Every NFL roster undergoes a partial overhaul during each offseason in the pursuit of a championship. This offseason will be no different for the Houston Texans as they seek to improve upon the current roster. Although there are several massive holes to fill before the season starts, a star wide receiver is not one of them. DeAndre Hopkins is a top three receiver in the NFL. That’s just a fact. The wide receiver position in Houston is relatively steady at the top but in need of key contributors behind the starters.
The Texans have already made one change to this position group. WR Demaryius Thomas was released from the team as he works to recover from an Achilles injury suffered in Week 16. The four-time Pro-Bowler was traded to the Texans by the Broncos in the middle of the 2018 season to replace the injured WR Will Fuller V. Returning from an Achilles tear is a triumph in of itself, but at the age of 31, the goal of returning next season makes it a near impossible feat at this stage in his career. Thomas’ stint with Texans was too short and will leave fans asking “What if?” as his presence on the roster would elevate the WR group to one of the best in the league.
Here are the wide receivers on the current roster as it stands:
DeAndre Hopkins - First Team All-Pro. Second in the NFL in both reception and yards in 2018.
Will Fuller V - caught four touchdowns in seven games before tearing his ACL in Week Eight.
Keke Coutee - most receptions in a debut since 1970, but missed significant time due to hamstring injuries.
DeAndre Carter - slot receiver brought in during Week 10 and instantly contributed.
Vyncint Smith - small school rookie with ideal height and speed; caught one touchdown.
Steven Mitchell Jr. - signed prior to Week 16 and yet to make his NFL debut.
Isaac Whitney - signed a reserve/future contract and yet to make his NFL debut.
Jester Weah - ended rookie season on IR; comes from an illustrious athletic family.
A 53-man NFL roster is usually comprised of six or seven receivers. By the time the season starts, this list may look a bit different.
On its surface, the Texans’ wide receiver corps is among the most versatile and talented in the league. An all-word receiver with the best hands in the game, a blazing fast deep threat, a young and opportunistic slot receiver, and an all-purpose weapon is all you can ask for in a wide receiver room. Especially when you have a quarterback in Deshaun Watson who can get them the ball. There should be a ton to be excited about for the upcoming season.
The bane of this position group is health. Fuller and Coutee are the main culprits; their injuries crippled Houston’s offense at times during the 2018 season. The Hopkins-Fuller-Coutee trio only appeared in four games together, and the Texans won all four of those games. Fuller has only played in 31 games over the last three seasons, and his most recent injury puts him in jeopardy of missing the beginning of the 2019 season. Coutee’s hamstrings nagged him the entire season and cost the receiver ten games as a rookie. Hopkins ended the season with a bum shoulder.
If the team is to bring in a mid-tier receiver to bolster the group, it would be because the team does not expect Fuller to be a available for the first four to six weeks of the season. A short-term solution for the team in the form of a 27-31 year-old veteran receiver on a one-year contract makes sense as the team tries to play tic-tac-toe with its (when healthy) excellent WR roster. Potential targets that fit this description include Terrance Williams, Jermaine Kearse, Tyrell Williams, and Kelvin Benjamin.
Even if the Texans do not make a move in free agency, they plausibly won’t be in the market to draft a wide receiver until the mid-to-late rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft. The earliest I see them taking a stab at the position is the third round; even that seems high considering the team’s other needs. A fifth-round receiver with a well-balanced skill set would fit nicely in the Texans arsenal moving forward. I’d take Miles Boykin (6’4”, 228 pounds, 59 receptions, and eight TDs) from Notre Dame there.
The Texans love undrafted rookie free agent (UDFA) receivers. They usually excel at one or two areas and provide great value if one turns out to be redeemable. Vyncint Smith is a prime example of a UDFA brought in to fill out the bottom portion of the roster; he became a rotational piece in the offense at the end of the season. Don’t be surprised if the Texans have another UFDFA WR steal a roster spot before the season.
The Texans’ wideout group is undoubtedly top-heavy. From this current roster, only three receivers (Hopkins, Fuller, and Coutee) are truly locked in for next season. Carter should earn a spot as the team’s offensive utility tool and kick/punt returner. That leaves at least two spots up for grabs heading into the offseason. What the Texans do with those two vacancies may surprise you.