News & Analysis

Texans boost fantasy football stock by boosting offensive line in Tunsil deal

Dec 9, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (78) prior to the game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Right when it seemed like the NFL’s Saturday of action was set to die down, the Houston Texans had one last hammer to drop, reportedly finalizing a trade with the Dolphins for OT Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills for a package of picks. For fantasy football, strange as it may seem, Tunsil is actually the more interesting player in this deal.

Tunsil, who had the No. 16 pass-blocking grade among 85 qualifying tackles last year at 79.5, immediately slots in as one of the best linemen on a Texans line that badly needed the help, ranking as the second-worst line in our preseason rankings. The man he likely replaces in the starting lineup, Julie’n Davenport, had the 11th-worst grade at the position.

For a team that hasn’t had a top-20 team run-blocking grade since 2014 (or top-30 since 2016) and saw its quarterback forced to take a bus to a game last year because he was so banged up he couldn’t fly, any line help could be massive. Duke Johnson, newly the team’s starter after a trade less than a month ago and a torn ACL for Lamar Miller, only has 299 career carries, only topping 100 as a rookie in 2015 (when he had 104) and didn’t cross 3.0 yards after contact per attempt until his 40-carry 2018. He has upside in this offense, but any help the line can give him is obviously good. Johnson is flirting with top-30 status among running backs, and this might push him over the edge.

Meanwhile, that quarterback, Deshaun Watson, could use the help staying upright. He was the most pressured quarterback in 2018 … after being the most pressured quarterback in 2017. He was sacked 61 times last year. Tunsil, better at pass-blocking than run-blocking, will be tasked with protecting the franchise quarterback. Watson was already pretty firmly the No. 2 fantasy quarterback, so this doesn’t change his stock much, but it is nice to see.

Stills feels like a throw-in on this deal, someone who Miami wanted out after some off-field friction. So long as Will Fuller and Keke Coutee remain healthy behind DeAndre Hopkins (no sure thing with those two, to be sure), it’s hard to see Stills carving out much of a role in this offense. He’s completely undraftable after this move.

Meanwhile, in Miami, this move opens up space at receiver for, in particular, Albert Wilson and Preston Williams. Wilson locks down the Dolphins’ slot role now, with Williams, a fast riser in the preseason, locking up a definite spot in the rotation. The problem, of course, is that the league’s worst offensive line just got significantly worse. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen (if and when the second-year player takes over the starting role) will be running for their lives all season. That’s not a great recipe for productive fantasy receivers. If you feel like taking a flyer on Wilson or Williams in deep leagues, there’s nothing wrong with it, but this has a chance to be a truly awful offense that saps fantasy value out of all of its players.

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