Sean Pendergast

Houston Texans 2020 Offseason Position Preview: Wide Receivers

Fuller's health is the biggest variable at wide receiver.
Fuller's health is the biggest variable at wide receiver. Photo by Eric Sauseda
On paper, fully healthy, wide receiver is not a major position of need for the Houston Texans. DeAndre Hopkins is, perhaps, the best receiver in the game today, Will Fuller is the most impactful speed guy, and Kenny Still is the steady veteran third wide receiver that I've been clamoring for the last three years. That's a pretty solid unit for Bill O'Brien and wide receivers coach John Perry.

However, the key word is "healthy," and I don't know that I've ever seen a non-Pro Bowler mean more to his team's performance than Will Fuller means to the Houston Texans. So, yeah, any discussion of this position group begins and ends with Fuller's health.

Here are three burning Texan questions on the wide receiver position:

Did Will Fuller get any revolutionary procedures on his soft tissues?
When you look at the list of injuries that Fuller has suffered in his four seasons in the league, it sounds like you're describing the game board for "OPERATION: The Wacky Doctor's Game." Numerous hamstring injuries, groin pulls, a broken collarbone, a broken rib, and a torn ACL. The biggest problem with Fuller is that many of these injuries have been small muscle pulls that happen in the first quarter of a game, and once he's gone, the game plan changes drastically. When Fuller played full games in 2019, the Texans averaged 27 points per game. When Fuller played small parts of games or missed them altogether, they averaged 17 points per game. He is literally the difference between "elite" and "pedestrian" for this team. The Texans have good medical people on their staff — figuring out how the hell to keep Fuller healthy, something they managed to do in college at Notre Dame, where he missed exactly ZERO games, is THE priority. Fuller will play 2020 on his fifth year option of his rookie deal before becoming a free agent in 2021.

Will the draft be used for Fuller insurance?
This would be another area that makes a LOT of sense to explore in the second round. High flying college offenses mean more and more receiving talent coming into the league. The Titans were able to snag A.J. Brown in the second round last season, and he has the look of a future All-Pro. With Fuller's injuries, and Hopkins entering Year Eight, keep an eye on names like Tee Higgins of Clemson, Justin Jefferson of LSU, K.J. Hamler of Penn State, or K.J. Hill of Ohio State. A couple of kids from the state of Texas that I wouldn't mind seeing tabbed in the fifth round or later would be Denzel Mims of Baylor or Devin Duvernay of Texas.

Is this the end of the road for Keke Coutee?
Man, it wasn't all that long ago that Coutee was looked at as a key cog for this offense, working the middle of the field and moving the chains as a threat out of the slot. Even a rookie season littered with hamstring injuries couldn't dampen the enthusiasm for what he provide as a complement to Hopkins and Fuller with Watson pulling the trigger. Ironically, it got even worse for Coutee in his sophomore season. Not only did he continue to suffer strange injuries, but when he DID get opportunities to see the field, he had issues holding onto the football (Kareem Jackson's recovered fumble for a TD in Week 14 was off a Coutee catch and fumble) and showed a marginal grasp of the playbook, in general. It was not uncommon to see Coutee running routes within mere feet of a teammate downfield. Coutee is fighting for his football life, at least life as a Texan, this coming summer.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast