There was a lot of interest in the opening edition of this series. Quarterbacks generate a ton of interest as a general rule. Some of the comments revolved around the fact that quarterback was not our biggest need. That is definitely true. However, the point of this series is not necessarily to rank order team needs, but to look at each position group and determine what if anything needs to be added.
As we watched the Houston Texans offense grind to halt in the divisional playoff game it would seem that there should be more than a passing interest in the targets that C.J. Stroud has to throw to. Offenses and defenses have a ton of moving parts. Quarterbacks can make quicker decisions and be more accurate. Offensive lines can provide just one extra second of throwing time. Yet, you can’t ignore that without Tank Dell and Noah Brown, the other receivers just couldn’t create separation.
In order to illustrate these points individually we will look at catch percentage (catches divided by targets) and yards per target. This will demonstrate the efficiency that some players play with. Obviously others do not and that will be a place to point to growth.
Yards per target: 11.9
Time flies when you are having fun. Collins has one more season left on his rookie deal and there will be a significant raise. Is he a true number one wide receiver? I have a hard time defining the difference between the number one receiver on a team and a true number one receiver. The numbers are there and it is hard to ask anything else from Collins. He provided yards after the catch and caught a high percentage of balls.
Yards per target: 9.5
Had Dell remained healthy the divisional playoff game would have been more competitive and he would have been a candidate for offensive rookie of the year. Dell was used more as a down the field target, so his catch percentage was lower, but his presence helped open things up for the guys underneath. If Bobby Slowik can find ways to limit his exposure to big hits and contact in general then he might be able to make it through a 17 game schedule.
Yards per target: 10.3
Brown is one of the team’s free agents and one of the real examples of the concept behind the value of things. He has value as an explosive target and showed some big play ability this past season. He is also not a traditional number two receiver. He just isn’t a consistent enough threat due to health and performance. As a third or fourth guy he could be really valuable. The question will be price.
Yards Per Target: 5.7
Emotion and sentimentality can cloud our judgment. Woods is one of those guys you can’t help but like. He is a good leader, plays the game the right way, and does the little things that don’t show up on a stat sheet. Eventually, you need the stuff that shows up on the stat sheet and he just doesn’t give you enough of that. Cutting him would give the Texans approximately five million in savings but also account for four million in dead cap. He’s not prohibitively expensive, but if he’s taking up a roster spot it means that a more explosive receiver isn’t.
Yards Per Target: 5.3
Speaking of sentimentality, there is no player that embodies that more than Metchie. Metchie came back from cancer for crying out loud. If you can’t root for him then you need to check your pulse. However, numbers don’t lie. He didn’t succeed based on any reasonable measure. Now, whether he is a cut candidate or not depends on what else you have going on. He is on a rookie deal, so he doesn’t cost much more than a roster spot, but that roster spot could become important if there are better candidates out there.
Yards Per Target: 4.7
Hutchinson was a late round pick, so expectations shouldn’t have been high. I think some of us saw the numbers at Iowa State and were hopeful some of that magic would come with him. Who knows, maybe a year in the building and conditioning could bring improvement. The last three receivers profiled combined for 124 targets, 64 catches, and 654 yards. That’s a 51.6 catch percentage with 5.3 yards per target. That ain’t going to get it done.
Yards Per Target: 8.3
The focus will be on that punt return that represented the offensive output in the divisional round. Sims has some impressive speed and athleticism, but it has never translated in the passing game. I’d be more than happy to see him stay in the building to see if something could happen.
The Final Analysis
We can look at free agent targets at a later date. We will certainly look at draft prospects as well down the road. Either way, this team needs one more impact receiver to go along with Nico Collins and Tank Dell. Part of that is protection in case one of them gets hurt, but it is also about spacing and making sure those two guys aren’t overtaxed. Dell was asked to take on more responsibility because the other receivers couldn’t do it. Providing Stroud with that guy will make the offense more explosive and possibly reduce the time he needs to throw. That lowers the sack totals and lessens the pressure on a sometimes underwhelming offensive line.