All the hype around newly released, former Houston Texans star wideout DeAndre Hopkins has really shone a spotlight on the glaring hole in DeMeco Ryans new team: Where art thou WR1?
Brandin Cooks was traded to the Dallas Cowboys earlier this year. Will Fuller V is off somewhere preparing to get injured. Hopkins, unceremoniously traded to the Cardinals by [STAFF REDACTED] is back on the market.
Meanwhile Ryans and general manager Nick Caserio have built what looks to be a deceptively solid offensive line, a triphammer run game featuring Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary and brought in one of the best available tight ends in Dalton Schultz.
Stroud has protection, a reliable running game and a safety-valve tight end. But there still is no clear cut WR1 for him to throw to when the game is on the line.
Meanwhile, the wide receiver room looks like a casting call for “Next Man Up.”
It’s the opposite of the early days of future Hall of Famer Andre Johnson’s career. The next man up under center for a sizable portion of ‘Dre’s career wasn’t a QB1.
Not to mention the fanfare around how many Texans quarterbacks completed a pass to Hopkins on his way to cementing his place among elite NFL receivers.
DeAndre Hopkins has caught TD passes from MANY QBs
Deshaun Watson (25) Kyler Murray (17) T.J. Yates (7) Ryan Fitzpatrick (6) Brian Hoyer (5)
Brock Osweiler (4) Ryan Mallett (2) Tom Savage (2) Case Keenum (1) Matt Schaub (1)
Brandon Weeden (1)
Let’s not focus on the fact that most of those QBs were Texans...
Nope, that’s the past, time to move along. Nothing to see there.
Hopefully, DeMeco Ryans has finally ended the coaching/staff craziness this team has endured since firing Gary Kubiak. It sure seems like it. And, with that comes player personnel stability as well.
Under Ryans, Houston seems to have all the pieces necessary for a true WR1 to shine, but...
Will Justin Jefferson join this elite group next season? pic.twitter.com/olZZfoYp3u— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) May 24, 2023
According to the roster page on HoustonTexans.com, the current pass catching lineup consists of:
John Metchie III
None of these names are attached to Sportscenter highlight reels the likes of which made Hopkins and Johnson NFL pass catching legends.
Can Robert Woods step up? Maybe...
Here’s a look at Robert Woods, the Texans’ major WR addition in free agency. He’s entering his second full season after a 2021 ACL tear. pic.twitter.com/tBWUauTFv5— Brooks Kubena (@BKubena) May 23, 2023
There's high hope for Metchie III, Dell and Hutchinson, but: see definition of potential
While there’s an understandable cry from some fans/writers/etc. to bring Hopkins back to H-Town, such reunions are far more often fan wish than NFL reality. In fact, it’s easier to make an argument for why Hopkins is a bad fit for the current Texans than a good one, his insane level of play notwithstanding.
In fact, D-Hop is the #1 free agent on the NFL market right now, and #2 isn’t even close. But that doesn’t make him a good fit for the current Texans... much less a realistic one for a guy who left feeling burned by the organization and hasn’t been shy about taking shots.
After Nuk, the available wideouts list gets thin fast: Jarvis Landy, Kenny Golladay, Julio Jones...
With no viable option of adding a WR1, and a huge logic leap that any of the current receivers will instantly land on the 5 Best Wide Receivers in Houston Texans History list, expectations for the Texans offensive success in 2023 will need to adjust downward.
How many drops, blown routes, get-open-fails and other gaffes will kill drives this upcoming season? Only time will tell. However, the wide receiver corps is currently the only part of the offense that didn’t drastically improve this off-season. In fact, it may have gone backwards with the loss of Cooks.
But, having hope that Dell or Hutchinson (or both) come out and vie for AFC Offensive Rookie of the Week more than once is a good idea, stranger things have happened.
Metchie III should also rise up as a solid slot threat quickly. He likely already has chemistry with Davis Mills. How fast can he run past that with Stroud? Only time will tell.
At this stage in the rebuild, the offense looks very solid, possibly just one player away from greatness.
In the meantime, the only hope for 2023 seems to rest in the hands of 13 men who have never grabbed the WR1 brass ring.