After the DeAndre Hopkins trade, the Texans are doubtlessly eyeing a wide receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft. Going into this draft process, I could not imagine a feasible reason why the Texans would draft a receiver. But we have to begin to live in this mid-apocalyptic, post-Hopkins world. The Texans have made their bed, even if they just knocked out one of the bed frame legs. As of now, here is the Texans’ wide receiver depth chart:
WR1: Will Fuller V
WR2: Kenny Stills
Slot: Randall Cobb, Keke Coutee, DeAndre Carter
There is little to no depth here. The Texans are one injury away from unmitigated disaster. Only one player on this list played a full 16 games last season: DeAndre Carter.
The Texans have other receivers on the roster, such as Steven Mitchell Jr., Isaac Whitney, and Chad Hansen, but none of them are expected to make a significant impact in 2020. Houston is in need of a consistent x-factor (and X-receiver) to fill the void Fuller and Stills create with their speed. We cannot expect a Hopkins-level player out of any of the prospects drafted this year, especially at the spots we will be drafting in. Bless the soul of whoever the Texans draft at wide receiver in a few weeks; they will never live up to the expectations and comparisons to DeAndre Hopkins through no fault of their own.
As we dive into the upcoming NFL Draft with much excitement and honestly some relief from the monotony, let’s assess who will be available and who we need to focus on.
Tier 1: Guys we don’t have a shot at.
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama. CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma. Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
Tier 2: Guys who will most likely be off the board but could fall.
Tee Higgins, Clemson. Denzel Mims, Baylor. Justin Jefferson, LSU
I need to watch more film on Jefferson. Was it that he had the best QB in the nation throwing him balls or was he naturally getting open? He reminds me of JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Higgins is going to go early in Day Two. That’s one of the biggest locks of this draft. I don’t know how well it would go over if the Texans draft another Clemson prospect after losing D-Hop. At 6’4”, Higgins has gotten Kelvin Benjamin comparisons but has aspirations to be A.J Green.
Mims I’ve never been convinced on. He racked up colossal yardage against Big 12 defenses, but I don’t have enough trust he will physically dominate for jump balls like he did in college. He’s flying up draft boards for his potential and rightfully so.
Tier 3: Fringe Studs
Now is where things get interesting. This doesn’t include the slot receivers or guys the Texans won’t be interested in. Some of these athletes could be off the board by the time the Texans pick at No. 40, but it all depends on how the draft board falls. With so many good receivers, I wouldn’t doubt that many GMs plan to wait on receivers until Day Two so they can add more value.
Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
This is my front-runner in the “Replacing DeAndre Hopkins” sweepstakes. The most agile receiver in the draft behind Jeudy, Aiyuk was second in the nation in yards after the catch (also behind Jeudy). His measurables at the NFL Combine were off the charts and statistically unfair. His wingspan and hand size are top tier, as is his route running. He’s the most well-rounded receiver in the draft. Herm Edwards coached this guy up well, and his talents will translate well to the next level. Biggest con, and you’ll see this everywhere, is that he struggles with contested catches. I compare him to Keenan Allen.
Jalen Reagor, TCU
I’m not as high on Reagor as some are. In the film I’ve viewed, TCU used his speed as a gimmick instead of an asset. Not a big red zone target. A willing blocker. I saw him run the only a handful of routes down the field in several games. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a joystick on the field and was limited by poor quarterback play. He’s not a Day One starter like the Texans need, but mock drafts across the country have him going in the end of the first round. Reagor is a player to keep an eye on as we near the draft.
Tier 4: The Texans’ Wheelhouse
These are guys who will be available at both 40 and 57. They are athletically gifted and fit the skill set we need.
Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado
The biggest question mark in this draft and probably the player most hurt by this offseason – literally. He had surgery on a core muscle after the NFL Combine. This has deflated his draft stock from mid-late first round to mid-second. There’s going to be one club that loves Shenault; my prediction is that it’s the Giants at 36. Shenault can play all over the field and is just one of those athletes that you just give him the damn ball. I compare him to the freakish Cordarelle Patterson.
Chase Claypool, Nortre Dame
The more I watch his tape, the more confident I am the Texans will draft him. At 6’4”, Claypool ran a blazing 4.42 40 yard dash at the Combine. He is more fast than he is quick, but when he gets going, there is not much a corner can do to stop him. He bodies corners like a tight end and almost looks like Jimmy Graham when going up for a ball. Mel Kiper Jr. put Claypool in the first round of his latest mock, but that could be more window dressing than real.
Michael Pittman Jr., USC
He’s not going to wiggle and juke you out of a phone booth, but Pittman, in terms of comparable Texans receivers, I’d give him Jaelen Strong. Pittman will be more than willing to play special teams and would round out any WR room. He racked up 11 touchdowns this past season and was a key contributor all four years. Not a “twitchy” receiver and his cuts are not too effective, but he’s going to be in the league for eight years. He’s a high floor/low ceiling prospect. The fact that he’s the 11th WR on the board is unbelievable. He could fall simply because teams have already drafted their receiver.
Tier 5: Other guys who fit the bill.
REMEMBER THIS NAME. Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty
He’s the most underrated prospect in the entire draft. I like his film better than both Claypool and Pittman Jr’s. He is Liberty’s career receiving yards and touchdowns leader. Will really need to work on his route running, but the kid can catch a football like a hotdog on a bun. Give me this kid in the third round. I’m going to write more about him later. Watch out.
Quintez Cephus, Wisconsin
If you are looking for a WR2, this is your guy. There’s nothing wrong with being a #2, especially because if you play on a team like the Texans, you fairly easily could be the WR1 if the WR1 upsets the coach/GM/overloard once or twice. Cephus defines possession receiver and plays to his strengths. He utilizes boxing out as his core technique to get open. He is quite good at reading zone coverage and knows how to use his hands. A late third round pick that will make one GM look good.
Bryan Edwards, South Carolina
A recently broken foot and a spotty pass catching proficiency has this once teenage sensation battling to stay relevant in a deep WR pool. A big, shifty, and aggressive receiver, Edwards has all the tool to make it in the league. He is a muscled up, dynamic athlete that could flash day one potential, but also could struggle to regain his speed with this broken foot.
Tier 6: Just know who they are so you can impress your friends…
Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan State
KJ Hamler, Penn State
Collin Johnson, Texas
Nothing went as right as it should have for Johnson at Texas. I feel like I’m to blame for some improbable reason just being a Longhorn fan. He’s got the size, speed, and hand skills to play at the NFL. Injuries, competition, a sputtering offense, and inconsistent game-play limited Johnson. I’d really like to see him go to a team that pushes him to excel instead of sit on the bench.
Van Jefferson, Florida
Tyler Johnson, Minnesota