2019 IDP Projections: Houston Texans

Tom Kislingbury

As per last year, I’ll be sharing projections for every team in the NFL. I use past production in specific roles for each team’s scheme to work out realistic production profiles. You can see how accurate I was in 2018 in my IDP Projection Marking series.

Just two or three years ago, the Texans had the best defense in football. Now it’s all of a sudden pretty mediocre. The presence of big names makes people think they create a ton of pressure but they’re really middle-of-the-pack in that regard, and they’ve been trying to rebuild their secondary for a couple of years now.

Added to this is plenty of confusion about their scheme. They spend most of their time in an even front, but fans often don’t see it that way. J.J. Watt still has a reputation for being an interior pass rusher even though he hasn’t been that for several years. And Jadeveon Clowney is known as an outside linebacker because he often lines up in a two-point stance and 20% of his snaps he’s not lined up as a conventional end.

This article uses those same terms for them (as that’s what they’ll be on MyFantasyLeague) but be aware the designations could change very easily.

Defensive tackle

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This is essentially nose tackle on this team so you shouldn’t be expecting impressive IDP production from any of these players.

Defensive end

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Watt is obviously the headliner here and comes in as the projected top end in IDP. This factors in injury risk so if he can stay fit for all 16 games (which is not exactly guaranteed for defensive players!), he can have yet another elite season.

After Watt, there’s a huge drop-off because the other edge position tends to be classified as OLB, which means all these players are depth and rotation rather than full-time players.

Inside linebacker

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Benardrick McKinney is an overrated player in IDP terms. He somehow was voted into the Pro Bowl last year and that reflects the fact he’s always been an IDP favorite. His distinctive name and dreads no doubt contribute to that.

However, Zach Cunningham is the more efficient player and is likely to be the better IDP in 2019. McKinney supporters will argue that his pass rush volume and ability might even things up, but he was not used much in that capacity last season. McKinney rushed the passer on 7.3% of his snaps. Cunningham rushed on 4.5%. Even if McKinney returns to rushing the passer more (he’s been up to 20% in the past), that’s bad news in most IDP leagues and what has led to McKinney being a low-efficiency player historically.

Outside linebacker

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As above, Clowney being an LB is debatable. He lines up at right end the vast majority of the time. But the fact he’s often in a two-point stance or only gets his hand in the dirt at the very last second confuses people.

Regardless of how you define him, he’s definitely an edge rusher and a good one. In leagues where you can start him at DE or OLB is a viable position, he remains a good but not great option for you.

Whitney Mercilus is a known name but hasn’t had a really good year since 2016. Given he’s entering his age-29 season and is the third pass rusher on the team, this is unlikely to be a great year for him.


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The Texans’ scheme should remain a productive one. Kareem Jackson had an excellent season once he moved to corner in 2018 and Bradley Roby should have the opportunity to win the top job here but it’s worth noting he was pretty terrible in 2018.

Johnathon Joseph is still playing in his mid-thirties, but he’s been an average player for a while now. He’s managed double-digit PDs just once in the past nine seasons.

Slot DB Aaron Colvin joined the team a year ago on the back of being part of the great Jaguars 2017 defense but was limited to only around 300 snaps by injury. In those snaps, he was bad. He’ll need to have a good season to avoid being cut after 2019.


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The Texans run a very simple safety scheme. It’s basically one guy on the left and one guy on the right with a lot of cover-2, quarters and cover-6 concepts.

This is one reason why Texans safeties are generally poor IDPs – there is no specific box safety and both starters play deep a lot.

There’s plenty of talk about which safety is the strong or free in Houston but it’s really pretty meaningless to try and define them like that.

Stud – J.J. Watt, DE

He remains just about the best IDP in the game. Don’t worry about him aging. Just ride him until he retires.

Disappointment – Justin Reid, S

Texans safety is a disappointing position and Reid is a natural deep safety. It’s going to be difficult for him to be useful.

Darkhorse – Zach Cunningham

As above, he’s the more attractive LB on this team and he could see a breakout with a full-time role this season.


There’s plenty to be excited by on this team but there are also some banana skins. Clowney is overrated due to name recognition. McKinney is the same. And the safeties continually get drafted too highly. On the other hand, CB is a possible goldmine and Watt is a superstar with Cunningham being a very solid LB2 candidate.

Thanks for reading.

tom kislingbury