The Texans fundamentally reshaped their team Saturday, but it was their smallest trade that might end up making the biggest impact for Fantasy. Less than a week after losing Lamar Miller for the season with an ACL injury, Houston acquired Carlos Hyde from the Chiefs for offensive lineman Martinas Rankin.
The trade helps settle Houston's backfield situations, and potentially creates another viable Fantasy option at running back. Let's sort through what it means for the Texans, along with a look at their other moves.
Initially, this trade also seemed to clear up the hierarchy in the Chiefs backfield, but their signing of LeSean McCoy late Saturday night clouded things again..
Hyde a Miller replacement?
The Texans came into the preseason with Miller and D'Onta Foreman as their primary running backs and enter the regular season with Hyde and Duke Johnson leading the way. For a few days, it looked like Johnson may be in line for the kind of role he hasn't had since college and saw his ADP soar as a result. However, now it looks like Hyde and Johnson will split work in the backfield.
The easiest assumption to make is that Hyde will take on the bulk of the rushing game work, as well as the short-yardage plays, while Johnson slides in as the passing downs back. We'll see if that's what they end up going with, but it seems likely, given Hyde's size and Johnson's ability to make plays out of the backfield in the passing game.
That figures to be good news for Hyde, who slid down the depth chart in Kansas City. It was never a great fit, as the Chiefs tend to look for better playmakers in the passing game, something that has never been Hyde's strong suit. The Texans don't use their running backs in the passing game much; Miller had a high of just 36 receptions over his three seasons with the Texans.
What they do want to do is run the ball, as Miller averaged 16.3 carries per game in that stretch. Hyde is coming off a tough seasons, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry with the Browns and Jaguars, but he has proven adept near the goal-line, and could be a starting Fantasy option if he inherits Miller's role.
He won't be a particularly exciting one, but Miller routinely finished as a top-24 back in Houston despite the Fantasy community generally treating him like an afterthought. Don't be surprised if we see something similar with Hyde in Houston; there probably isn't a ton of upside here, but Hyde could be a low-end starting running back at a cheap cost on Draft Day. You won't want to reach for him, but if Hyde is there in the sixth or seventh round, he's probably worth taking.
The bad news? Johnson likely opens the season in that passing downs role, and there just might not be enough touches available for him to be more than a flex option in PPR formats.
The question is whether it stays that way. Johnson is a more dynamic playmaker than Hyde and showed in college he could handle a big workload, so if Hyde struggles like he did last season, it's not out of the question Johnson could ultimately work his way into a larger role. You have to move Johnson down your draft boards, but there is still potential he takes on a larger-than-expected role down the road, even if he opens the season as more of a flex.
We should also briefly discuss the Laremy Tunsil trade for the Texans, as they attempt to rebuild their offensive line on the fly. Deshaun Watson took a pounding last season behind arguably the league's worst offensive line, and that offensive line should be better with Tunsil in town. It won't be good, but if Watson can just get a little more time, he's got the weapons to be the No. 1 QB this season — the addition of Kenny Stills from Miami only helps. Stills looks like a loser with this trade, because his skill set overlaps with Will Fuller's, but if Fuller isn't fully up to speed from last year's ACL tear, Stills could certainly have Fantasy value as Watson's primary deep threat.