NFL

Texans QB Deshaun Watson Expects Injury-Plagued Will Fuller to ‘Ball Out’ This Year

No one is asking Will Fuller to become the next DeAndre Hopkins, nor should they request such a thing.

In fairness, there aren’t many receivers in the NFL like Hopkins, a four-time All-Pro who the Houston Texans traded to Arizona in March. But with Hopkins gone, the Texans need Fuller to stay healthy and become an impactful starting receiver.

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is confident Fuller can live up to the challenge. In a recent media session, Watson explained why he’s so optimistic about Fuller’s chances this season.

Will Fuller has had an injury-plagued NFL career

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A 6-foot, 184-pound receiver who played collegiately at Notre Dame, Will Fuller has had an inconsistent NFL career.

There have been times where Fuller has looked like a dangerous young receiver — he posted a three-touchdown game last fall against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons — but he’s also struggled to stay on the field.

The former first-round pick has never played a complete 16-game schedule. Fuller has missed 20 of a possible 48 games the last three years.

At his best, Fuller has been a dangerous target for Deshaun Watson. He caught 45 passes for 503 yards and four touchdowns across seven games in 2018, putting him on pace for 73 catches, 1,150 yards, and nine touchdowns across a complete season.

Unfortunately for Fuller, he tore his ACL midway through the 2018 campaign.

For comparison, only 16 players finished the 2018 season with over 1,150 receiving yards. Only one of those players, Colts veteran T.Y. Hilton, had fewer than 80 catches; Hilton totaled 1,270 yards and six touchdowns on 76 catches.

Deshaun Watson is optimistic about Fuller’s potential

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If the Houston Texans want to make the postseason for a third straight year, they need Will Fuller to stay healthy and take the next step as a receiver.

The man throwing those passes is optimistic those things can happen. Deshaun Watson talked the fifth-year wideout up in a recent media session with reporters.

According to ESPN, Watson recently predicted Fuller will “ball out” this season.

“Will’s going to be one of the best receivers in the league. He came back a lot stronger, a lot faster. Will’s really good, very confident in himself and what he did over the offseason. I’m very confident in what he can do. We all are as an organization and as a team. There’s no doubt that Will can take that role and do great things with it.”

Watson threw 71 touchdowns in his first three seasons. Only two receivers, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, caught more than eight of those scores. Hopkins and his 25 touchdowns beat out Fuller’s 14 for the lead, however.

Should fans buy high on Will Fuller’s stock?

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Deshaun Watson has to praise all of his players and talk them up. That’s what quarterbacks are supposed to do.

Still, the numbers do hint at Will Fuller having a breakout year if he stays healthy. He may not explode for 100 catches and 1,500 yards, but the fifth-year receiver has the speed and catch radius to become a solid No. 1 wideout.

Fuller caught 71% of his passes in 2018 and 69% last year. According to Pro-Football-Reference, the 2018 percentage ranked 4th among qualified receivers.

Fuller also has a financial incentive to enjoy a strong 2020 season. He is a free agent after this year and doesn’t turn 27 until next April.

“The contract is going to come depending on how you play,” Fuller recently told reporters. “My focus has been to just be the best version of myself, and I feel like I did that this offseason.”

The bottom line always speaks loudest. With a healthy and productive 2020 season, Fuller can cash in and earn a long-term contract, whether it’s with Watson and the Texans or elsewhere.

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