The Houston Texans wide receiver room has been knocked repeatedly this offseason. While they drafted a couple of receivers, it’s hard to argue that it is better than the 2022 group on paper. Looking at fantasy projections will be challenging. Some sources had shallow projections which eliminated one or two receivers per team. We are using as many comprehensive sources as possible so we will include data from PFF, CBS, and ESPN
Before we get to the current projections, we should take a look at what the wide receivers did last year. We have more data on these guys and it shows us how much each team needs to improve. Not every team will improve here. Will the Texans improve on what they brought to the table last season?
Jacksonville Jaguars: 369 targets, 238 catches, 2,627 yards, 19 TD, 64.5 catch%, 7.12 YPT
Indianapolis Colts: 348 targets, 224 catches, 2,451 yards, 10 TD, 64.4 catch%, 7.04 YPT
Houston Texans: 294 targets, 176 catches, 2,154 yards, 9 TD, 59.9 catch%, 7.33 YPT
Tennessee Titans: 221 targets, 130 catches, 1,595 yards, 6 TD, 58.8 catch%, 7.22 YPT
The Texans were actually competitive here. Of course, they jettisoned Brandin Cooks and Chris Moore. So, the question is whether the new guys and the new offense will be an improvement over what they had last year. The same is true for every team except Jacksonville since quarterback situations are different.
Calvin Ridley comes into the season as the projected number one threat. It should be exciting to see what he could do with Trevor Lawrence after having some dominating moments with Matt Ryan in Atlanta. Christian Kirk is a really good second receiver, but we will stick with Ridley first.
PFF: 105 Targets, 71 catches, 709 yards, 5 TD, 67.6 Catch%, 6.75 yards per target
ESPN: 111 Targets, 70 catches, 873 yards, 5 TD, 63.1 Catch%, 7.86 yards per target
CBS: 115 Targets, 71 catches, 930 yards, 7 TD, 61.7 catch%, 8.09 yards per target
Average: 110 Targets, 71 catches, 837 yards, 6 TD, 64.5 catch%, 7.61 yards per target
There is a concept in baseball called leverage. Essentially, you want to give your best players the most opportunities in high leveraged situations. So, just looking at catches, yards, and touchdowns is not enough. You want guys that give you bang for your buck. Ridley isn’t quite an all-pro guy considering the big names in the AFC, but he’s almost on that level. Christian Kirk is almost as good, so while Ridley’s numbers may underwhelm some, you might not get a better one-two punch than Ridley and Kirk.
PFF: 349 Targets, 233 catches, 2,589 yards, 16 TD, 66.8 catch%, 7.42 yards per target
ESPN: 375 Targets, 241 catches, 2,797 yards, 18 TD, 64.3 catch%, 7.46 yards per target
CBS: 306 Targets, 196 catches, 2,362 yards, 17 TD, 64.1 catch%, 7.72 yards per target
Average: 343 Targets, 223 catches, 2,583 yards, 17 TD, 65.0 catch%, 7.53 yards per target
CBS did not project nearly as many receivers as the other sources. So, these numbers will be abbreviated across the board. The important thing is not the actual total numbers of targets, catches, or yards, but the efficiency at which they are projected to perform. There will be noticeable differences depending on the team.
The DeAndre Hopkins signing might be the most significant offensive addition in the division. He has a history as a number one receiver, but he has missed time two years in a row and he is moving to an offense that has traditionally been set up around the run game. The days of 100+ catches and 1,200 or more yards are probably over. Still, he is better than anything they had last year.
PFF: 101 Targets, 69 catches, 841 yards, 5 TD, 68.3 catch%, 8.33 yards per target
ESPN: 125 Targets, 86 catches, 969 yards, 4 TD, 68.8 catch%, 7.75 yards per target
CBS: 109 Targets, 74 catches, 987 yards, 6 TD, 67.9 catch%, 9.06 yards per target
Average: 112 Targets, 76 catches, 932 yards, 5 TD, 67,9 catch%, 8.32 yards per target
Burks is more like a Will Fuller than a true number one. The addition of Hopkins allows he and others to become down field threats. Time will tell how adding Hopkins actually impacts their offense overall, but what we see below represents the best guess on the passing game and wide receivers.
PFF: 308 Targets, 203 catches, 2,720 yards, 14 TD, 65.9 catch%, 8.83 yards per target
ESPN: 315 Targets, 202 catches, 2,575 yards, 11 TD, 64.1 catch%, 8.17 yards per target
CBS: 309 Targets, 194 catches, 2,662 yards, 15 TD, 62,9 catch%, 8.61 yards per target
Average: 311 Targets, 200 catches, 2,652 yards, 13 TD, 64.3 catch%, 8.53 yards per target
Projections are only a data point and a best guess. However, the best guess here has Hopkins inspiring a huge boost in catch percentage and a decent bump in yards per target. It probably is not enough to vault them over the Jaguars in the standings, but crazier things have happened.
Michael Pittman emerged as a go to wide receiver last year with Matt Ryan at the helm. Anthony Richardson is a very different style of quarterback. So, it remains to be seen what will happen with all of these guys. If he can approach 60 percent as a completion percentage he could be really special in year one.
PFF: 109 Targets, 75 catches, 819 yards, 4 TD, 68.8 catch%, 7.51 yards per target
ESPN: 118 Targets, 76 catches, 828 yards, 3 TD, 64.4 catch%, 7,02 yards per target
CBS: 96 Targets, 67 catches, 685 yards, 3 TD, 69.8 catch%, 7.14 yards per target
Average: 109 Targets, 74 Catches, 818 yards, 4 TD, 67.9 catch%, 7.50 yards per target
Football is a hard sport to pinpoint individual performance. Is Pittman not good enough to be a number one or is he destined to struggle because Anthony Richardson is destined to struggle? At a certain point, it really doesn’t matter. Either way, Pittman is good but just not very good. Overall, it will likely be a struggle.
PFF: 296 Targets, 193 catches, 2,243 yards, 11 TD, 65.2 catch%, 7.58 yards per target
ESPN: 288 Targets, 173 catches, 2,037 yards, 8 TD, 60.1 catch%, 7.07 yards per target
CBS: 96 Targets, 67 catches, 685 yards, 3 TD, 69.8 catch%, 7.14 yards per target
Average: 227 Targets, 144 catches, 1,655 yards, 7 TD, 63.4 catch%, 7.29 yards per target
You talk about a shallow pool. CBS literally projected only Michael Pittman for the Colts. That’s obviously asinine, but I’m not about the pull numbers out of my butt just to make sure it makes sense. I’m more interested in catch percentages and yards per target anyway. PFF and ESPN are obviously more relevant here.
Nico Collins is our number one wide receiver by default. The decision not to pursue Hopkins is a complex one. Sure, he likely wasn’t worth the money paid him and no one is quite sure how much is left in the tank. Yet, he would have been better than the numbers we see below. Oh well.
PFF: 83 Targets, 51 catches, 699 yards, 3 TD, 61.4 catch%, 8.42 yards per target
ESPN: 89 Targets, 50 catches, 688 yards, 4 TD, 56.2 catch%, 7.73 yards per target
CBS: 98 Targets, 55 catches, 753 yards, 4 TD, 56.1 catch%, 7.68 yards per target
Average: 90 Targets, 52 catches, 713 yards, 4 TD, 57.8 catch%, 7.92 yards per target
Of course, whether or not Collins actually becomes the number one target remains to be seen. He projects out that way for now. The cold, hard reality is that the Texans do not have a number one wide receiver. The overall passing game could be okay with more contributions from the running backs and tight ends, but this receiver group is pretty weak overall.
PFF: 289 Targets, 188 catches, 2,249 yards, 11 TD, 65.1 catch%, 7.78 yards per target
ESPN: 310 Targets, 185 catches, 2,287 yards, 11 TD, 59.7 catch%, 7.97 yards per target
CBS: 182 Targets, 107 catches, 1,240 yards, 7 TD, 58.8 catch%, 7.40 yards per target
Average: 260 Targets, 160 catches, 1,925 yards, 10 TD, 61.5 catch%, 7.40 yards per target
Like with the Colts, CBS only projected two wide receivers. We realize this won’t literally be the case, so we focus our attention on the efficiency statistics. The fact that the Jaguars and Titans had more wide receivers make the cut does matter. The numbers won’t likely be as stark but the difference will be noticeable. PFF and ESPN are obviously more relevant.
AFC South Rankings
These rankings aren’t clean across the board, but we can feel pretty comfortable in claiming that the Jaguars have the best receiving corps in the division. The other three are pretty close to one another. Surprisingly, the Texans are second in catches, yards, and touchdowns. Maybe this will be a better year than what we think.
Jaguars: 343 Targets, 223 catches, 2,583 yards, 17 TD, 65.0 catch%, 7.53 yards per target
Titans: 311 Targets, 200 catches, 2,652 yards, 13 TD, 64.3 catch%, 8.53 yards per target
Texans: 260 Targets, 160 catches, 1,925 yards, 7 TD, 61.5 catch%, 7.40 yards per target
Colts: 227 Targets, 144 catches, 1,655 yards, 7 TD, 63.4 catch%, 7.29 yards per target