Texans fantasy football preview

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Tight end Owen Daniels is a low-cost option worth taking a look at for your roster in the Home Team Challenge fantasy football game.

It's that wonderful time of year again, when fantasy football drafts are in full swing around the country as fans gear up for the start of the country's most popular sport. The Home Team Challenge is a free, unique version of fantasy football offered through NFL.com, in which fans compete against each other for great weekly prizes from their hometown teams.

Take a quick refresher course on the Home Team Challenge rules, then get yourself ready for the Week 1 action. Below, I'm taking a look at the Texans' starters at each position available on your Home Team Challenge, with their unit costs, cost rank relative to other players at their positions and my outlook of what's ahead for each player.

If you're really drinking the Battle Red Kool-Aid, you could put all of these Texans players in your lineup in Week 1 and add No. 1 running back Adrian Peterson to fill out your roster, and you'd still have 32 units left to spend. I'm not advocating this strategy (though I did try it out, just to see how it would feel), but the Texans did have the No. 3 offense in the league last season, so it wouldn't be the worst idea. Plus, fantasy is always more fun when your favorite players are on your team.

But without further ado, here's my assessment on the 2009 Houston Texans for the NFL.com Home Team Challenge:

QB Matt Schaub
Unit cost: 51
Position cost rank: 9th
Outlook: When healthy last season, Schaub put up numbers on par with the top quarterbacks in the league. He was fourth in the NFL with 276.6 passing yards/game, fourth with a 66.1 percent completion rate, seventh with a 92.7 passer rating and second with 8.01 yards/attempt. And he had the highest passer rating in the league (104.9) from Oct. 19 through the end of the season. The point: Schaub is healthy now, and all of those numbers ranked better than ninth in the league, so he's a smart buy for as long as he's available at this asking price.

RB Steve Slaton
Unit cost: 39
Position cost rank:7th
Outlook: Slaton could be had at a bargain basement price at this time last season, so his steep price is an indication of how far he has come in a year's time. It's also a sign that the folks at NFL.com have the same expectations for Slaton as the Texans do. Slaton had a sensational 1,282-yard, 10-touchdown rookie campaign, but Texans coaches want him to be even better in his second season. Slaton has said this offseason that he saw while watching film of the 2008 season that he left yards on the field, and he intends to get them back in 2009.

WR Andre Johnson
Unit cost:41
Position cost rank:T-1st (L. Fitzgerald, C. Johnson)
Outlook:If you want Johnson this year, you're going to have to pay up. But considering his consistency (seven games of 10 catches or more, 98.4 yards/game) in 2008, paying up for the All-Pro receiver is a very low-risk proposition. If you've got the room in your Home Team Challenge budget, then don't hesitate to slot Johnson into your lineup. Anyone who's watched the Texans practice this offseason will tell you that he hasn't dropped a ball all summer. Johnson's league-leading 115 catches for 1,575 yards will be hard to top this season, but it's hard to envision any drop-off from No. 80.

WR Kevin Walter
Unit cost:21
Position cost rank:T-34th (D. Avery, T. Ginn Jr.)
Outlook:Walter is a name on the rise in real-life football and fantasy football alike. In real life, he has become an integral part of the Texans' offense as the No. 2 receiver opposite Johnson. In fantasy, he's a bargain at 21 points. Are there really 33 other more productive receivers in the NFL? Touchdowns are the most significant statistic in fantasy, and Walter had eight of them last season. That's more than superstar receivers Hines Ward, Roddy White, Brandon Marshall, Steve Smith and Reggie Wayne had. Walter is coming off of back-to-back 800-yard seasons, and he's only getting better.

TE Owen Daniels
Unit cost: 20
Position cost rank:T-9th (K. Winslow)
Outlook: Three words: Buy, buy, buy. Daniels is on average the sixth or seventh tight end taken off the board in most standard fantasy drafts, so he's a good value as the ninth-most expensive tight end in the Home Team Challenge. For 20 points – probably less than you'll spend on your kicker – you'll get a guy whose numbers have gotten better every season and who ranked third among NFL tight ends with 862 receiving yards in 2008. The big fantasy knock on O.D. is that he doesn't score very often (two touchdowns in 2008), but keep in mind that he hauled in five touchdowns as a rookie in 2006.

K Kris Brown
Unit cost: 23
Position cost rank: T-16th (Five others)
Outlook: I don't believe in spending a lot of points on kickers, so Brown fits the bill as the type of kicker you should target. What I look for in my fantasy kicker are a strong leg, accuracy and, most importantly, a team that's going to put him in position to score points. Brown's got all three. He hit 87.9 percent of his field goals last season (tied for second in AFC) and is 7-of-8 from 50 yards in the past two seasons. He also has an offense that moves the ball as well as just about any team in the league, so he'll have plenty of chances for extra points and field goals.

Texans D/ST Unit cost: 24
Position cost rank: T-24th (NO, SF, CIN)
Outlook: The pieces are in place for the Texans' defense to improve – better front seven, more depth at corner, new defensive coordinator with new, attacking philosophy) – so if you fancy yourself a gambler, this might be a gamble worth taking. Even if the Texans' defense gets only marginally better, that'd make them a good value because of the cheap price tag. Also, don't forget that this cost is for Week 1, and the Texans will probably be facing a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez who threw a pick-six in his first series as a starter this week. And don't forget about that special teams points count, too. Joe Marciano has been known to spring a touchdown or two (or four, in 2008) in his tenure as Texans special team coordinator.

Click here to register for the free Home Team Challenge.

Follow Nick Scurfield on Twitter at *twitter.com/NickScurfield or find him on the "I'm A Texan Club" at imatexan.com/profiles/Nick_Scurf/.*

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