For the first time in 17 years, your Houston Texans don’t have a surefire future Hall of Fame wide receiver on the roster. Not unlike the San Francisco 49ers who rolled from Joe Montana to Steve Young, or the Indianapolis Colts who switched from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck, the Houston Texans brought in Andre Johnson in 2003 and then DeAndre Hopkins 10 years later to ensure the longest streak of All-Pro wideout play in AFC South history.
Unfortunately, once you pull back the #80 & #10 curtain, the players waiting backstage don’t stand out with the undeniable clarity these two did. With Johnson now in a special assistant role with the team and Hopkins kicking it in the desert, it’s time for someone else to grab the torch and take it to the house.
In fact, after Johnson and Hopkins, there’s a pretty steep drop on this list. Sure, guys like Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills are now in the house, dressing out in battle red and ready to make fireworks happen, but only Stills has actually caught a pass as a Texan; until the other two play a full season as H-Town’s pride and joy, it doesn’t make sense to slot them on this list. And while there are a few tight ends and running backs who have done well when the rock is thrown their way, this is a list of wide receivers, so let’s stick with the pure pass catchers.
Now, all that considered, who makes the cut? Well, let’s take a look...
#5 Corey Bradford
Picked by the Green Bay Packers in the 1998 NFL Draft, the Clinton, Louisiana native joined the Houston Texans as a free agent in the team’s inaugural season before leaving four years later in 2006 to join the Detroit Lions. During his time in H-Town, Bradford caught 130 passes for 1,992 yards, good for a 15.3 yard per catch average, with 18 touchdowns and 0 fumbles.
Following the “take a player from their prime and plop them on the current roster” theme, it’s hard not to imagine the impact Bradford could have with Deshaun Watson throwing him the ball. Unfortunately, Bradford’s time in the Houston spotlight came during the rough, early years of the franchise. The notion that he made this list despite everything he had working against him and the 14 years since he left further emphasizes the drop in Texans’ wideout talent mentioned above.
#4 Will Fuller V
If it wasn’t for his total inability to stay healthy, Will Fuller V might actually slot in between Johnson and Hopkins on this list. Not only is he one of the most dynamic wide receivers in the NFL right now, when he’s fully healthy and ready to roll, he’s virtually unstoppable—like Deion Sanders might not slow him down unstoppable. Unfortunately, over the four seasons Fuller has suited up in battle red, he’s only played 42 of a possible 64 games and wasn’t at full strength for all 42 of the ones he played in.
Even with all that going against him, the first round product from Notre Dame has still caught 156 passes for 2,231 yards (a 13.7 yard average), 16 touchdowns, and 300 punt return yards (including a game where Fuller scored on a pass play and a punt return - becoming the only Houston Texan in history to do that).
At this stage in Fuller’s career, however, the biggest stat is his availability. “IF Fuller can stay healthy...” starts more sentences regarding the rocket-powered receiver than any other. Hopefully, a trend of solid health and 100% participation starts now.
#3 Kevin Walter
From the day he was recruited to Eastern Michigan University until the day he retired from the NFL, people were sleeping on Kevin Walter. College recruiters, NFL scouts, opposing defensive coordinators, and rival defensive backs. Thanks to that unheralded level of attention, Walter was able to rack up 4,083 yards on 326 catches (a 12.5 yard average) and quite possibly the highest rate of clutch catches for anyone not named Johnson or Hopkins in franchise history.
The defense has Andre Johnson double covered? No sweat, Walter was automatic for a first down. While he rarely made the SportsCenter highlights and was almost never mentioned in the national news, anyone who was paying attention to the Texans from 2006 to 2012 knew Walter well. Like Bradford above, having a prime Kevin Walter catching passes from Deshaun Watson would be a thing of beauty.
#2 DeAndre Hopkins
A valid argument can be made for swapping Hopkins and Johnson on this list, but with the unfortunate, abrupt end to Nuk’s time in Houston, he simply didn’t overtake his mentor in my mind. However, if Hopkins had the full Houston career Johnson enjoyed, there’s no doubt Hopkins would hold the undisputed top spot. Sadly, that won’t happen with the Clemson product now enjoying the Scottsdale life.
Over his seven-year career in Houston, DeAndre Hopkins caught 632 passes from 633 quarterbacks (not really, but it sure felt like before Watson came along), racked up 8,602 yards (yes, that’s well past DOUBLE the next nearest receiver on this all time yards list), scored 76 touchdowns (just one shy of Johnson’s total) and cemented himself in the “best wide receiver in the NFL” conversation after an insane 2018 season that saw Hopkins catch 115 passes with ZERO drops.
If a brand new franchise was starting up this off-season, taking Hopkins in the expansion draft to build around would be a no-brainer—and doing that with a wide receiver is never a no-brainer, unless it’s a player like Nuk.
#1 Andre Johnson
The one, the only, the man, the myth, the legend, and all the other accolades heaped on top. Not only was Johnson a beast on the field, his heart for the Houston community was rivaled only by a guy named J.J. Watt. Watching Johnson take needy kids on a Toys ‘R Us shopping spree every year was one of the highlights of the holiday season. While kids these days have too many bad role models catching their eye, guys like Johnson set the standard for how a role model should walk, talk, and most importantly, act.
All that happened off the field.
On the field, Andre Johnson was unstoppable. Everyone in the stadium could know the ball was coming to #80 and he’d not only still catch it, but blast his way ahead for a first down or touchdown in all the right moments. Over the course of his twelve years in Houston, Johnson caught 1,012 passes for 13,597 yards, 77 touchdowns, and one serious beatdown of Cortland Finnegan.
When all was said and done, Johnson retired at #11 on the all-time NFL receivers list, alongside guys like Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Tim Brown and Cris Carter. Definitely not bad company to be in if you’re all about catching that pigskin.
While many NFL franchises have never had a Hall of Fame wide receiver, the Texans have had two in their short existence. The fact that one was Andre Johnson just makes it all the sweeter.
There you have it—the top five Texans pass catchers. What do you think of this collection? Think Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks or Randal Cobb will crack this crew when their time in battle red is over? Believe someone else should be on here who isn’t? A huge fan of Jabar Gaffney, Jacoby Jones or Nate Washington and don’t get why they’re not in this list? Let us know in the comments box.