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Bold Predictions For Houston’s 2023 Rookie Class

Bring in the new guy(s)!

NFL: NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 rookie class will be a significant turning point in the Houston Texans franchise. The Texans have cashed in all of their Deshaun Watson chips in and now need to go all-in with the development of this class.

In this, we’ll break down six predictions for the 2023 rookie class in their first season. This class has a lot of talent and encompasses almost every position group, so there’s a lot of hope and possibilities with this class.

Xavier Hutchinson will have more TDs than Tank Dell

Houston selected Tank Dell in the third round, then turned around and selected Hutchinson in the sixth round. Doubling down at the receiver position with two completely different receivers is a great way to add depth and new skills to a valuable position.

Tank Dell may have led all of college football in receiving yards AND receiving touchdowns, but Xavier Hutchinson and his 6’3” frame will be the best red zone target the Houston Texans have. The Texans have been notoriously poor in the red zone, even in the Watson era.

While Hutchinson never eclipsed more than six TDs in a season, he will be put in a position to score often in Houston. This is quite a bold prediction considering Tank Dell scored 29 touchdowns over his last two seasons for the Cougars. Dell will be battling with John Metchie III as the slot receiver, while Hutchinson will compete with Nico Collins as the X receiver role and red-zone target. Both receivers will have to battle it out to get on the field, but Hutchinson’s profile and game will bode well for him getting into the end zone more often at the next level.

Jarrett Patterson will have more snaps than Juice Scruggs

Houston will have a litter of options for the center and guard positions heading into the offseason. Incumbents Jimmy Morrissey and Scott Quessenberry will have to fend off free agent signings Michael Dieter, Shaq Mason as well as rookies Juice Scruggs and Jarrett Patterson. Dieter, Patterson, and Scruggs all have position versatility, but it’s Patterson’s recent experience at guard that make him a viable candidate to beat out Scruggs.

Kenyon Green is playing left guard and Mason is set to handle the right side, but between Patterson’s experience and better run blocking capability than Scruggs he has a higher chance of getting snaps this season than Scruggs.

Will Anderson Jr. and Dylan Horton will combine for more sacks than Jonathan Greenard and Jerry Hughes

No one told me that Dylan Horton had over 10 sacks last season?? Granted, FOUR of those came in the semi-final game against Michigan.... wait why are we taking that for granted??

Jerry Hughes did have his best season in a while and was arguably the Texans’ MVP on defense, but a regression to the mean will be expected for his FOURTEENTH season in the league. Jonathan Greenard’s injury-plagued 2022 season will be one to forget. He is entering into his final season of his rookie contract, which could make for an impactful season if he can return to his 2021 self.

The fact remains that the two rookies are primed to absorb considerable roles on the defense and in particular on third downs. The combined pass rush pedigree of the two newbies will surpass the two vets.

Tank Dell will have more yards than Robert Woods

Houston’s remodeled wide receiver room will be an interesting one to say the least. Robert Woods was the biggest free agent addition from a name standpoint, but he’s coming off his worst season. He’s entering his 11th season and did not eclipse 600 yards the past two seasons. Worse, his receptions, TDs, and average yards were all amongst the worst in his career.

Conversely, Dell has the ability to dominate the Texans offense in the middle of the field. If the Texans opt for more four-wide receiver sets, Dell will occupy an important role as CJ Stroud’s midfield primary option and zone buster.

Dell notched over 1,300 yards each of the last two season with the Houston Cougars. His ability to get open in the middle of the field and rack up yards after the catch will be an immense value to this offense and should help him eclipse the veteran’s receiving yards this season.

Henry To’oTo’o will lead the team in special teams snaps

The fifth round draft pick has all the accolades you could ask for: First-Team All-SEC, 15 TFLs in 2022 (T-most in SEC), and 0 coverage yards allowed in 2022. He was integral in ‘Bama’s special teams punt and kick units and will immediately find playing time on those teams. While he won’t wow you with his speed, his tackling ability and keen awareness in space make him a sure-fire special teams contributor from the get-go.

CJ Stroud will have half the passing yards as his junior season

In 2021 Stroud threw for 4,435 yards in 12 games. That’s a freakish number of yards at any level. Plus, if you multiply that out over a 17 game pro season, he’d eclipse 6,200 yards. No NFL QB has thrown for 6,000 yards and only 15 times ever has a 5,000 season been accomplished. So it’s safe to say there will be a regression in Stroud’s rookie season.

For context, Mac Jones was selected 15th overall by the New England Patriots in 2021. He came in second in the Rookie of the Year voting (behind Ja’Marr Chase) and his stats line read:

3,801 yards, 22 TDs, 13 INTs, 67.6% completion rate

Those numbers don’t compel you to tip your hat, but for a rookie QB that’s more than an exceptional season.

Texans will have two undrafted rookies make the roster

Undrafted rookies LSU defensive end Ali Gaye and Arizona State RB Xazavian Valladay are the two top prospects to make this roster heading into training camp. Both are multi-year starters and dynamic play makers on their respective side of the ball. Houston is particularly weak at running back, making Valladay’s attempt to secure the last running back spot quite feasible. According to the Houston Texans Post-Draft Depth Chart, the Wyoming transfer is battling Mike Boone, Dare Ogunbowale, Darius Joiner, and Gerrid Doaks for the last spot. Ogunbowale has struggled being more than an RB3 and Mike Boone has been on IR for the past two seasons. Both RBs are much older than the reps they’ve earned in the NFL and Houston could very well benefit from a new undrafted rookie free agent running back (sound familiar?).