Value of Things: Texans Key Players— Xavier Hutchinson

NFL: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Will the second year wide receiver take a step forward?

Professional and amateur sports are perhaps the greatest form of entertainment known to man. A wise person once said that there have only been 100 original stories told in the history of drama. comedy, and tragedy. When you go through most movies, television shows, and stage performances we find everything new is actually quite old. Nearly every story reminds us of another one that had been told before.

Sports is unscripted. We literally do not know what the future will hold. However, if we apply the same paradigm to the sports world we do see some general themes that repeat throughout the years. One of those themes is that every team will have a guy that produces out of nowhere. Sometimes, those great seasons are a springboard for something greater down the line. Sometimes they are one offs. We don’t know which is which until we see it.

Of course, the reverse is also true. We see players we always used to count on that suddenly don’t produce. Astros ownership and their lackeys have bandied about the term “back of the baseball card.” I suppose there is some wisdom wrapped up in that riddle, but that wisdom only goes so far. The last baseball card (or football card) will have all the warts and all of the triumphs right there for everyone to see. Typically, players are always productive until they aren’t.

The Houston Texans are at a new place in their development as a franchise. They have their franchise quarterback. They have young and innovative coaches. They have skill position players that have been productive if not in Houston then somewhere else. The only question left is which guys will be the ones that carry the load. We can probably guess what kind of numbers C.J. Stroud will put up if he remains healthy. We don’t know how those numbers will be distributed among his targets.

I remember being thrilled when the Texans drafted Xavier Hutchinson. As a stat guy, I tend to appreciate players that actually produce. Yes, a sixth round pick is hardly a good percentage bet to click, but few sixth round picks come in with the kind of production that Hutchinson was coming in with at Iowa State.

2020: 64 catches, 771 yards, 4 TD
2021: 83 catches, 987 yards, 5 TD
2022: 107 catches, 1171 yards, 6 TD

These numbers immediately combine two things I love. The first is that Hutchinson clearly was not a flash in the pan. He did not produce numbers in his first two college seasons, but when someone is a productive player for three years in college then that says something. There are so many players that go from zero to superstar in one season. It is often hard to trust those performances.

The second thing is that he got better each season. Hutchinson was the number one target at Iowa State all three seasons. Despite that, he continued to improve each and every season. That means he not only got better, but the numbers got better despite the fact that every defensive coordinator knew he was the main guy.

The journey from college to the NFL is obviously bigger than the jump from high school to college. Every guy on the field and on the sidelines was likely the best player on his college team. That is particularly true for the smaller school guys. What we saw from Hutchinson was that he needed to do some adjusting after high school. He made those adjustments eventually and became a big time player.

2023: 19 targets, 8 receptions, 90 yards, 0 TD

There is no sugarcoating these numbers. They are awful. When you are catching less than 50 percent of your targets it either means you aren’t getting open or you have a ton of drops. Hutchinson wasn’t dropping a ton of balls. Thus, we see the biggest adjustment any player can make. What happens when you aren’t the most talented athlete on the field?

We’ve seen slow wide receivers have a ton of success in the league. Being slow just means you have to do something else savagely well. That could be running routes or finding creases in the zone. It could mean outjumping a defender for a ball or expertly catching balls in traffic. Stefon Diggs himself was a sixth round pick. So, it can be done.

Yet, this is where we get back into the drama of sports. The Texans have several guys that fit this same description. We profiled John Metchie and Brevin Jordan earlier. Steven Sims showed flashes as a punt returner and could take a step as a wide receiver. Robert Woods is technically still on the roster. Noah Brown dominated at times last year too.

We see a general theme here. In the key player series, we see very few players that are integral to whether this season is another playoff season or not. What we see is more a question of who will be doing the producing and who won’t. Each player has a compelling story and each would propel their own careers forward with a solid season. It is just a question of who at this point because not all of them can. So, let’s hear from you in the comments. Who do you think is most likely to take that step forward this season?

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Title: Value of Things: Texans Key Players— Xavier Hutchinson
Author: VBallRetired

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