“I want to sincerely apologize to the Texans organization and all of my fans for this mistake,” Fuller added. “I am looking forward to putting this all behind me and returning better than ever in 2021.”
It’s fine for Fuller to start looking ahead to next year, but in the meantime, fantasy managers have to deal with the fallout from his season-ending ban, right as many leagues’ playoffs are about to begin. Of course, so do the Texans (4-7), whose playoff hopes are feeble despite Fuller roasting the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving for 171 yards and two touchdowns in a win.
The timing of Fuller’s ban is all the worse for Houston because it released wide receiver Kenny Stills on Friday, two days after placing another veteran wide receiver, Randall Cobb, on injured reserve. And don’t forget that former Texans head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien traded away all-world wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the offseason.
That leaves Houston with Brandin Cooks, who goes from something of a co-WR1 for the Texans to the clear top target. The 29th-ranked wide receiver in half-PPR scoring — Fuller was 16th at their position — Cooks should be a solid starting option with plenty of upside for fantasy teams going forward, especially considering who else is left on the Texans.
The supporting cast at wide receiver is led, at least until Cobb returns, by Keke Coutee, who was a healthy scratch under O’Brien for much of the season but has made modest contributions over the past two games, including a touchdown. In deeper fantasy leagues, Coutee is worth a flier, but not for more than 10 percent of your free agent budget.
The loss of Fuller also puts Houston wide receivers Isaiah Coulter (drafted in the fifth round this year) and Steven Mitchell (2018 undrafted free agent recently promoted from the practice squad) on the fantasy radar. Neither has so much as caught a pass in his professional career, so they are best left on waivers until they prove to be a significant part of game plans.
There is also the possibility that the Texans bring back Stills, who went unclaimed by other teams and cleared waivers Monday. The eighth-year veteran, who had just 11 catches for 144 yards and one score this season, could merit interest in deeper leagues.
The biggest beneficiary of Fuller’s suspension is tight end Jordan Akins. The third-year player, a third-round pick in 2018, runs the most pass routes among Texans TEs, and although he was held without a catch against Detroit, he had 83 yards on five catches the week before. Running backs David Johnson, who may return from injured reserve this week, and Duke Johnson could also see welcome bumps in targets.
The biggest loser here is quarterback Deshaun Watson, who no longer has his most explosive target as well as his preferred touchdown-maker (Fuller’s eight scores were five more than the next-best total on the team). Watson is too good in fantasy to not remain a top-12 quarterback, but he slips a bit.
As for Fuller himself, his entire career with the Texans might be over. He was playing on the fifth-year option picked up last year by Houston, which did not sign him to a contract extension.
The former Notre Dame standout was on his way to a major payday in free agency, and he should still command a handsome price, but he will head into the offseason without having been able to play all 16 games in any of his five seasons. This time, at least, it wasn’t an injury that cut short his campaign, but by the same token, teams might reasonably wonder if PEDs played any role in helping him stay on the field. In addition, assuming his suspension holds at six games, he will have to sit out the first game of the 2021 season, wherever he winds up.
Those who have Fuller on dynasty rosters should hope he returns to Houston, where he can regain top-dog status, as opposed to moving to a destination where he might be playing second banana and catching passes from one of the many quarterbacks less talented than Watson.