Is Nico Collins a true No. 1 wide receiver for the Houston Texans?

Nico Collins may just be a number one receiver.

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans
Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages

A number one receiver is a unique player in the world of pro football. He's generally regarded as the best-skilled player on the field, aside from the quarterback, and is often the guy who helps make whatever offensive scheme a team is running work. If you don't have a legitimate number-one receiver, you are often forced to develop unique packages that get guys open through deception and timing.

A number one receiver often allows you to get simple, and just chuck the ball up to him and watch him make a play. Not every team has one, and in fact, there are very few legitimate number one options in the NFL today. With the recent discourse over the Texans needing help at the receiver position, we thought it'd be good to look at the idea that the Texans need a No. 1 option.

The guy who currently holds that title is Nico Collins, who recently had a breakout season thanks in part to his quarterback, C.J. Stroud.

Collins in prior seasons, never broke the 500-yard mark with guys like Davis Mills under center, but in 2023, he posted 1,297 yards and eight touchdowns. A stellar year for the young wideout.

And his season was pretty spectacular when you go past the service level figures too. According to Football Insights on Twitter, very few other receivers matched Collins' ability to get open against some of the toughest schemes in the league.

On the graph below, Collins is right there with guys like Justin Jefferson, Amon Ra St. Brown, Jaylen Waddle, and others who are seen as "elite", with Tyreke Hill establishing himself in a league all of his own.

It's impressive to see how successful Collins is against other receivers in similar situations, but does that make him a number-one receiver? Maybe, we're just not yet ready to say he is. The criteria for a number one changes from person to person but we feel that a true number one makes his quarterback better, not vice versa.

Stroud made Collins better, without a doubt, but Collins didn't make Mills better. Or Case Keenum. Now you may think that doesn't matter, but we point to someone like Garrett Wilson with the New York Jets, who had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with Zach Wilson throwing him the ball.

If Collins wants to prove he's ascended to this level of "number one-ness" beyond Stroud's arrival, then he has to play at the same level with or without his Pro Bowl quarterback under center. Time and consistency will truly prove to us if Collins is the guy, but right now we haven't seen enough to make a judgment call.

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