Sean Pendergast

Houston Texans Fab Five: Who are the Five Best Houston Texans Through Five Weeks?

Texans wide receiver Nico Collins has been one of the best receivers in the NFL this season.
Texans wide receiver Nico Collins has been one of the best receivers in the NFL this season. Photo by Jack Gorman
In the midst of the upward trending rebuild of the Houston Texans, there have been several small touch points of optimism along the way. They've managed to crack the top 20 of several different power rankings (yeah, out of 32, but that's progress!). They're being mentioned as a buyer at the trade deadline, not a seller. Small things.

Then there are the weekly Pro Football Focus player grades, where PFF ranks every qualified player against their peers at each position. The thing I like about PFF is that it's very visual. Bad grades are accompanied by color coding that ranges from yellow (sort of bad) to bright red (horrific!). Good grades traded from pea soup green (decent) to kelly green (real good) to dark blue (STUD!).

In recent years, the Texans' player score sheet looked like a bloodbath with Sunkist and mustard mixed in — lots of red, orange, and yellow. There is still plenty of that in 2023, but the Texans now have a decent amount of players in that refreshing green and blue category. Good times are head, and they might even already be here.

For now, here are the top five players on the Texans, according to PFF. These are all kelly green and dark blue fixtures on the roster:

5. C.J. STROUD, QB, 75.3 (15th out of 33 quarterbacks)
The most important player on the team, maybe even in the city across all sports, is the fifth best player according to PFF. Stroud is slightly above the middle of the pack of quarterbacks around the league, and his score is no doubt buoyed by his stealer decision making, which has led to a streak of 186 consecutive pass attempts without an interception, the longest to begin an NFL career.

4. TANK DELL, WR, 77.2 (21st out of 100 wide receivers)
One of Stroud's favorite targets and best friends, fellow rookie Dell has been outstanding when he's been on the field, providing a deep threat that really can't be replicated by anyone else on the team. The short term problem is that Dell is in concussion protocol, and likely to miss this Sunday's game against the Saints.

3. STEVEN NELSON, CB, 80.2 (8th out of 109 cornerbacks)
Nelson has been among the ten best corners in football all season long, after a summer where he expressed frustration on social media over a new contract and skipped OTAs. Nelson has come into the season strong, and was selected a captain by his peers during the lead up to the second week of the regular season.

2. NICO COLLINS, WR, 87.6 (6th out of 100 wide receivers)
Collins has finally begun reaching the potential that Nick Caserio saw in him when he traded up to select him in the third round in the 2021 draft. He currently sits at eighth in the league in receiving yards with 467 yards. His ranking of fifth among receivers is aided greatly by his willingness and effectiveness in the run blocking game, where he is a well above average performer.

1. BLAKE CASHMAN, LB, 91.1 (1st out of 81 linebackers)
If I had to guess one Texan who is literally the best at his position in the whole league, according to PFF, I'd have been sitting here for a long time guessing until i got to Cashman. Not that Cashman hasn't been awesome, it's just that he doesn't pop like a "top of the league" player. I'm happy for him, though. Cashman was making a ton of plays in training camp before a hamstring injury derailed him. Now, he is back, and he is making impactful plays, and has been elite in pass coverage.

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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 the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast