Houston Texans: Evaluating TE competition
The tight end position battle for the Houston Texans will be fierce.
As the Houston Texans season opener inches closer at what seems like a snails-pace, all organizations are preparing to whittle down their teams to the best of the best for the final 53-man roster. As such, the position battles — as friendly as any locker room may be — are going to be especially fierce among the wide receivers in Houston,and that includes the tight ends on the roster.
With the blockbuster trade including the departure of DeAndre Hopkins, and the arrival of David Johnson, there is sure to be a surplus of available targets to receivers, and that leaves the door wide open for an increased offensive-role for tight ends. Next is a look at all five tight ends listed on the depth chart, and predictions as to which players earn a roster spot.
Houston Texans: 5 Tight Ends
Darren Fells: The first thing to note about Darren Fells is his size. Fells is 6’7″ and 270 pounds, plus he has over an 80-percent catch rate between the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The size brings with it a monstrous catch radius, and he makes for an excellent red zone target scoring on over a fifth of his receptions between 2018-19 with 10 touchdowns on 45 receptions.
Fells was primarily an inline run-blocker before joining the Houston Texans, and with the departure of Hopkins comes plenty of targets to go around. Fells is positioned to remain useful as a red zone target and run-blocker.
Jordan Akins: Jordan Akins is another name that’s locked in to remain on the final roster of the Houston Texans. Akins has seen over a 61-percent snap share only behind Fells at over 69-percent. Akins also saw more targets and had more receptions than Fells in 2019, with Fells having 55 targets, which included 36 receptions and 418 yards. Fells totaled 48 targets, as he totaled 34 targets for 341 yards.
Akins is taking the extended offseason to focus on “getting his body right”, adding weight to his 6’4″ frame, while improving core strength, and emphasizing footwork for blocking.
Jordan Thomas: Houston Texans tight end Jordan Thomas suffered a cracked rib at the end of his rookie campaign after scoring four touchdowns in the same season. Unfortunately for Thomas, the time on injury-reserve during 2019 paved the way for Fells and Akins to dominate the snap-share and prove their salt as additions to the offense.
Even if head coach Bill O’Brien were to keep four tight ends on the 53-man roster, Thomas has a long and steep path to securing a spot. Between Fells and Akins filling the likely top two roles for the foreseeable future, the 2018 draft pick might be on the fringe.
Kahale Warring: While the third round 2019 draft pick also spent the entirety of the 2019 season on IR, it was Kahale Warring’s rookie season and the Houston Texans have yet to see him in a live game.
With a season of rest due to concussions, and the Texans eager to see the true value of their third round pick, expect Warring will land a spot on the final 53-man roster, assuming he can stay healthy.
An extremely-capable multi-sport athlete Warring was rated highly as draft prospect leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft. Although his injury-history is a little concerning (broken foot, torn hamstring, and the concussion that kept him out of the 2019 season), Warring is still expected to improve beyond what he showed in college. With a little work on his blocking, Warring could be a major asset at the position for the Houston Texans down the road.
Dylan Stapleton: The newest addition to tight end by the Houston Texans, Dylan Stapleton was acquired in free agency. Stapleton had his best college showing in 2019 when he caught 35 passes for 426 yards and one touchdown.
While Stapleton might not be impressive on paper, he transferred to the University of James Madison from Div. II Slippery Rock, and has now been signed to the Houston Texans. Perhaps Stapleton has the grit and determination that make for athletes that show surprising levels of production.
With five tight ends on the roster the Houston Texans will likely drop at least one, if not two men at the position before finalizing the 53-man roster.