In an NFL season marked by season-ending injuries to star players, the league might have suffered its greatest yet on Thursday. Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is believed to have suffered a torn ACL during practice today and is expected to miss the remainder of the 2017 season. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport first reported the news.
For everyone around the NFL, this is a devastating blow. The favorite to be the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year, Watson transcended the Texans' offense and lifted them into the league's elite units. With 19 passing touchdowns, 16,99 passing yards. 269 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, Watson elevated himself into the MVP conversation just seven games into his NFL career. His most recent performance on the road against the Seattle Seahawks, where became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400-plus yards, four-plus touchdowns and rush for 50-plus yards to cement itself as one of the best, young talents in the NFL.
This marks the second torn ACL in Watson's football career, the first came three years ago when he played at Clemson. While we don't yet know if it's the same knee, a second ACL tear at such a young age raises concerns for his long-term health and those concerns are even greater if it's the same knee. NFL fans will not see Watson again until the 2018 season and his progress will be something to monitor going into the offseason and see where the knee is at next training camp. But for now, the NFL loses one of its best players and its devastating for the Texans playoff chances and their playmakers from a fantasy perspective.
The biggest blow falls upon Will Fuller, who emerged as one of the game's best deep threats this season and racked up touchdowns at an incredible rate. In just four games, Fuller became one of fantasy's top receivers thanks to seven touchdowns and 279 receiving yards on only 13 receptions. Watson consistently showed the touch and arm strength to drop the ball right in Fuller's hands, which allowed him to make the big plays happen. Now with Tom Savage at quarterback, Fuller's success rate on deep balls and yards per catch average will drop off significantly. As a result, Fuller falls from a strong WR1 to a risk-reward WR3 play on a weekly basis.
Watson's injury also serves as a major blow to DeAndre Hopkins fantasy stock. After the best performance of his season, Hopkins ranked third in receiving yards (606), targets (76) and tied for first with Fuller in touchdowns (seven). Hopkins could get open anywhere on the field and Watson would get him the ball in the right spot and with precision timing that would allow Hopkins to make plays with his speed. While he should continue to see a heavy share of targets, Savage's career 60 percent completion rate and absence of a single touchdown pass on 105 attempts demonstrate the massive downgrade coming at the position in Houston. Once a top-three fantasy receiver on a weekly basis, Hopkins now falls into the 10-12 range going forward.
Lastly, Lamar Miller sees his chances for fantasy success take a hit. Considered a top-15 fantasy running back who offered top-10 upside with the further improvements of Houston's high-powered offense under Watson and open running lanes created as a result, Miller now falls into a top-25 running back range. He will still mix in a starter's share of carries and targets that will give him a fantasy floor, but now without a star quarterback and one of the game's best left tackles, Miller will find success much harder to come by.
Watson's injury is a devastating blow in so many ways. A city still recovering from a devastating hurricane that just celebrated a World Series and was set to rally around this team and rookie quarterback, now loses the face and hope of the team this season. eDraft Sports wishes Watson a speedy recovery.