Nico Collins 2021 Fantasy Sleeper as the Big-Bodied Playmaker on the Texans Feeble Depth Chart - Roto Street Journal
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Nico Collins 2021 Fantasy Sleeper as the Big-Bodied Playmaker on the Texans Feeble Depth Chart

From the Deshaun Watson saga to the choir boy turned vice president of football operations to the 76 veteran running backs on the depth chart, the Texans are a mess and a far cry away from the team that was up 24-0 on the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game just two seasons ago.

But as with any roster across the league, there are some potential fantasy bright spots on this otherwise abysmal roster. Of course, a lot hinges on Watson’s availability, but rookie wideout Nico Collins is a name that should land on fantasy radars.

Texans’ brass traded two 2021 draft picks and a 2022 fourth-round pick to move up 20 spots in the third round to select the former Michigan Wolverine standout. Right away, Collins will challenge for the WR2 spot behind Brandin Cooks, with his main competition being Chris Conley. For what Cooks, Randall Cobb, and Keke Coutee lack in size and physicality, Collins and his 6-foot-4, 215 lb frame could give Watson or Tyrod Taylor that big-bodied target on the perimeter.

“Mid-round rookies such as third-round pick Nico Collins typically are not impact players, but Collins should have a chance to see a lot of snaps early, given he doesn’t face stiff competition ahead of him on the depth chart,” wrote Aaron Reiss of The Athletic. “If he shines as a rookie, GM Nick Caserio’s expensive trade-up back into the third-round to acquire Collins will look a little more palatable.”

The physical specimen (4.43 40-yd dash) led the Big Ten in yards per catch in 2019 (19.7) and finished that season with 37 receptions for 729 yards and seven touchdowns. Collins decided to opt-out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, but he dominated the Senior Bowl to a level that made the Texans comfortable enough to trade up for his services.

After selecting Collins, it didn’t take long for him to shed the opt-out rust and impress both the coaching staff and his veteran teammates.

“He’s doing a good job coming here in and learning the offense,” Texans OC Tim Kelly said. “Making that transition, it’s a totally different game, especially for a guy who didn’t play last year, who opted out. He’s done a great job. He came in in great shape and he’s really learning the offense and he’s been impressive”

In particular, Cooks, who eats up 1,000-yard seasons, is extremely impressed by Collins’ on-field attributes and his ability to quickly pick up the playbook.

“How I feel about Nico, this guy doesn’t look like a rookie to me,” Cooks said. You talk about a guy who’s out there that’s coachable and is able to pick up things pretty fast. You love to see that from a young guy, a guy who is explosive with natural hands and I look forward to continuing to work with him and seeing him grow.”

To make things even juicier, the Texans have two coaches on the offensive staff who have familiarity with Collins. At Michigan, Collins played for current Texans assistant receivers coach Ben McDaniels and Texans passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Pep Hamilton.

“He’s a big body wide receiver that has a tremendous catch radius that’ll make contested catches,” Hamilton said. “We’re excited to have an opportunity to continually see him grow and develop and see what type of pro he becomes.”

Even though the whole organization seems to be pumping Collins’ tires, he’s fine-tuning his route running, grasping the playbook, and adapting to the league. Meanwhile, he knows he brings a new element to the Texans’ offense.

“I use my size as an advantage,” Collins said. “I feel like that’s one part of my game that I excel in. I play big. I play physical. I’m glad that the Houston Texans believed in me and they picked me up.

“A big target, I use my frame to my advantage. I feel like there’s an opportunity for the quarterback to give me a fade ball in the end zone. I use my size the best way I can, and that’s the best way I perform on the football field, just using my size.”

The Wolf is buying the hype. He has Collins ranked WR74 (+29 vs ECR) on his 2021 Fantasy Football Rankings & Big Board. Nico also lands at WR61 (+11 vs ECR) on the Dynasty Fantasy Football Rankings.

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