What are the Texans up to?
Last week's news that Brandin Cooks will be heading Houston certainly answered the question of who would take over the star wide receiver role left vacant by the highly criticised trade of DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals.
The former Saints, Patriots and Rams wide receiver joins the rather average and yet still respectable WR room that includes Kenny Stills, Will Fuller and another free agent signing in Randall Cobb, formerly of the Cowboys and Packers.
The move is perplexing a lot of pig skin fans around the world. In the past six months, the Texans have traded away arguably two of their top 3 players on the roster, certainly the best in their respective positions, for very little in return other than picks in future drafts.
To replace Hopkins with Cooks is incredibly brave on the face of it. Although Cooks' 2019 season ended over 400 yard shy of the 1,000 we have been used to, he was able to make 42 receptions, over 14 games, averaging 13.9 yards per carry, 1.2 down on the year before and 0.4 off his career average.
The slow down in results for Cooks may be attributed to a crowded, and frankly better, wide receiver core in LA. Aside from the threat of star running back Todd Gurley, Cooks had to compete with 2017 first round pick Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods for targets. That's without mentioning the growing TE presence of Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett.
In 2019, Kupp, off the back of a nasty injury that saw him miss half a season, accumulated 1,161 yards with 10 touchdowns, dwarfing Cooks by the best part of 600 yards and multiplying his touchdown count by five. Woods on the other hand, has averaged over 1,000 yards a season as a Ram and has also proved helpful as a rusher.
The evidence would suggest that, although Houston will now have a 1,000 yard receiver, Cooks is a player who's reputation could potentially precede him.
And then we come to Hopkins.
Earlier this year, Bill O'Brian and the Texans parted ways with DeAndre Hopkins, their star wide receiver who averages 1,229 yards a season. Hopkins is one of the best receivers around, racking up the eighth most receiving yards amongst active players and is the youngest of those top 15 active players.
In his seven seasons, Hopkins has ended in the top 10 for most receiving yards four times, finishing in second spot in 2018 and third in 2015 and has racked up 54 touchdowns.
Cooks, his replacement, has amassed 5,730 receiving yards through six seasons, near enough 3,000 yards short of Hopkins all be it with one less season.
Aside from a star wide receiver going to divisional rivals Arizona, the trade seems to favour the Rams.
Los Angeles have now relieved the pressure on its salary cap after giving huge contracts to quarterback Jared Goff and defensive tackle, Aaron Donald whilst still maintaining a strong WR room. However the Texans are by no means a loser in this deal.
Cooks is a quality receiver in his own right with an averaging 14.3 yards per catch; 0.7 more than Hopkins. In his first three years the Oregon State graduate accumulated 2,861 receiving yards despite not starting all 16 games and only seeing the field in 10 matches of his rookie season.
The trade also has seen a 4th round pick land in the Texan's lap on top of the 2nd Round pick that came with David Johnson in return for Hopkins. That all means that Bill O'Brian has avoided the cap hit that would have come from making Hopkins the highest paid WR in the game whilst maintaining a receiving core that includes two stars that flank the defence and multiple options in the slot.
Then we get to David Johnson.
Perhaps one of the unluckier members of the National Football League when he followed a break out 1,239-yard rushing, 879-yard receiving, 20 touchdown season in 2016 with a dislocated wrist three quarters into 2017, Johnson, like Cooks, has his critics.
In Johnson the Texans have a running back that has shown the ability to be a leader in rushing throughout a season. As close as last year, as a Cardinal, Johnson averaged 3.7 rushing yards per carry which grew to surpass four yards when he had more than 10 carries in a game.
Johnson has also shown the ability to receive the ball from the backfield, last season racking up 315 receiving yards at 10.5 yards per catch and three touchdowns in the first six games of the season.
Given the similarity between Kyler Murray's and Deshaun Watson's quarterbacking style, providing key players stay healthy, I'd say the Texans are in a good place heading into the draft.