NFL.com insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday afternoon that the Houston Texans were ‘closing in on a deal’ for Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 30, 2018
In addition, Rapoport reported that the Texans sent a 2019 fourth-round pick to the Broncos for Thomas, in addition to swapping seventh-round picks.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 30, 2018
With Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders 30 or older and entering the second to last year of their current deals, the writing was on the wall that this was the last year for at least one of them when the Broncos drafted two receivers in the first four rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Impact on Demaryius Thomas
Drafted as a WR2 in most fantasy leagues this season, thru weeks 1-8, Thomas is WR31 in fantasy. Thomas was second on the Broncos in targets (56), catches (36) and receiving yards (402), and was tied for the receiving touchdown lead with Emmanuel Sanders at 3 on 213 routes ran. In addition, Thomas, in eight games, had two top-24 weekly finishes, including one top-12 finish.
Rookie receiver Courtland Sutton, prior to the trade, was third in targets with 37.
Trailing Sanders by only nine targets for the team-lead in Denver, Thomas will have a harder time commanding the same amount of targets in Houston.
Will Fuller, Houston’s no. 2 receiver before suffering a season-ending injury week 8, is who Thomas’ll be replacing. In seven games (Fuller missed week 1), Fuller had 45 targets to Hopkins’ 78 for 32 catches (second), 503 yards (second) and four touchdowns (second).
Thomas’ former quarterback Case Keenum, thru week 8, was ninth in pass attempts, compared to Deshaun Watson (14th).
In addition to the lower pass volume and playing alongside a no. 1 receiver that dominates the target share (Hopkins 29.9 percent, Sanders 22.6 percent), Thomas will have to compete with promising rookie receiver Keke Coutee, who missed the first three games of the season before having a breakout game week 4 (11-109) for targets when he returns from injury. Consider Thomas’ long-term value for the rest of the season as a matchup-based WR3.
#Texans have targeted WRs 67% of the time this season, tied for 4th-most in the NFL.
DeAndre Hopkins is responsible for 30%; Coutee 22% & Fuller 20% while active.
I'd expect DT & Coutee's target shares to each settle in at 18-20%.
— Chris Raybon (@ChrisRaybon) October 30, 2018
Weeks 4-6 when Fuller was out, Coutee ran 92 routes hauling in 20-0f-27 targets (three red zone) for 193 yards, including a 100-yard game. So Coutee averaged nine targets a game in that span. In addition, Coutee had two top-24 weekly finishes.
Coincidentally, Thomas faces his former team, the Broncos, week 9. The Broncos have allowed one receiving touchdown at home to a receiver since week 2 (in three home games). Though Thomas should see about nine targets if Coutee is out and he’s facing his old team, adjusting to the Texans’ playbook and developing chemistry with Watson may take a few weeks. Even if Coutee is out this week, it’s hard to feel confident starting Thomas, but you may have to with six teams on bye.
There’s also potential for Thomas to sit out a week (a la Josh Gordon) as he adjusts to his new team. Either way, the prognosis for Thomas is negative.
Per Next Gen Stats, the league average for receiver separation is 2.79 yards. On the season, Thomas’ separation is 2.8.
The Impact on The Texans’ Receiving Corps
Expect Hopkins to continue to pace Texans receivers in all major receiving categories, as his team-leading 78 targets, 53 catches, 789 yards, and six touchdowns are all more than double Coutee’s season totals. Once Thomas is acclimated, he should have a few weeks of fantasy production. That said, when Fuller returned to the lineup for the Texans week 7 Coutee left early, and Coutee did not play week 8. We’ve never seen Watson produce three fantasy-relevant receivers, but he’s never had three capable fantasy-relevant receivers at once.
Working in Coutee’s favor is his 4.6 YAR.
Watson, QB8 entering week 9, is a strong QB1 rest of season, with a chance to finish in the top five.
The Impact on The Broncos’ Receiving Corps
Trading away Thomas opens opportunity up for Sutton. The SMU-product is second in all major receiving categories for Denver after the trade on 206 routes run (just seven behind Thomas). At Six-foot three inches and 220 pounds, Sutton is a younger version of Thomas, that is instantly in the WR3 discussion after the trade.
However, per Next Gen Stats, Sutton’s separation is 2.3, something he’ll have to work on to unlock his full fantasy potential as a potential WR1 in the future.
Consider Sutton the top waiver priority this week, while Coutee (who’ll contend with Thomas as the no. 2 receiver in Houston) is the second.
Be on the lookout for the weekly waiver wire column.