It’s anyone's guess at this point who is going to suit up as the Houston Texans’ starting quarterback in 2021. Will Deshaun Watson be the guy? Will Tyrod Taylor take over? Could Houston still land a high-end rookie in a draft day trade? No one knows right now. New general manager Nick Caserio has acquired enough receivers to figure that part out, however.
As of this writing, the Texans have the following wide receivers on the roster:
- Brandin Cooks
- Randall Cobb
- Keke Coutee
- Chris Conley
- Isaiah Coulter
- Chris Moore
- Andre Roberts
- Donte Moncrief
- Alex Erickson
- Steven Mitchell
Cooks, Cobb, Coutee, and Coulter were prominent names in the 2020 Houston Texans pantheon, but Cooks is really the only one who made a solid mark on the team, statistically. Conley, Moore, Roberts, Moncrief, Erickson, and Mitchell are relative unknowns in the Tim Kelly-led offensive scheme.
Projected 2021 Houston Texans Wide Receiver Depth Chart
WR1 - Brandin Cooks
Barring a crazy trade or Houston somehow miraculously landing Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, or Devonta Smith in this month’s NFL Draft, Brandin Cooks is Houston’s WR1 in 2021. While Cooks is no DeAndre Hopkins or Andre Johnson, if he sticks around, he just might earn his place as the third best receiver in franchise history. We’re not there yet, so we’ll hold off anointing the speedster right now.
WR2 - Keke Coutee
When Houston selected Coutee in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, he came aboard with a very high ceiling. Unfortunately, rumor has it Coutee didn’t work as hard as he needed to in order to succeed at the next level. Stories of him running the wrong route, making mental and physical mistakes in practice, and assorted gameday snafus all led to his time in Bill O’Brien’s doghouse. With Will Fuller heading to the land of bikinis and beaches, Coutee has a new day in front of him. In 2020, after O’Brien was promoted to fan, interim head coach Romeo Crennel and Kelly brought Coutee back from limbo, and he made some plays. Maybe, just maybe, he’s learned from his mistakes, taken on J.J. Watt’s work ethic, and 2021 will be different. Maybe.
WR3 - Randall Cobb
The Texans haven’t had a quality slot receiver/WR3 since Kevin Walter. If you’ve not been a Texans fan long enough to remember Walter, go search him out on YouTube—after all, Walter was good enough to make #3 on our all-time greatest Texans wide receivers list.
Cobb has multiple asterisks on his spot in Houston right now. He was one of several players O’Brien overpaid and underplayed. However, he’s still one of the best slot guys out there, even at 30 years old. If Cobb can quickly develop chemistry with whomever is under center in 2021, he has a chance to prove that 2020 was a fluke.
WR4 - Chris Conley
Like Coutee, Conley is a guy many expected to light up the league when he first came up from the collegiate ranks, particularly after his NFL Combine performance. Unfortunately, after four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, he only averaged 23.4 yards per game. The Chiefs understandably didn’t bring him back for a fifth campaign, and he ended up with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Once in J-Ville, Conley saw his best season as a pro in 2019, where he caught 47 passes on 90 targets for a whopping 16.5 yards per catch. He had 13 catches for over 20 yards, his one and only 100 yard receiving game, and scored 5 touchdowns.
While those stats are not impressive at all when looking at a starting wide receiver, as a guy who can come in on spread/empty backfield plays or spell Cooks/Coutee/Cobb, Conley might just be the side receiver equivalent of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
WR5 - Isaiah Coulter or Donte Moncrief
With so many gaping holes on defense, the Texans aren’t likely to keep six receivers on the roster. They might bring a guy up from the practice squad now and then, but generally speaking, five spots are likely it for pass catchers in 2021.
Isaiah Coulter was one of the few picks in the 2020 NFL Draft that fans felt good about. He had some decent tape from Rhode Island, where he played his NCAA ball. To some extent, believing he was going to immediately make a great addition to the Texans’ post-Hopkins receiving corps was wishful thinking. Coulter saw the field for one game in 2020 and was not targeted a single time.
Moncrief is an aging veteran entering his ninth season in the league. He spent his first four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts before bouncing from the Jaguars to the Carolina Panthers to the Pittsburgh Steelers to the New England Patriots since then. In 2018, while with the Jaguars, Moncrief had 48 catches for 668 yards, a 13.9 yards per catch average, and 3 touchdowns. While that’s better than what Cobb and Coutee produced last season, Moncrief hasn’t done much since.
Houston Texans Practice Squad or The Turk?
Chris Moore, Andre Roberts, Alex Erickso,n and Steven Mitchell will likely find themselves getting the knock on the door, a request to bring their playbook, and to come see coach on final cutdown day. However, with the giant question marks at the fifth wide receiver spot, one of them could sneak onto the initial roster, especially if they can make an impact on special teams. However, chances are one or more of these guys lands elsewhere or on Houston’s practice squad.
Steven Mitchell has spent most of the last three years on that practice squad and did more than Coulter when given the chance in 2020. He’s probably the best candidate to push for the WR5 slot if Coulter and Moncrief can’t secure it.
What do you think of this lineup? Feel good (insert starting quarterback here) has a good bunch of targets on gameday? Hope Nick Caserio brings in more guys to compete? Are you, like me, wishing they’d kept Kenny Stills?