By all accounts, it has been a successful offseason for general manager Nick Caserio and the Houston Texans. They were able to retain all of their key free agents, bring in some new contributors, and their draft was universally lauded. Rookies such as Derek Stingley, Kenyon Green, Jalen Pitre and John Metchie were all selected in the top-50 and are going to be asked to make an instant impact.
The stability of the off-season in addition to a new influx of talent has created some clear winners in Houston. Davis Mills has virtually no competition for the starting job and has continuity with new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and his favorite target from last season in Brandin Cooks. Lovie Smith gets to work with a far more talented defensive group than he was asked to coordinate last season.
Beyond the coach and the quarterback, the obvious benefactors of any team improvement, there is another clear winner from the offseason: Second-year wide receiver Nico Collins.
A big winner of Houston’s off-season? Nico Collins.
+ No competition added for WR2
+ Continuity with Davis Mills
+ Metchie should help everyone from the slot
+ Pep Hamilton is a huge upgrade at OC
Time for him to produce before they look at WR in 2023 free agency #WeAreTexans
— John Crumpler (@JohnHCrumpler) May 11, 2022
Collins had an up and down rookie season that, although flashed talent, didn’t provide any true indication of what Houston has going forward. The Michigan product started eight of 14 games and caught 33 balls for 446 yards. His position group entering the off-season was considered one of immense importance to improve if Mills was going to stand a chance quarterbacking the team in 2022.
Although the team did work to boost the receiving group, it did so in a way that shockingly appears very non-threatening to Collins. Former Denver Broncos receiver DaeSean Hamilton was the only new free agent brought in while veterans such as Chris Conley were brought back on short-term deals.
Collins has a very clear path to winning the boundary receiver job opposite of Brandin Cooks. Hamilton showed some promise in Denver, however nothing that would suggest he has a better track than Caserio’s third-round draft pick in 2021. Collins’ 6-4 size also gives him a distinct skillset advantage over Hamilton at 6-1.
Mills to Nico Collins, gets the Texans into the red zone, Nico up to 67 receiving yards. pic.twitter.com/HA8sdPs9P2
— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) January 9, 2022
The other veteran receivers in the room either lack the talent of Collins or have already proven at the NFL level they’re not the players teams should build their receiving group around.
The Texans did draft a receiver in the NFL draft and they did so at a rather high pick. Caserio parted with a multitude of selections to trade up to the 44th overall pick in Round 2 in order to secure John Metchie from Alabama. However, this is probably the best possible scenario for Collins.
Metchie is going to need time to recover from his ACL tear that happened late in the season at Alabama. Although Dr. Lyle Cain, the Alabama team football doctor who performed the ACL surgery, is confident in Metchie’s healing abilities, the wideout may likely miss time in both rookie minicamp and organized team activities. Even when he is on the field, Metchie and Collins project to entirely different roles.
The Alabama receiver appears set to man the slot receiver position in three-wide-receiver sets for offensive coordinator Hamilton. His skillset is one of fine route running and playmaking speed compared to Collins’ catch-point dominance and size.
If anything, Metchie debatably helps Collins more than creating any obstacle towards a breakout sophomore year. He will draw attention away in the slot and create more of the one-on-one opportunities that Collins was drafted to win. His skillset compliments the existing duo of Cooks and Collins extremely well.
When WR John Metchie III recovers from a torn ACL at the SEC title game, he’ll play inside with Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins outside. QB Davis Mills should be excited about that threesome.
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) April 30, 2022
In addition to how the receiver room shook out, Collins likely benefits from other decisions on the team. He was drafted in the same class as Mills and should have great chemistry and continuity with the starting quarterback. Hamilton, if as advertised as an offensive coordinator, will be able to better place Collins in situations to succeed compared to just a year prior.
Altogether, Collins may be primed for a breakout year. The front office showed their faith in his talent a year ago when they traded up to select him in the draft and now it’s time to see if that faith will be rewarded. His sophomore season represents the perfect opportunity to break onto the national scene and to give Mills a legitimate second weapon on the field.
6 draft selections were traded away in acquiring Nico Collins & John Metchie.
Collins: 109/158/future 108
Not a complaint, just an observation.
— TexansCap (@TexansCap) May 2, 2022
It will be in Collins’ best interest to succeed as well. With a bevy of cap space entering the 2023 offseason and a ton of draft capital, Houston will have options at the receiver position. They may be incentivized to overpay for a reliable boundary receiver like Jacksonville did with Christian Kirk or to draft a young WR1 for their quarterback, a la Garrett Wilson for Zach Wilson should Collins ultimately fail to be the right compliment for Cooks.
The only things set in the receiver group is that Cooks is the No. 1 wideout and Metchie almost certainly gets the first shot to operate in the slot. After that, Collins has far and away the best opportunity to break away and excel in Houston this season.
Things broke right for Collins this off-season, fans will have to see how he capitalizes on that good fortune.