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So…which Houston Texans receiver could replace Tank Dell?

Now that the rookie phenom is hurt, who is going to step up as Houston makes its playoff push?

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

One of the major developments coming out of the Houston Texans’ victory against the the Denver Broncos was rookie wide receiver Tank Dell’s season-ending leg injury. This was the one catastrophic development of an otherwise successful game, his loss putting a large damper on the satisfaction and good tidings of another victory. Despite being a rookie, Dell has been a vital element to every game of the season. He’s C.J. Stroud’s second-highest targeted player (Nico Collins is first), has amassed 709 receiving yards, and still leads the team with seven receiving touchdowns. His speed and separation ability quickly made NFL defenders look silly, and his connection with Stroud has already yielded multiple game-breaking scores. He is truly unreplaceable.

….So, how do you replace him? Who could fill that Tank-sized hole?

Well that’s the question we’re answering right now! Houston is fortunate to have quite the intriguing hodgepodge of receivers at their disposal, some tall and lanky, some short and speedy, and a few more in the middle. All will undoubtedly contribute, but one must stand above the rest! So, let’s take a look at who is left on the roster:

NICO COLLINS - 59 Rec, 991 Yds, 6 TDs, 69.4% Catch%

NFL: Denver Broncos at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

He’s is the most obvious choice. Nico Collins has been the WR1 for Houston all season long, and he’s been playing like it. He had a career-high 191 yards against the Broncos last Sunday, making that his fourth game this season with 100+ yards.

Since entering the league in 2021, you could immediately see the potential of Collins given his great height and speed. He became more and more adept at using his large frame to run through defenders, and this season he has paired those skills with fantastic route-running and an improved ability to track the ball.

He’s quickly turned into a complete package for the Texans, and I wouldn't be surprised if Dell’s injury will lead to Collins absorbing of wealth of more targets until the end of the season, but he can’t fully replace Dell despite that. Both Collins and Dell were often on the field at the same time with very different route trees, so he will be incapable of just absorbing another starter’s routes and completely replacing them. So, Collins can help, but who else can join him on the starting lineup?

ROBERT WOODS - 30 Rec, 326 Yds, 1 TD, 52.6% Catch %

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

One of the several solid veteran signings orchestrated by general manager Nick Caserio during the offseason, Woods has been a reliable, if infrequent, contributor to the team. He’s actually been in the starting lineup for nine games, but he quickly became a background dancer to the Nico Collins/Tank Dell experience.

Though, this isn’t to take away from Woods’ abilities. He was one of Jared Goff’s favorite targets when they were both Los Angeles Rams, breaching the 1,000-yard mark in 2018 and 2019. He and Cooper Kupp made up quite the pass-catching duo for multiple years, so there’s no reason not to think he can’t become a star again. But, admittedly, it’s been a couple years since we’ve last seen Woods take over a game, his last game eclipsing the 100-yard mark coming all the way back in November 2021, when he compiled 104 yards from scrimmage directly before tearing his ACL and missing the remainder of the season.

But, his time on the Tennessee Titans’ morbid 2022 passing offense didn’t do him any statistical favors. At this point, he is fully healed from the ACL injury and back on a team with a good quarterback, so he’s more than capable of returning to that 2018 peak. Not only that, but he’s one heck of a pass-blocker, too! He’s certainly not the most popular option of this group of playmakers, but Robert Woods arguably has the most evidence out of all of them that he can be a big-time receiver.

XAVIER HUTCHINSON - 2 Rec, 43 Yds, 50.0% Catch %

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

One of the wildcards of the receiving corps, rookie wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson has yet to make a big impact this season. But, that hasn’t stopped Houston fans from speculating on his potential. One of the three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award in 2022 (the others being Marvin Harrison Jr. and Jalin Hyatt), Hutchinson finished his last season at Iowa State with 107 receptions for 1,171 yards and six touchdowns, easily making him one of the most accomplished and prolific receivers in school history.

Then, you look at his physical traits: 6’3”, 4.53 40-yard dash, quick feet, longs arms, and plenty strong enough to break away from would-be tacklers. I mean, he’s got everything! He’s still raw and clearly not ready for a full workload given his snap counts, but Hutchinson’s size and production makes me think of when Houston used a third-round pick in 2021 on another lesser-known wide receiver: Nico Collins. That pick really worked out, now it’s only a matter of time until we know if Hutchinson is on the same track.

NOAH BROWN - 21 Rec, 439 Yds, 1 TD, 70.0% Ctch %

NFL: Denver Broncos at Houston Texans Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a real contender for Dell’s replacement for the rest of the season. Noah Brown has already had some banner games in his first year in Houston, surprisingly me and many other fans who thought he’d be more of a backup contributor than a real asset. Seemingly losing the butter fingers that haunted him while with the Dallas Cowboys, Noah Brown has been an extremely reliable pass-catcher and chain-mover. On top of that, he’s already demonstrated an ability to take over a game, piling up 153 yards and a touchdown on six catches against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and then 172 yards on just seven catches against the Cincinnati Bengals the very next week!

Suffice to say, Noah Brown has already shown during this season he can be the perfect compliment to C.J. Stroud’s deep ball. 325 receiving yards in just two games does not happen accidentally, and even though he’s never been a 1,000-yard receiver, I like his chances of getting close this year if he gets more targets. Although, as much as Noah Brown appears to be capable of filling in for Tank Dell, there is one more player on roster that may have what it takes…

JOHN METCHIE III - 12 Rec, 138 Yds, 75.0% Catch %

NFL: Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

It might be finally time to unlock John Metchie III. Former Alabama Crimson Tide star receiver John Metchie was drafted by the Texans in the second round, 44th overall in 2022, and soon after was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia before his first NFL season. A devastating diagnosis that sidelined him for his entire rookie campaign, but it only took him just under a year to defeat cancer and return to football activities.

This year, now fully healthy, Metchie has become a routine contributor behind Tank Dell, occasionally getting a chance to flash that speed that made him famous in Tuscaloosa. With Tank Dell now out for the season, Metchie’s comparable route-running and game-breaking speed are certainly enticing the Texans’ coaching staff. If all works out, he could literally be a plug-and-play replacement to Tank Dell, forming a connection with Stroud that could quickly yield multiple long touchdown passes. Metchie had already shown in college that he has the hands, the speed, and the finesse to ruin opposing defenses on a weekly basis, and now he has the opportunity to show it off in the NFL. If I had to pick a Texans receiver that I believe is going to see the largest amount of increased snaps to compensate for Tank Dell’s loss, it would be John Metchie. He’s just too similar.

But, that’s just what I think. Out of all the receivers left on the roster, I believe Metchie will be the #1 Tank Dell replacement, along with Noah Brown receiving some more snaps in each game to back him up. But, what do you think? Will he get more chances than Noah Brown and Robert Woods, or will DeMeco Ryans and Co. decide to lay trust in the veterans? Or, will Xavier Hutchinson shock us all? Let us know in the comments below!