Dynasty League Football


2021 Summer Sleeper: Houston Texans

Is there an overlooked deep sleeper candidate in Houston sitting on your waiver wires?

In our annual 32-part Summer Sleeper series, DLF scribes identify a lightly-touted player on each NFL roster who may be worthy of your consideration. Our subjects all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but each merits a bit of in-depth discussion here in the Premium Content section.

To help everybody along, we are going to be categorizing our sleepers under one of three headings:

  • Super Deep Sleepers – Players who aren’t roster-worthy in 12-team leagues, but are still worth keeping an eye on.
  • Deep Sleepers – An end-of-the-roster player who is more often than not on the waiver wire in 12-team leagues.
  • Sleeper – A likely rostered player who makes for a good trade target. Their startup ADP puts them out of the top 175 or so.

Because we aren’t going to give you mainstream sleepers, most of these players will undoubtedly fizzle. All we are asking is for you to keep an open mind and perhaps be willing to make room for one of these players on your bench. You never know when the next James Robinson is going to spring up. Feel free to add your own thoughts about our choice for the designated sleeper, or nominate one of your own in the comments below.

Super deep sleepers often come from the least likely places. Let’s say I told you an offense would produce the following stats:

  • 30th in points for
  • 28th in total yards

Is this looking like an offense you want any part of? Don’t worry, it gets worse. Especially for the running backs:

  • 32nd in rushing attempts
  • 28th in rushing yards
  • 31st in rushing touchdowns

Does any of this look like a recipe for producing a running back we’d have any interest in? How about I add in this running back was an undrafted free agent buried on the initial depth chart? What are the odds this situation produces a top-four finish for a running back?

James Robinson was a unicorn which we’ll never see again in the same form. However, we can learn a few things from him.

  1. Bad offenses can produce good fantasy players who don’t fit our traditional analytical box.
  2. A high percentage of opportunity share becomes more possible for players without a lot of talent surrounding them.
  3. Don’t easily dismiss glowing camp reports – especially if those reports are consistent and universal among those in attendance.

No one thinks the Houston Texans are going to be an offensive juggernaut, so we have to ask ourselves if anyone on this team meets these criteria. I think there is one:

Jordan Akins, TE

Category: Super Deep Sleeper

29-year-old Akins is far from an analytical darling. Despite his age, he only has three years of NFL experience. The Texans selected him in the third round of the 2018 draft. The Central Florida product only managed eight touchdowns in his college career, with barely over 1,100 yards. He isn’t particularly fast and doesn’t have the measurable athleticism we look for. Is he outside of the box? Of course, but as we learned above we shouldn’t be quick to write him off on this alone.

Last season, Akins led the Texans’ tight ends in targets, receptions, receiving yards despite only playing in 13 games. His 49 targets were good enough for third on the team just ahead of the recently departed Randall Cobb. The area where Akins was the weakest was in touchdowns, seemingly conceding that part of the field to Darren Fells who had four to his one.

However, Akins had plenty of opportunities in the red zone when you dig deeper. His eight targets inside the 20 were third-best on the team. Inside of the ten-yard line, he had the second-most targets.

The off-season brought a number of changes to Houston. A new head coach (David Culley) and likely absent starting quarterback (Deshaun Watson) raise plenty of questions for the Texans, but Tim Kelly was retained as the offensive coordinator, providing some stability to the players returning in 2021.

Will Fuller and Randall Cobb are gone and were replaced with an unproven (albeit exciting) rookie Nico Collins and a wide receiver who wore out his welcome with his last team (Anthony Miller). Darren Fells and his 54% snap share is also gone and he was replaced with a fifth-round rookie (Brevin Jordan). Is this starting to sound like an opportunity for an increase in target share?

Here’s where things start to get really interesting. Culley spent the last two seasons as the Baltimore Ravens passing game coordinator – a passing game responsible for targeting a tight end 88 times last year and 98 times the year before. The two years prior, Culley worked as the quarterback coach in Buffalo. I bet you’ll never guess who his quarterback was in 2017? You guessed it, Tyrod Taylor. What did the targets look like? LeSean McCoy had 77 and 28-year-old Charles Clay had 74.

Are you starting to get excited yet? If so, you’re in good company. The Houston beat reporters point out something special Akins is doing nearly every day. Whether it’s a one-handed catch in the end zone or a drive with multiple targets from Taylor, it’s hard to ignore what he’s doing. There are glowing reports about his improved ball skills and his ability to go up and get the ball.

In DLF’s most recent ADP, Akins is going off the board as the 46th tight end and 286th player overall. He is undoubtedly sitting on multiple waiver wires right now and has an immediate path to fantasy relevance in 2021.

He meets all three points we discussed in the introduction and is easily worth a roster spot in moderately deep leagues. Stop what you’re doing and go pick him up.

2021 Summer Sleeper: Houston Texans
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