Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
WR1: Andre Johnson
Where would the Houston Texans be without No. 80? They would be left with a group of wide receivers that has less than 30 career catches.
Every season, this coaching staff takes some weird gambles with its personnel. In 2010, it was handing the starting cornerback job to rookie Kareem Jackson. The move of Mario Williams to outside linebacker fit the profile in 2011, though it was a brief success. And last season, the James Casey experiment continued in the same vein.
This time, the gamble pertains to the team going with just a single wide receiver that qualifies as a true veteran. If Johnson is sidelined at all in 2013, the passing game will be decimated as surely as if Matt Schaub was out of the lineup. The total effect might be even greater.
The way this team is constructed right now, no player is more indispensable than Andre Johnson.
WR2: DeAndre Hopkins
The No. 1 draft pick out of Clemson has everything that you would look for in a pass-catcher except for track-star speed. If history is any judge, though, that missing element is overrated.
The top 10 leaders on the all-time NFL career receptions list are evenly divided between speed demons and guys who were just fast enough. In Hopkin’s case, his 10-inch hands mean that he will pull down any throw within his reach. He also got separation with the kind of frequency that allowed him to score 18 touchdowns in his junior season.
WR3: Keshawn Martin
Martin has shown the ability to get open but has often been unable to corral the ball. He was targeted 26 times last season, but had just 10 receptions.
His athletic ability in college was what caught the attention of NFL scouts. He scored on both kickoff and punt returns, and also on rushes and receptions. When going against NFL defenders, though, he has had a tougher time duplicating those feats.
He has at least one more season to bring all that talent into fruition.
WR4: Lestar Jean
When a receiver has just 11 targets in 180 snaps, he is either not getting open or cannot be trusted to catch the ball. Certainly the 6’3” Jean presents a tempting target, and when he caught the ball, he averaged 25.2 yards per reception.
Now that Kevin Walter is gone, Jean is one step closer to being the No. 3 receiver. He is heading into this third season, and it is said that if you don’t get the hang of it by this time, you never will.
WR5: Alan Bonner
The shortage of bodies has Bonner in line to catch a lot of balls with the second team. The word is that he runs good routes and plays bigger that his 5’10” frame.
If there are going to be five WRs on the active roster, it is hard to see who will beat out Bonner for the final slot. Jeff Maehl was the only holdover from the practice squad, and neither he nor any of the undrafted free agents has received much notice thus far.