The Houston Texans haven’t done much to bring positive excitement to the fan base this year. They’ve brought plenty of negative emotion generating press, but not much else.
In a season that seems fated to utterly suck, finding something to look forward to is a tough order. Rookie wide receiver Nico Collins might just fill that order.
Jack Easterby, Nick Caserio, and the Texans’ coaching staff thought enough of Collins to trade up for him in the 2021 NFL Draft. Houston handed over the 109th and 158th pick this year and their 4th round pick next year to acquire the 89th pick in this year’s draft from the Carolina Panthers. As Mighty Matt pointed out, that’s a lot to give up to move 20 places in the middle of a draft. Hopefully Collins proves to be worth it.
Houston Texans draft WR Nico Collins with the 89th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) May 1, 2021
Nico Collins averaged 19.7 yards per catch in 2019 pic.twitter.com/RlxjJh5YPT
So far, it appears Collins is doing everything we could ever hope him to do. The coaching staff has taken notice. Over at Sports Talk790, Aaron Wilson has a nice piece on Collins, full of good quotes:
Robert Prince, Texan Wide Receiver Coach:
Really liked [Nico’s] size, liked his speed. Plays physical, has a large catching radius. Just something to add to our receiving corps. Just liked those traits that he had. One thing is, without playing last year, obviously you’re missing a lot of game reps, but it also gives you a chance to be healthy. With Nico, the thing about Nico is he wants to get better every day. I mean, there’s not a day that he comes in and he’s dreading coming to work. He looks forward to the meetings, getting better in the meetings and working out on the field. With that attitude, he has a chance to succeed.
Now, saying “he has a chance to succeed” is hardly glowing praise, but these are the 2021 Texans. In that context, we’ll take any non-negative as a positive... and like it.
The list of Collins’ pros and cons gives hope that Houston’s coaching staff can elevate this young man to solid starter status. In the post linked above, I likened Collins to a solid slot receiver simply because of his lack of outside highlights, aside from the deep fade and his seeming inability to make it past first contact. However, many others, including Wilson, see Collins as a solid WR2 playing across from Brandin Cooks. If Cooks can take the top off the defense and if the running back corps can keep the flanks occupied, Collins might feast on intermediate routes.
Pep Hamilton, Houston Texans Passing Game Coordinator:
[Nico]’s a big body wide receiver that has a tremendous catch radius that’ll make contested catches. We’re excited to have an opportunity to continually see him grow and develop and see what type of pro he becomes.
Cooks, the wily veteran of Houston’s wide receiver group, also sees great potential in Collins.
...this guy doesn’t look like a rookie to me. You talk about a guy who’s out there that’s coachable and is able to pick up things pretty fast. You love to see that from a young guy, a guy who is explosive with natural hands and I look forward to continuing to work with him and seeing him grow.
(On a tangent: Kudos to Cooks, who has often been maligned as a bad chemistry fit, possibly due to attitude problems, with prior teams. Since arriving in Houston, the vet has been nothing but positive and encouraging. Love to see that!)
Houston’s offensive coordinator, Tim Kelly, is also a Collins fan.
He’s doing a good job coming in here and learning the offense. Making that transition, it’s a totally different game, especially for a guy who didn’t play last year, who opted out. He’s done a great job. He came in in great shape and he’s really learning the offense and he’s been impressive.
It’s a shame we’ll never get to see an offensive unit featuring Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, Cooks, and Collins. But with Tyrod Taylor earning glowing praise in his first H-Town offseason, maybe, just maybe, Kelly and his new players can put together just enough excitement in the losses to come to provide fans with something to cling to for the future.
Hopefully Collins is a big part of that.