This is the fourth edition of this article and has been one of the more entertaining pieces I’ve done over the years. Back in 2018, the top targets were DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, but newly added Demaryius Thomas and Bruce Ellington were exciting sparks of a franchise leaning into the opportunity to make a run in 2018. The names and targets will feel fairly new this year and may even continue to change heading into training camp. The newly acquired slot receiver Anthony Miller will shake up the original predictions I had earlier in the week and is just another addition to a ton of new faces in the WR room.
But first, we’ll evaluate our prediction of the Texans targets from last year.
Editors note: players with less than 10 targets in 2020 are not included.
2020 Texans Targets
|Player||2020 Projected Targets||2020 Actual Targets|
|Player||2020 Projected Targets||2020 Actual Targets|
Let’s start off with the fact that I was less than 10% off overall for impressions. And some of you question if we know what we’re talking about... The biggest difference is the disappearance of Kenny Stills from the offense when he was let go by the team after 12 games. Also, consider that missed playing time by Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks forced quarterback Deshaun Watson to spread the ball out to new targets such as Chad Hansen and Pharaoh Brown. Both Duke Johnson and David Johnson received less targets than were expected, but were still critical assets and outlets in the passing game.
Heading into the 2021 season, there will be a significant overhaul on the names on this list. At the top, Brandin Cooks will be expected to catch the load of passes while Randall Cobb hopes to have a resurgent season. We also expect Jordan Akins to retain his title as the main target option for tight end.
This past year we expected Watson to throw the ball 560 times, which was 35 attempts per game. For this article we’ll expect Tyrod Taylor to be the starting QB for 17 games. The prime of his career was from 2015-2017 where he started 14, 15, and 14 games respectively. In those seasons, he averaged 27-30 attempts per game. We’ll assume his offensive production will be on the higher end to adjust for more passing offense in that time. With that, we’ll predict 29 targets over 17 games, or 493 attempts for 2021.
One of the most interesting pieces of this entire offseason will be who the Texans choose to keep. I’m imagining the addition of Anthony Miller doesn’t bode well for either Isaiah Coulter or Keke Coutee
2021 Projected Targets
Brandin Cooks: 95 (5.6 targets per game)
Anthony Miller: 80 (4.7 targets per game)
The former second round draft pick has fallen off the radar over the past two seasons. His last play of the 2020 season ended in an ejection during the playoffs, which is something unheard of for a free agent in Houston throughout franchise history. This target total is on par with his previous two seasons total and is a strong yer for any WR2. Expect Miller to grow into the offense later into the season.
Jordan Akins: 45 (2.6 targets per game)
There was a point where the Texans were deciding between Jordan Thomas, Jordan Akins, Kahale Warring and Darren Fells. It’s fairly obvious that Akins has won that battle. He was a consistent threat out in the flats the past two seasons. We don’t expect anything miraculous out of the much seasoned veteran still on his rookie contract (he’s 29), but a reliable upper 30s reception year again seems quite feasible
Phillip Lindsay: 45 (2.6 targets per game)
It’s still undecided who will be the starting running back for the Texans heading into the season. No matter the outcome, a healthy Lindsay is one of the more dynamic backs when catching the ball in the league. Denver ran screen plays to Lindsay multiple times per game. He’s one of those backs where he doesn’t have to be the only one on the field and can line up in the slot, similar to Lamar Miller at times. If the coaches can keep him healthy, Lindsay will carve out for himself a significant portion of the offense.
Keke Coutee: 39 (2.3 targets per game)
Will this be Coutee’s year? Will there ever be a Coutee year? Is Coutee still stuck in some proverbial doghouse he’ll never get out of? Woof, woof. Who knows. It’s obvious this is a make-or-break season for Coutee, but then again we said that about him last season. The former Texas Tech slot receiver did add 12 targets to his season projection with Randall Cobb being traded. Don’t be surprised if Coutee’s slot receiver position affords him a 50+ target season... or he could also be cut before the season begins.
David Johnson: 32 (1.9 targets per game)
There may not be a person who has had a less enjoyable time in Houston than Johnson. After being lambasted by fans for the reason DeAndre Hopkins was traded, Johnson has followed up the 2020 offseason with one where the Texans brought in three other veteran RBs. Johnson left a crowded backfield in Arizona and has found himself is potentially an even more crowded backfield. Expect Johnson’s part in the offense to wane as the season progresses
Nico Collins: 32 (1.9 targets per game)
Collins could break out in the Texans new play action pass offense. If Davis Mills takes over, expect Collins to be a primary target for him. Collins big frame and solid-ish hands will provide the QB, whomever he may be, with a new redzone target. He’s a fine complement to the other faster, smaller receivers in this group
Rex Burkhead: 28 (1.6 targets per game)
Taking a big bet here. I’ll expect Burkhead to not make the team, but if he does in any manner, he’ll jump in when one of the other veterans gets injured. Burkhead has had back to back seasons with over 30 targets as a RB. He’ll have difficulty breaking through the depth chart, but overall he will be at one point in the season a significant portion of the offense I guarantee it.
Chris Conley: 25 (1.5 targets per game)
Conley comes to Houston after a sub-par stint in Jacksonville for two seasons. He is connected to David Culley through his time as the Kansas City’s receiver coach when Conley was in his first two years in the league. Conley out of any receiver on this list could blow this number out of the water. He’s had over 50 targets the past three seasons and is two years removed from a 90 target season. Conley is only predicted to receive this few of targets due to a competitive receiver group and downward progression in his career.
Mark Ingram: 24 (1.4 targets per game)
Ingram is not huge threat in the receiving category, but it has been something he’s been working on over the years. He only had 8 targets last season, but that could be more of an outlier than anything. Entering his 11th season in the league, Ingram could be a calming influence in a backfield in flux. I imagine him in a backfield with both Tyrod Taylor and Lindsay for some dynamic plays.
Jordan Brevin: 23 (1.4 targets per game)
Rookie tight ends are notorious for needing time to develop. Brevin should be no different, but for many his ceiling is higher than that of Kahale Warring. Brevin’s hands and play speed will be intriguing to watch develop over the year. He’ll start as a special teams player, but could find himself in the offense if Akins doesn’t continue to evolve in the pass game.
Pharoah Brown: 13 (0.8 targets per game)
When half of the Texans receiving corpse was injured, Brown stepped in and provided some surprising quality. He’s similar to Darren Fells; a massive tight end with impressive hands and an asset in the run game. He only had 16 targets all of last season and we’re going to keep that pace here. Brown could jolt to a higher target count depending on the way the tight end group irons out in preseason.
Isaiah Coulter: 12 (0.7 targets per game)
Imagine being Coulter, you enter the league thinking you’ll be surrounded by all this talent, only for it to all be extracted by the team and then subsequently replaced with other players. I’m afraid Coulter could be lost in the chaos of this pass catching group. He spent a significant amount of time this past season on injured reserve. Coulter does have a straight forward path to the 53 - be tall. He’s a strong, fast, and long receiver. Something this group can use some more of. I’ll be rooting for Coulter as this group could also use some of his youth.
As you’ll see, Kahale Warring is not on this list. I don’t predict he’ll make this roster and won't be receiving any targets because of that. Who knows who will be on the roster by the end of the week at this rate however...