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Hype or Hope #2: Texans Receiver Setting Up For Breakout Season?

Is Nico Collins ready to establish himself as the future WR2 in Houston? Or will he struggle to find his footing without the presence of John Metchie?

Welcome to Hype or Hope, a series where we take an in-depth look at off-season trends surrounding the Texans and the data to determine if there’s hope that the talk comes true or if it’s just hype that fans should ignore. Our first entry analyzed the excitement surrounding Jonathan Greenard this summer.

This week’s focus: Nico Collins. The young receiver has been the subject of a lot of talk over the last few months, especially amidst reports that he and young QB Davis Mills are building quite a bit of rapport. There are some that believe Collins will cement himself as the future WR2 in Houston, while others believe he may be due for the likes of a 1,000-yard season.

From A Wolverine To A Texan

Nico attended college at Michigan University, where he played college football for three seasons. During that time, Collins played a total of 17 games where he caught 78 passes for 1,388 yards and 13 touchdowns. His college career averaged out to 17.8 yards per catch and .48 touchdowns per game. His highest single-season receiving record was in 2019 when he went for 729 yards.

During his time at Michigan, Nico Collins had the luxury of playing with some receivers who have gone on to become established pass-catchers in the NFL. Namely, Collins played beside Donovan Peoples-Jones in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons, who was the clear number one in the offense. Peoples-Jones is currently on the Cleveland Browns, serving as the wide receiver two behind Amari Cooper.

The Wolverines were led through the 2018 and 2019 seasons by Shea Patterson, who threw for 2,600 yards and 3,061 yards respectively. During those years, Collins caught for 632 yards in 2018 (which is 24.3% of the total available passing yards) and 729 yards in 2019 (which is 23.8% of the total available passing yards). Collins opted out of the 2020 season, as a “business decision” to protect his family from COVID-19.

Trying To Make The Texans

The former Wolverine is the proto-typical blueprint for a big-body receiver in the NFL. Measuring in at 6’4″ and weighing a crisp 215 pounds, Collins is the boundary receiver the Texans have been looking for. In his rookie year, number 12 saw the field in some capacity throughout 14 games (although he started only eight of those). Across that series, he brought in 33 catches on 60 targets for a total of 446 yards and one touchdown.

While this wasn’t an eye-popping season for the rookie receiver, it showcased that he had the ability to make plays against a higher level of defense. Collin’s best NFL game so far came against the Seattle Seahawks in week 14 of the 2021 season, where he hauled in five catches for 69 yards. One was a long bomb that showcased his ability to go deep, on a pass that netted the Texans 30 yards and landed them right up against the endzone.

Throughout the season, Collins had some ups and downs depending on the defense and alignment that he faced. His three best games of the season came against the Seahawks (as mentioned above), Titans, and Rams. They had defensive rankings of 20, seven, and 10 respectively (according to PFF). Unfortunately, the Rams game was a compilation of back-ups for most of the game where the Texans had any offensive proficiency. While the Titans game did come in week 18, they played their starters throughout most of the game as the Texans almost made a comeback to close out the season.

Hype or Hope?

The real question on everyone’s mind is can Nico Collins become a cornerstone WR2 for the Houston Texans? He’ll be catching passes from Davis Mills alongside star wide receiver, Brandin Cooks (a six-time 1,000-yard receiver). There are reports circling throughout training camp and the offseason that Collins has been putting in the work, sharpening his route-running and catching skills.

While this may translate well to the season, the odds of Nico Collins becoming a 1,000-yard receiver seem slim. The advantage he has is that Pep Hamilton has consistently dialed-up successful passing offenses, which will benefit the ex-Wolverine. The downside is that the run game will be a point of greater emphasis for the Texans entering the 2022 season. Add in that John Metchie will, unfortunately, be out for the season with a leukemia diagnosis and it’s a tough road ahead for young Nico.

The main issue that can be seen with the prospect of a 1,000-yard season for young number 12 is that better duos on the Texans (like Deandre Hopkins and Andre Johnson) couldn’t quite accomplish the feat. With Cooks delivering an almost guaranteed 1,000-yard season, it seems improbable that there will be enough yards to go to Nico in addition. Compounded by the fact that Collins has not yet achieved the 1k mark in a season, it seems more of a pipe dream to believe that he will eclipse the coveted mark this season.

Final Verdict

Official Stamp: Hype

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