Filling the Void: Texans Quarterback
Gone is Matt Schaub. Welcome to the Ryan Fitzpatrick era Houston Texan fans.
Matt Schaub stinks. Just ask around. This is what pretty much everyone believes. Did you know that the last three seasons in which Schaub has appeared in 16 games he's thrown for at least 4,000 yards with 22 scores? Did you know that Tony Romo threw for only 3,828 yards last season? How about that Andrew Luck only threw for 23 scores? Point being that Schaub was a productive passer when he was healthy enough to play the full schedule. No worries Texans fans Schaub is out after he was moved to the Raiders. Now you get... Ryan Fitzpatrick. How will the move under center impact the Texans offense in 2014? We'll investigate.
Matt Schaub (to Raiders): 219-for-358, 2,310 yards, 10 scores, 14 INTs
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 217-for-350, 2,454 yards, 14 TDs, 12 INTS
* Both quarterbacks failed to play a full slate of games in 2013: Schaub 10, Fitzpatrick 11. Making the switch under center will lead to the following changes based on 2013 production:
- eight pass attempts
- two completions
+ 144 yards
+ four touchdowns
- two interceptions
OFFSEASON OFFENSIVE LOSES
As Jeff Mans pointed out in the 2014 FantasyAlarm.com NFL Draft Guide, which is epic by the way, the Texans have a new HC and will change from the cut blocking scheme that made the club a dominating club on the ground. New HC Bill O'Brien likes to run, but he deploys a more traditional base set a lot of the time with the fullback leading the way for the tailback. O'Briens' system will tend to funnel a lot of balls to the tight end position – it's why the name C.J. Fiedorowicz is one you should file away (as you should with Garrett Graham) – and the scheme will also take shots downfield. Can Ryan Fitzpatrick, or Case Keenum for that matter, take advantage of that scheme? Doesn't seem likely. Consider the following data points from Pro Football Focus.
Matt Schaub threw 53.6 percent of his passes last season under 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, well above the league average of 49.3 percent (Casey Keenum threw 32 percent of his passes in the 5-10 range, the 4th highest total in football). O'Brien might want to stretch the field this season, but can Ryan Fitzpatrick do that? Last season with the Titans Fitzpatrick threw 30.1 percent of his passes in the 5-10 yard range, above the league average of 26.9 percent. We all know, anecdotally at least, that Fitzpatrick simply doesn't have the arm strength to drive the ball downfield. He's also unable to consistently attack defenses outside the hashmarks limiting him to a lot of short, quick hitting routes (he threw 28.3 percent of his passes last season to slot receivers, a huge increase on the league average of 19.7 percent).
I'm confused. Why would someone do this?
The offensive line had some issues with pass blocking last season (PFF had then ranked as the 5th worst unit in football in that respect). With the desire of O'Brien to pass the ball a bit more, and to stretch the field while doing so, the O-line is going to have to up their game to give Fitzpatrick time to let plays develop. Whether they will have success doing that, at least early in the year, is in question. Last season Schaub faced pressure on 41.8 percent of his drop-backs, the 6th highest total in football (teammate Keenum was under even worse duress at 45.5 percent, the second highest mark in the game). Schaub also held on to the ball an awfully long time as just barely 18 percent of his drop-backs resulted in him releasing the football in less than two seconds, and that was the 5th lowest total in the league. Quick hitting passes seem to be in order considering the offensive line's limitations, and the skills of their QB.
OFFENSIVE WEAPONS – SKILL POSITIONS
Arian Foster is an elite back when healthy. He wasn't healthy last season, considered retirement, and is already dealing with hamstring issues in camp. Ben Tate is gone so it's Andre Brown, Jonathan Grimes and Dennis Johnson in the backfield behind Arian. Foster better stay healthy.
Out wide the Texans have a disgruntled Andre Johnson who, for now, will play nice. The hope is that the 33 year old can avoid the nagging issues that have crept up with him and that DeAndre Hopkins can take a quantum step in his second season in the NFL.
At tight end gone is long time stalwart Owen Daniels. In his place the team will utilize Garrett Graham and first year C.J. Fiedorowicz. C.J. has size, he stands 6'5” and weighs 265 lbs, and he's got a rather large catch radius with his big hands. He's more of a chain mover than a field stretcher. Last year Jeff Mans predicted the breakout of Jordan Cameron. This year he's a big believer in CJF.
FITZPATRICK – PROFILE
A 10 year veteran, Ryan is know for going to Harvard and for having a beard. When people know you more for your hygiene habits than your “game,” you know there could be trouble. A competent NFL quarterback, he's not likely to make folks forget about Schaub. For his career Fitzpatrick has 106 touchdown passes and 93 interceptions, hardly an exciting ratio. He's also completed just 59.8 percent of his passes. In his two full seasons as the starters with the Bills (2011-12) he averaged 3,616 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. Those aren't exactly world beating numbers. As also noted, Fitzpatrick simply doesn't have the arm strength to challenge defenses deep. That's an issue for O'Brien who would like to stretch the field vertically. This seem like a very odd match on paper.
Finally, it should be noted that Fitzpatrick has shown a nasty tendency to regress as the season wears on. In fact, his first half TD/INT ratio is 1.32, while that number drops to 1.02 in games 9-16. Not exactly a heartening trend for those of us in the fantasy game that will be in the playoffs when his game goes south (the month of December includes a career worst month mark of 57.9 percent in the completion percentage category while his TD/INT is awful at 0.71).
Things really haven't gotten any better when compared to 2013 for the Texans' offensive attack.
What could go wrong?
You already know it, but just to confirm, Fitzpatrick is barely on the QB2 radar, even in two quarterback leagues.