Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson took an absolute pummeling in 2018. He was sacked 62 times, played through a cracked rib and collapsed lung, and even had to take a bus to Jacksonville from Houston because the team doctors were worried about his health in the pressurized cabin of an airplane. Watson also dealt with injuries to his receivers all season, sans DeAndre Hopkins until the end of the year, and still ended up being the QB4 last season. After throwing at least one interception in the first six games of the season, he had just one regular season game the rest of the way where he threw an interception. From the start of Week 8, Watson posted a 16:2 TD/INT ratio and had just one game where he completed less than 70-percent of his passes. With another full offseason in the Bill O’Brien offense and entering the preseason healthy, Watson should be able to build upon last year’s success, considering he has his best arsenal of weapons since he entered the National Football League.

Due to his garbage offensive line in 2018, Watson was under duress often, even against lesser-talented pass rushes. However, per Pro Football Focus, Watson’s 88.2 passer rating under pressure was the best in the league. When the offensive line actually found a way to impede the opposing pass rush, Watson posted a 17:4 TD/INT ratio, and his 74.2-percent completion rate was tied for fourth-best in the National Football League, per Pro Football Focus.

Watson ended the year as QB4 in fantasy football, but from Week 8 on, he was QB3, per Pro Football Focus. Over the last six weeks of the season, only Josh Allen had more fantasy points than Watson. He was efficient and effective, and the further he was removed from the torn ACL that ended his magical rookie campaign, he became more effective running the football. In the final six games of the season, Watson threw eight touchdowns and added four rushing touchdowns during that span.

Watson could improve his total touchdown numbers in 2019, given his massive usage in the red zone. Not only was Houston the sixth-most pass happy team in the red zone last season, per Sharp Football Stats, but he also had 31.3-percent of the team’s rushing attempts in the red zone, per Pro Football Reference. Watson totaled 31 touchdowns last year, but he could easily surpass 35 this year, especially if guys like Will Fuller and Keke Coutee can get, and  stay, healthy.

Watson enters 2019 with his best supporting cast of weapons since he entered the league. DeAndre Hopkins ’ workload in the preseason has been managed closely, but he should be full-go come the season opener against the New Orleans Saints. Will Fuller is working back from his torn ACL last season and all signs point to him playing in that opener. Sure, his route tree might be a bit limited until he gains more confidence in that knee, but the training camp videos show Fuller moving quickly and crisply. Keke Coutee got hurt in the season opener, so his availability might be limited to begin the season, but Watson has had plenty of games without Coutee, so getting him healthy is just a bonus for Watson. The team traded for Duke Johnson , and Houston envisions him being an asset out of the backfield and likely even taking reps out of the slot at times, given his shiftiness and explosiveness. Lamar Miller can be effective in the passing attack when called upon, but he is also great in pass protection, helping keep Watson upright when his offensive line falters. At tight end, Jordan Thomas , Jordan Akins and rookie Kahale Warring have the potential to create unique matchup opportunities, especially in the red zone. Additionally, the offensive line should be improved this season with the additions of Tytus Howard and Max Scharping, although it could be all for nothing if Matt Kalil remains at left tackle despite looking completely useless in the preseason.

Lastly, everyone wants to use the schedule argument against the Texans this season, which is fair, considering they are going from a brutally easy schedule in 2018 to an expected brutally difficult schedule in 2019. There are concerns for Houston’s secondary against the slew of upper echelon quarterbacks they will face this season, but doesn’t this bode well for Watson? Remember 2017? Houston’s secondary struggled to slow down opposing offenses, forcing Watson to rack up yards and touchdowns to give Houston a fighter’s chance to win football games. Houston gets the NFC South this year and the offenses in that division will likely put up some points against the Houston defense, but their defenses are more susceptible to statistical dominance from Watson, Hopkins and Co.

If anyone is going to supplant Patrick Mahomes as the QB1 in fantasy, it will be Watson. Even if the Texans don’t replicate the 11 wins from last season, the total fantasy output should be higher, due to playing better quarterbacks, and in turn leading to more lucrative fantasy outputs. With a healthy arsenal of weapons and a schedule that is littered with potential shootouts, Watson is in line for his best fantasy season as a professional, and perhaps the QB1 title by season’s end.

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