmal 47.0 grade ranked 94th among wide receivers on Pro Football Focus. Bruce Ellington was even worse, with his 46.7 grade ranking 97th among wide receivers. It is not much of a question as to whether Coutee will be the Texans slot receiver, but when.
And when he does file into the slot, Coutee will become a force to be reckoned with and will become a breakout receiver in 2018. This is because in college, Coutee always required extra attention from safeties as his natural speed and elusiveness repeatedly led to him gaining separation from defenders. But now that he is on a Texans team with weapons like Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins, safeties will be forced to take their attention off of Coutee and towards one of the best wide receiver duos in football.
With less attention being focused on him, Coutee will be open constantly, and quarterback Deshaun Watson will start to feed him on short routes throughout the season. The type of usage I see Coutee getting this season due to his speed could be end up being a pint-size version of what Jarvis Landry had done for the Miami Dolphins the past four seasons.
2. D’Onta Foreman – Running Back
Incumbent Lamar Miller was having arguably the worst season of his career last year, having a career-low 3.7 yards per rush, which gave room for rookie D’Onta Foreman to have more opportunities. And in his final two games of the season, it looked like he may even run away with the job, starting in Week 10 and afterwards rushing for 65 yards and two touchdowns on ten carries in Week 11 against a stout Arizona Cardinals defensive front.
Sadly, that outstanding Week 11 performance would be cut short, with Foreman suffering a torn achilles after his second touchdown. This injury would cause Foreman to miss the rest of the 2017 season, and left the door open for Alfred Blue, who eventually carved out a large role for himself over the final weeks of the season.
With Foreman and Blue carving out their own roles over the 2017 season, and Lamar Miller losing his own, the Texans backfield is shaping up to be a running back by committee in 2018, and I believe Foreman will be the running back to separate himself from the rest of the pack in his sophomore year.
Foreman’s game against the Cardinals gave many Texans fans, and better yet head coach Bill O’Brien, optimism for the future of his career. With the loss of Arian Foster, and now the decline of Lamar Miller, Texans fans are yearning for another back that can be consistently fed the ball and carry the offense.
And Foreman is just the man to carry that mantle, garnering 2,028 rushing yards, 15 rushing touchdowns, and a first-place finish for the Doak Walker Award, which honors the best running back in college football. He did all of this while being a major workhorse for the Longhorns, receiving a tremendous 323-carry workload.
3. Julie’n Davenport – Offensive Tackle
Julie’n Davenport was drafted 130th overall out of Bucknell. The reason the Texans drafted him is because of his monstrous 6’7″, 318 pound frame and tremendous athleticism. The one problem with Davenport was that he was still a raw player, which led to many expecting him to develop for a few years before he got any consistent playing time.
But instead, the Texans offensive line was one of the worst in football last season, which forced Davenport into a starting role his rookie season. Davenport did poorly after starting a few games in 2017, putting up an abysmal 47.6 grade on Pro Football Focus.
After being thrown into the dog pit in his rookie season, Davenport looks to take a major step forward this season and capitalize on his tremendous potential. That is why he is currently the favorite to play left tackle in 2018 and protect Deshaun Watson’s blindside.
Davenport will almost surely take this position now that rookie Martinas Rankin has gotten surgery on a gruesome foot injury that he suffered during rookie minicamp. Now that he has undergone the surgery, Rankin will most likely miss all or most of training camp. This leaves little to no competition for the starting left tackle job.
With the starting role, prior experience, and outstanding potential, I see Davenport becoming a staple on the Texans offensive line this season.