The New Dynasty Value of Kenny Stills and Will Fuller

Johnny Kinsley

Let’s go ahead and beat an old, stepped-over, chewed-up and spit-out topic to death once more: What was Bill O’Brien thinking when he traded DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona?

I’ll keep this short since it’s pretty clear how baffling this trade was (even for Cardinals fans, but in a more positive way), but failing to get any sort of adequate compensation for one of the absolute best receivers in football is such a colossal failure on the part of the Houston Texans and has made the front office a laughing stock even after reaching the Divisional Round last year.

Regardless of how good or bad Hopkins plays for the rest of his career, the lack of a bargain the Texans got from this trade should help it land as one of the worst trades in NFL history. David Johnson was once a phenomenal talent at the running back position and dazzled many back in 2015 and 2016, but repeated injuries plus getting outplayed by Kenyan Drake meant the Cardinals were looking to trade his expensive contract. Somehow, Houston were gullible enough to take that on, and more so because they included Hopkins in the package.

It’s bad enough that Deshaun Watson has to deal with an awful defense and a mediocre-at-best head coach, but now he has to deal with his best receiver playing in the opposing conference while the team has no first-round pick to fill that hole.

While Hopkins had less receiving yards than in seasons past, he still put up 1,165 yards on 104 catches and added seven touchdowns along the way. This put him tenth in FantasyData’s metrics among all receivers (with 164.54 fantasy points), and 62nd among all players. While his stats looked pedestrian in comparison to previous seasons, he was still the major cog in that offense’s group of receivers, hence why he was selected to a third straight spot on Associated Press’ First-Team All-Pro.

Though going from Hopkins to Randall Cobb is a severe downgrade for the offense, the presence of veterans Kenny Stills and Will Fuller will prevent the receiving corps from looking bleak.

Fuller put up 670 yards on 49 targets (13.67 yards per receptions) and caught three touchdown passes. Though he finished the season with exactly 85 fantasy points (putting him 53rd among all receivers), he only played in 11 games in 2019, missing a good portion of those games due to injury. As such, he would’ve been on pace for almost 1,000 yards receiving (okay, 974), and 123.64 fantasy points, the latter of which would have placed him 32nd on FantasyData’s metrics.

For a receiver who played with a top-five talent and is primarily a vertical threat, that’s not bad at all. (The three touchdowns were primarily why he was so low, too.)

Stills will be 28 on April 22 and is heading into his second season with the Texans. In 2019, he had a smaller, but valuable role in his first season in Houston, catching 40 passes for 561 yards (14.03 yards per reception) and four touchdowns. His 80.1 fantasy points ranked 57th among all receivers on FantasyData, and had he played all 16 games (missed three), he would’ve ranked 47th with 99.58 points.

Now let’s consider the equation when you subtract Hopkins from the receiving corps. On one hand, this would mean more targets and potentially more yards for both Fuller and Stills. On the other hand, can the two stand their ground without an elite talent beside them?

As I previously stated, both receivers are good enough to be key contributors to the Texans offense. Stills offers more availability than Fuller, but when both receivers are healthy, Fuller is the go-to guy. He’s been one of the best deep threats in the league, and though he can have some nasty drops from time to time, he’s a quality route runner and offers too much value for drops to overshadow his game.

Where both receivers are lacking in comparison to Hopkins is the ability at the catch point. Both Stills and Fuller can separate and make big plays just fine, but for years in the Texans offense, Hopkins was carrying poor quarterback play with the ability to adjust on inaccurate throws and significantly increase the margin of error. This was with names like a washed Matt Schaub, Case Keenum, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bryan Hoyer, and Ryan Mallet. (Brock Osweiler managed to be so bad he completely neutered Hopkins’ chances of success.)

Stills and Fuller don’t offer that level of contested catch ability, and to be fair that’s not necessarily their fault. In a more competently-managed scenario, they wouldn’t have to worry about that because Hopkins would still be around. Both have been solid dynasty assets in the past, though without Hopkins, I expect either one of them to see an increase in attention from secondaries.

Both receivers fit in the vertical style of passing that Deshaun Watson heavily favors, and I expect Fuller to at the very least be a WR30 and Stills a WR60. The addition of Randall Cobb adds depth but is a severe downgrade, though the role of Keke Coutee could see a spike as well. I think Fuller will be the WR1 for the Texans, with Stills or Coutee seeing the WR2 role, leaving Cobb as the potential slot guy.

I don’t see the Texans going after any upgrades in the NFL Draft either, so as far as I’m concerned, this is majorly the final depth chart at wide receiver. Will Fuller and Kenny Stills are certainly good players, but not to the extent Hopkins was. At his best, Fuller is a really good receiver and provides major value to the Texans, but his health is a concern as always. Stills is solid but not the kind of player you’d want at WR1 either.

If you’re looking to invest in both guys, I’d recommend checking Fuller out when the mid-round selections come by. Stills could come of value as a late-round pick himself, but otherwise, I’d avoid using your earliest picks to scoop up these two.

johnny kinsley