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Ranking the Top Five Texans Of All Time

Who are the top five Houston Texans players of all time thus far?

Since the inception of the Texans franchise on 2002, there have been a plethora of players that have showcased their talent under the lights of NRG Stadium. The first-ever draft pick by the Houston Texans was quarterback David Carr out of Fresno State. Each year since then, the Texans have built upon the foundation created by those early pieces and have had some truly remarkable players. But who are the top five best players that we have ever seen put on the Battle Red, Liberty White, and Deep Steel Blue uniforms?

Disclaimer- These rankings are solely based on my opinion and are not meant to be the definitive ranking of the top five players to ever play for the Texans

5. Deshaun Watson, QB, 2017-2021

This might seem like a controversial opinion right out the gate but hear me out: Deshaun Watson is probably the best QB to ever walk through the Texans organization. Drafted 12th overall in 2017, Deshaun was electrifying in his four seasons in Houston leading up to his departure in 2022. Coming off of a CFP National championship in his last year at Clemson, Watson was poised for a breakout rookie season with his pro-ready arm talent and pure athleticism.

During his first year in Houston, he played in seven games, starting six of them, throwing for about 1700 yards (1699 to be exact) and 19 touchdowns while only giving up 8 interceptions. Not bad at all for a rookie. Sadly, his rookie season was cut short due to an ACL tear he suffered in practice. In Watson’s second season (and first full season) he started all sixteen games and led the Texans to an 11-5 record, with a wild card berth. They did lose to the division rival Indianapolis colts in the first round of the playoffs, however, the team would not have made it that far without Watson’s stellar 4000 yard season and 31 total touchdowns. One true testament to Watson’s character during this season was a game versus Jacksonville. The QB had suffered a collapsed lung the week before the game and, in order to not miss it, he drove all the way from Houston to Jacksonville due to concerns about air pressure in a plane. Watson truly was a man of his team during his early time in Houston. The QB also made his first pro bowl during that 2018 season, cementing himself as a top five QB in the league at the time.

In his junior season, Watson threw for just under 4000 yards but had 33 total touchdowns. The Texans once more made it to the AFC wildcard against the Buffalo Bills. The former Texans franchise QB led an amazing come-from-behind win in overtime to move the team into the AFC divisional where they would play another superstar QB in Patrick Mahomes and his Kansas City Chiefs. In Kansas City the Texans went up 24-0 within the first quarter of the game. However, a monumental collapse ensued and in the following quarter, the lead had diminished. They would eventually lose but it led to another productive season for Watson.

The quarterback’s last season in Houston was a career year for him. He threw for 4823 yards and 36 total touchdowns, both career highs. He also ended the season with a 70.2% completion percentage, the highest in Texans’ franchise history. However, due to a lack of support elsewhere on the team, the Houston ended the season 4-12 and did not make the playoffs.

That would be the last time Watson put on a Texans’ uniform, as he requested a trade and held out the entire 2021 season. It is also worth noting that Watson’s off the field issues took precedence in 2021. He had, and still has, multiple sexual assault allegations against him and several lawsuits pending that could cause him to receive a lengthy suspension from the NFL. In March of 2022, the Texans sent the star QB to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a monument of picks including three first-round selections.

During his time in Houston, Watson cemented himself as one of the great young players of this era and will ultimately be remembered as the best QB that the Texans organization has seen so far.

4. Deandre Hopkins, WR, 2013-2019

Deandre Hopkins is most known for his prolific catches and his ability to always come down with the ball if it’s thrown within a 10-foot radius of him. He was Watson’s number one target before his departure to the Arizona Cardinals after the 2019 season. After being drafted 27th overall in the 2013 draft, Hopkins instantly made his mark starting all 16 games in 2013 and finishing with a total of 802 yards and only two touchdowns. In his sophomore season, Hopkins had his first 1000-yard season. Keep in mind, that was back when Hopkins was catching passes from journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, so going for 1000 yards was quite impressive.

In 2015 Hopkins topped those numbers with 1521 yards and 11 touchdowns, earning his way to his first-ever pro bowl selection. Hopkins was always known to still be a top receiver in the NFL despite below-average QB player, and 2015 was yet again no exception as he was catching passes from Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallet, and TJ Yates.

The only time that Hopkins was able to play with a top ten QB during his time in Houston was from 2017 to 2019 with Deshaun Watson. The duo immediately forged a connection when Watson was drafted (both being from Clemson) and during Watson’s rookie season in 2017, Hopkins totaled 1378 Yards and a career-high 13 touchdowns, earning him another trip to the pro bowl. The year after, Hopkins had the most effective season of his career catching 115 passes for 1572 yards, earning him an all-pro nod for the second time in his career. Hopkins’ last season in Houston was not as productive as the previous two as he totaled about 1200 yards (still solid) and seven touchdowns.

It is also worth noting that Hopkins was basically superman when it came to his longevity. He only missed two games in his seven year tenure in Houston, despite battling a multitude of injuries. If not for someone else on this list, he would easily go down as the best wide receiver to ever suit up for the Texans.

3. Arian Foster, RB, 2009-2015

Arian Foster is undeniably the best running back in the history of the Texans’ organization. Surprisingly, Foster signed with the Texans in 2009 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Tennessee. Foster did not see much playing time his rookie season, even going to the practice squad at one point. However, he shined in the 2009 season finale against the New England Patriots, rushing for 119 yards and putting him on the Texans’ radar.

The following season (2010), Foster had what was arguably the single greatest rushing season in Texans history. For starters, in the first game of the season against the Indianapolis Colts, Foster replaced the longtime starter, Steve Slaton. He then proceeded to smash the franchise record for rushing yards in a single game carrying the rock 33 times for 231 yards and three Touchdowns. This was the second highest opening day total by any RB in NFL history, only behind OJ Simpson’s 250 yards in 1973. In week 4 against the Oakland Raiders, Foster recorded what was, at the time, the longest rush in Texans’ franchise history, going for a 74-yard touchdown. Totaling 1616 rushing yards and 604 passing yards (breaking the record for the most total yards by an undrafted player), Foster easily earned an all-pro nod.

Foster followed up the career year with two seasons of over 1000 rushing yards and gained another all-pro selection in 2012. In fact, during that 2012 season, Foster reached 5000 career yards in his 40th career game, becoming the third fastest player in NFL history to reach that milestone. Unfortunately, Foster’s 2013 season was cut short due to injury. However, he came back in 2014 with yet another 1000-yard season and a fourth pro bowl. Foster’s final season with the Texans in 2015 was also cut short due to a torn Achilles and he was released the subsequent year.

After one season with the Dolphins, Foster signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Texans. He finished his career in Houston with 6742 rushing yards and 54 rushing yards, both being Texans’ Franchise Records. He also finished with franchise records for most rushing yards in a season (1616) and most touchdowns in a season by an RB (16). With three all-pro nods, four pro bowls, and being an NFL rushing champion, he is surely the best RB in Texans history.

2. Andre Johnson, WR, 2003-2014

The hardest part of this article was deciding between number two and number one since both are phenomenal players. At number two, we have the best offensive player to ever play for the Texans organization in Andre Johnson. Better known as “Dre”, he spent his first 12 years in the NFL with the Texans from 2003 to 2014. He was picked 3rd overall by Houston out of the University of Miami. He started all 16 games in his rookie season and was named a part of the NFL all-rookie team off the back of 66 receptions for 976 yards. In his second season, he totaled 1142 yards and earned his first pro bowl selection with QB David Carr at the helm.

After a mediocre 3rd season in 2005, he had a career year in 2006. He had 103 receptions for 1147 yards, leading the league in receptions and getting an all-pro selection as well as a second pro bowl. From 2008 to 2010 he recorded three seasons with over 1000 yards. In fact, in 2008, Dre was both the NFL receiving yards leader and the NFL leader in receptions with 115 receptions. That year he also became the first player in NFL history to record seven games with at least ten receptions. In 2009, Johnson became the second player in NFL history (Jerry Rice) to lead the league in receiving yards in consecutive seasons. He earned all-pro selections in both 2008 and 2009. In 2010, Johnson became the first player in NFL history with sixty or more receptions in each of his first 8 seasons and was given another pro bowl selection. Johnson’s 2011 season was cut short due to injury, but in 2012, he came back with 1598 yards, the most of his career. Following this impressive season, he also became the first Texan ever to record 10,000 career receiving yards.

In 2014, Johnson and the Texans’ organization mutually agreed to part ways. Two years later, he too signed a one-day contract with the team and retired as a member of the Texans. During his final press conference, he stated his regret for not bringing a championship to the Texans and said “my heart never left this place”. He became the first-ever inductee into the Texans’ Ring of Honor in 2017.

Johnson still holds the Texans’ franchise records for most career receptions (1012), career receiving yards (13597), receiving touchdowns (64), most receptions in a single season (115), most receiving yards in a season (1598), most seasons with 100+ receptions (five), best-receiving yards per game average in a season (99.9), and most starts (169). Dre came in when the Texans were a new organization and he helped set the culture and drive for the organization going forward. For that, he is ranked as the second best Texans’ player of all time.

1. JJ Watt, DE, 2011-2020

Where do I even begin with this guy? You don’t think of the Texans without thinking of JJ Watt. Drafted 11th overall out of Wisconsin, people did not know much about him (some even “booing” the pick). Little did they know what they were booing at. Watt started all 16 games in his rookie year, getting a forced fumble recovery against the Colts in his first career game. He made the NFL all-rookie team and helped the Texans to their first-ever playoff appearance. That was only a taste of what was to come though, as his sophomore season was arguably the best season ever by a defensive end.

Racking up 69 solo tackles, 20.5 sacks, 16 passes defended, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries, Watt easily earned his first defensive player of the year selection in 2012. The 2013 season for Watt was much of the same and he was named captain of a pro-bowl team. At the start of the 2014 season, Watt signed a six year, $100 million contract with the Texans making him the highest-paid non-QB in the league at the time. That year in a game against the Oakland Raiders, Watt became the first defensive player in Texans history to score an offensive touchdown after coming into the game as a tight end.

At the conclusion of the 2014 season, Watt was ranked number one in the NFL’s top 100 players of the year and won a second defensive player of the year award. In 2015 Watt had 76 tackles, 17.5 sacks (led the league), and three forced fumbles. He won his third defensive player of the year (second consecutive), joining Lawrence Taylor and later Aaron Donald as the only players to ever win three DPOY awards. He also went to his fourth straight pro bowl.

Following injuries in 2016 and 2017, 2018 was Watt’s next productive year. He finished with 16 sacks and a league-leading seven forced fumbles. Watt became the second player ever to record 15 sacks in four different seasons. Sadly, 2019 and 2020 did not see much of the JJ Watt many fans knew and he was eventually released, joining the Arizona Cardinals at the conclusion of the 2020 season.

Watt’s time in Houston wasn’t just defined by his on-the-field prowess but also by his philanthropy off of the field. As the founder of the Justin J Watt Foundation, he helps provide a safe environment for kids who want to learn and grow with school and athletics. And infamously, when Hurricane Harvey hit the city of Houston, Watt raised over $37 million in relief efforts, destroying his $200,000 initial goal, and proving how much he was admired both on and off the field. For all these reasons, the fan-favorite, future hall of fame defensive end goes down as the best player in Texans history thus far.

So there we go. These are in my opinion, the top 5 players in Texans history. Obviously, all this is subject to change (Davis Mills?), but currently, this is where I see the standing.

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