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Nico Collins: Year Two

Can the incumbent WR2 take the leap from rookie to solid starter?

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Houston Texans Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

In the 3rd round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans selected Nico Collins, wide receiver from Michigan with the 89th overall pick. Collins cemented his place as a starter prior to the beginning the season. His upside seemed far more exciting than the majority of the 2021 Texans draft class. He had all the intangibles and put them on display in training camp.

Facing the Jacksonville Jaguars in week one, Collins took 55% of the Texans offensive snaps, catching one pass for seven yards. In week two, the rookie wideout caught another pass, this one for 32 yards against the Cleveland Browns. Unfortunately, Collins suffered a shoulder injury in that outing and landed on injured reserve shortly thereafter.

The rook recovered in time to rejoin the team in week six, facing the Indianapolis Colts. This time, he caught four passes for 44 yards. By week eight, Collins was finding a rhythm, catching four more passes for 55 yards. It wasn’t until week 14 that Nico scored his first NFL touchdown, against the Seattle Seahawks in a game where he caught five passes for 69 yards.

Nico Collins Rookie Season Stats

By the end of his rookie campaign, Collins’ stat line included eight starts, 14 games played, 33 catches for 446 yards, a 13.5 yard per catch average and the lone touchdown.

While these are hardly the Andre Johnson or DeAndre Hopkins numbers some of us hoped for, neither of the two greatest wideouts in Texans history played their rookie seasons under the same sort of disfunction Collins endured.

In the end, it may be a long time before Houston ever drafts another Johnson or Nuk, but Collins did land 10th best out of 22 rookie wide outs in terms of yardage. He landed 5th best in yards per catch average, 9th in yards per game and 11th in targets.

Nico Collins: Year Two

Last season’s aforementioned disfunction didn’t do the Texans rookie any favors. With Tim Kelly’s leftover Bill O’Brien offense, former head coach David Culley’s now infamous surprise that playing time benefitted rookies and another rookie in quarterback Davis Mills trying to operate behind a patchwork offensive line with no run game to speak of, it’s a wonder Collins achieved what he did.

In year two, Collins once again lines up across from pro bowl wideout Brandin Cooks. With Mills returning for a fresh start in new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton’s legitimate offensive scheme, the big bodied Collins should get targeted early and often.

Houston also invested some draft capital in rookie wide receiver John Metchie. The former Alabama star is expected to fill the slot receiver role, taking some heat off Cooks and Collins. Metchie is currently recovering from an ACL tear suffered in college, but predicted to make a full recovery.

To say the Texans offense is vastly improved for 2022 over the 2021 model is an understatement. A proven coaching scheme, better offensive line, solidified run game, growth and chemistry with one another from Davis Mills and his receivers and the additions of several key players should certainly help out. If Collins could make 2021 seem like a success for a rookie wideout, his sophomore effort should blow that away.

While it seems a bit far-fetched to expect Mills to have multiple 1000 yard receivers in 2022, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Collins take a major step forward.

Nico Collins 2022 stats prediction

55 catches for 764 yards, a 13.9 yards per catch average and 6 touchdowns. Along the way, Collins, Cooks and Metchie might just get mentioned as one of the better receiving corps in the AFC, if not the NFL.