For the Houston Texans in 2023, there is plenty of excitement surrounding the early portion of the offseason program, and right fully so. They've got a new head coach who is well thought of around the NFL in DeMeco Ryans, and the rookie class has two of the top three players selected in the draft, including a future franchise quarterback. If that doesn't excite you, then you're just not a fan of the good things in life.
However, a bit lost in the shuffle is LAST season's rookie class, which showed individual flashes of brilliance (Dameon Pierce, when healthy, and Jalen Pitre, then not missing tackles, to name a couple) to go along with some injury frustration and overall concern. I think the 2023 Houston Texans will be better than the experts think, but if that is to happen then they'll need some breakout performances from a few of the 2022 youngsters.
Here is my power ranking of the most likely breakout candidates from the Houston Texans' 2022 rookie class:
Kenyon Green, LG
In order for me to feel good about your chances of "breaking out," you need to at least have shown glimpses of that potentially occurring. Green's rookie season was an unmitigated disaster, as his 77th overall ranking among guards on Pro Football Focus (out of, you guess it, 77 overall guards) matched perfectly to the eye test in which he looked completely overwhelmed, oftentimes. It appears as though he has gotten into better shape this offseason, as he continues to recover from an arthroscopic knee procedure from back in March.
John Metchie III, WR
Metchie hasn't done anything on the field yet, but that's not really his fault. He spent the 2022 season undergoing treatment for leukemia. He is done with treatment, beaten cancer, but during OTA's, he has been dealing with a hamstring injury. The selection of Tank Dell in the 2023 draft may be a slight indicator that the team is very cautious in its optimism about Metchie, the 44th overall pick in 2022.
Teagan Quitoriano, TE
Quitoriano only played half the season due to injuries, but he flashed some athleticism that belied, in a good way, his fifth round draft slot in 2022. On his seven catches, he showed a knack in the red zone (two touchdowns) and some decent "run after the catch" ability. He was drafted for his blocking prowess, so in Bobby Slowik's offense, he may be viewed as a key piece along with Dalton Schultz at tight end.
4. Dameon Pierce, RB
With 939 rushing yards in 13 games, you could argue that Pierce has already "broken out," especially considering he was taken in the fourth round in 2022. That is fair. However, the team's strategy at running back this offseason, where the only real move was signing Devin Singletary to a one year deal, would indicate that Pierce will remain the bell cow. Running behind this offensive line, in Slowik's offense, Pierce's decisive, physical style should be an ideal fit. There are levels of "break out," so I believe Pierce will prove that even someone who has broken out, can take said break out to another strata.
3. Christian Harris, LB
Harris missed the first two months of the season (and all of training camp) with a hamstring injury. Once he came back, he struggled at first, but got his legs underneath him nicely as the season progressed. Like Green, he ranked near the bottom of his position group on PFF, but I feel a full training camp. a new system, and Ryans as his head coach will all be factors in turning Harris into a solid outside linebacker in this defense.
2. Derek Stingley, Jr., CB
Stingley is another one whose PFF score (111th out of 118 cornerbacks) is indicative of a subpar rookie season. To me, the most concerning thing about Stingley was his missing half the season with a hamstring injury. He hasn't had a fully healthy season since his freshman year at LSU in 2019. However, if he is healthy, this defense of Ryans' should be much more conducive to the man coverage skills that were presumably the big reason the Texans drafted him third overall in 2022.
1. Jalen Pitre, S
Pitre is another one whose rookie season you can look at two ways. On the one hand, he is in a rare club of rookies who had at least five interceptions to go along with 125 tackles. On the other hand, he missed an astounding 36 tackles during the season. You can't teach Pitre's instincts and durability, though, and I believe he can fix a lot of his tackling issues. That's why he is at the top of this list, and to me, the most likely 2022 Texans rookie to make the Pro Bowl this coming season.
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