One of the biggest questions in football heading into the 2021 season is the availability of Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson. The off-season began with Watson wanting a trade out of Houston. Soon, allegations began to surface, and a major Civil Lawsuit was filed. That case likely won’t be settled before or even during the season, with Watson not scheduled to be deposed until February of 2022. That raises big questions about his eligibility, with many speculating he’ll land on the Commissioner’s Exempt List before Training Camp.
When Watson is on the field, he’s electric. The Texans finished just 4-12 in 2020, but Watson was a bright spot. He threw for 4,823 yards and 33 TDs, rushing for 444 yards and three touchdowns. That was good enough to be QB5. Watson is a game-changer for any team when he’s on the field, but even if he’s available to play, there’s no guarantee he’ll do so for the Texans.
So, if not Watson, who leads the Texans’ attack for new coach David Culley in 2021?
This off-season, the Texans have added to their quarterback room. The team signed Jeff Driskel, the veteran backup who had stints with the Bengals and Lions before 2020 with the Denver Broncos. While he has starting experience, the more likely veteran candidate is Tyrod Taylor, who came over from the Los Angeles Chargers. In fact, the Texans signed Taylor to a one-year, $5.5 million deal that indicates they’re preparing for the worst.
Taylor has plenty of starting experience, having taken the field as a starter for the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and the Chargers. He is 24-21-1 in 47 career starts, having thrown for 9,770 yards and 54 touchdowns with only 20 interceptions. He’s also added 1,850 yards rushing and 16 rushing touchdowns. His best season came in 2017 when he was 8-6 with the Bills and guided them to the playoffs.
If Watson is out, Taylor is a veteran who can start for a team. But he’s not the only option.
The Texans spent their first draft pick of 2021, the third pick in the third round, on Stanford quarterback Davis Mills. Mills is likely something of a project, having appeared in just 14 games for Stanford. He threw for 3,468 yards and 18 TDs, with 8 INTs. Mills added 86 yards rushing and three touchdowns, all of which came in 2020. Selecting Mills with the team’s top pick given its other needs indicates the team likes his potential and wants to provide options.
Mills likely isn’t a Week 1 option, but if the Texans are without Watson and looking toward the future, he’s someone that could see the field.
At this point, you’d need a crystal ball to know what will happen with Watson. He could be ineligible to play, be eligible to play and sit out barring a trade, or be on the field in Houston. If Watson is available and present, he’s the Texans’ best option and one of the best in the league. But that’s a big if. Personally, I believe Watson will miss the entire season, likely on the Commissioner’s list. In fact, it’s no lock he’s available in 2022.
Without Watson, it’s Taylor, Mills, Driskel, or perhaps another option. The Texans could trade for a veteran or sign someone cut during training camp. But for a team with limited playoff prospects and little cap space, it makes more sense to rely on the in-house options. Taylor is currently going as QB39, and while I don’t love his ceiling, a starting quarterback in the NFL returns fantasy value.
I suspect Taylor starts and is the guy most of the season, returning QB3 value, with low-end QB2 upside. Mills, meanwhile, is going undrafted in some formats and has been a fourth or fifth-round selection in rookie drafts. He’s a guy I’m grabbing and stashing, ideally on a Practice Squad. I suspect toward the end of the season, if the Texans are out of the playoff chase, they will want to see what they’ve got in Mills.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, part of the Campus2Canton network.