The NFL season continues to throw us cruel and unexpected twists of fate. The newest bright star of the NFL has faded from the sky for the remainder of this season. Houston Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson suffered a torn ACL on a non-contact injury during Thursday's practice and will miss the rest of the 2017 campaign, as Mike Garafolo reported.
It's not exaggerating to say that Deshaun Watson had emerged to become a true fantasy superhero over the last month. Watson leads all quarterbacks with a 9.3 passing touchdown rate. The next-highest rate belongs to Carson Wentz with 7.2, meaning Watson was quite literally lapping the field when it came to fantasy's most desirable attribute: putting the ball in the paint. If that wasn't enough, Watson also carried the ultra-desirable trait of adding to his scoring potential with rushing ability. He racked up 269 rushing yards and a pair of scores in his first seven career games.
If there's a silver lining here, replacing a lost starting quarterback on your fantasy football team is nowhere near the blow felt by the same misfortune befalling an actual NFL team. Don't panic and feel the need to run out and swing a deal for another passer. Just relegate yourself to the ranks of the quarterback streamers and be ready to play the matchups on a weekly basis. Players like Josh McCown can emerge as reliable plays of the waiver-wire. He's the QB9 heading into Week 9 and has cleared 18 fantasy points in each of his last three games. Don't forget, you likely snagged Watson off the waiver wire in your fantasy league and got a true difference-maker. You aren't likely to strike pure gold twice but you can piece together some slabs of silver to keep your season alive.
Since McCown is already likely unavailable on this short of notice due to his Thursday night matchup, we need to find other options to quickly cover your bases for Week 9. Jared Goff comes off a bye to face a Giants defense that just suspended their top cornerback. Jacoby Brissett has been a useful fantasy streamer this season and gets to face a Texans defense that has its fair share of starters on IR. Lastly, it feels uncomfortable but Joe Flacco is actually a good play this week. He was cooking before going out early last Thursday and faces a Titans defense that struggles against the pass.
Without Watson, you now need to go through this process every week in finding a replacement-level quarterback. Don't worry, our friends at the Living the Stream podcast have proven this method of choosing quarterbacks works. You will be fine. Even better, Matt Franciscovich pens a streaming column with weekly quarterback picks to help you out.
The bigger blow will be felt by everyone else in the Houston scoring attack. Every one of the Texans offensive players will see their weekly and season-long ceiling fall as a result of losing Watson. You simply cannot remove a quarterback playing at this level and expect his surrounding cast to not take a hit. Even if players see their slice of the pie stay intact, the entire dish just got a lot less tasty.
The starting quarterback job will turn back to Tom Savage, who has yet to throw a touchdown at the NFL level. Here's a quick rundown on how the change will affect each player.
DeAndre Hopkins was the WR2 in PPR leagues through eight weeks of the 2017 season. Yes, we've seen him succeed with bad quarterback play before but you can no longer expect him to have this kind of ceiling. The good news is that he will maintain a reliable floor based on volume alone. In Savage's lone start of the season back in Week 1, Hopkins owned a massive 60.8 percent share of his intended air yards on five targets. View him more as a WR2 going forward with a much wider, and less appealing range of weekly outcomes.
Lamar Miller suffers a killer blow, as Watson's emergence had quietly raised him back to the fantasy limelight. Miller had cleared 70 total yards in each of his last four games, scored four total touchdowns and was the RB13 in PPR leagues. Remember the slog that was owning Miller back in 2016 with Brock Osweiler under center? We're back to that life now. Don't fall for any "his rushing volume will increase as a result of masking the backup quarterback" propaganda. You want running backs attached to good quarterbacks.
Will Fuller also takes a massive hit. Everyone was waiting for the touchdown regression to happen. Well, we can certainly lock that in now that the NFL's best touchdown-maker in 2017 is out of the equation. Fuller just got relegated to the ranks of pure dart-throw on a weekly basis.
All of the ancillary players in the Texans offense just got pushed far off the fantasy radar. If you own any of the three players above, sure, you can explore selling them in trade. However, your leaguemates likely have internet connection too; they know about this injury. They will be just as disinterested as you in buying Texans, so giving you advice that pushes you to trade away all of these players is as disingenuous as it is useless. You're likely stuck with these players and now need to adjust your roster accordingly to fit their new values.
The tectonic plates of the NFL never stop shifting. It's what all of us signup for following this game. With every move, there are players who experience shifts in their values. With the Texans losing Deshaun Watson for the season, no one comes out without their dings. Watson most of all, as he was quickly establishing himself as an excellent player at the game's most important position and elevating a team that has desperately needed a player like him for years.
Yet, most of all, we as football fans suffer. One of the game's best young stars just left the scene of what was an immensely impressive rookie showing. Not only is he an incredible athlete but a potential face of the NFL for years to come. All we can hope for is a quick and full recovery so that we see Deshaun Watson regain the powerful momentum his career began with during a comeback 2018 season.