The Houston Texans took over the role of "Most Mocked NFL Franchise" from the New York Giants after they traded star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for pretty much nothing. But even without arguably the best wideout in the game, the Texans have a strong enough roster to contend for the AFC South crown in 2020, especially with a number of players in contract years who need to put together a strong campaign.
Here are three Texans with the most to prove this season.
3. LB Zach Cunningham
The former second-round pick out of Vanderbilt is entering the final season of his rookie contract. Cunningham is a tackling machine, as evidenced by his 142 on the year in 2019 coupled with 47 run stoppages last, the most out of any player in the league, per Pro Football Focus. However, he only forced two sacks, zero turnovers, and struggled in pass coverage (77.6% completion rate for 319 yards and two scores). Cunningham can earn himself a decent contract in 2021 if he puts all the pieces of the puzzle together in 2020.
2. CB Gareon Conley
Last season, Houston was desperate for secondary help. They released Aaron Colvin early on and replaced him with former Oakland Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley. The move cost the Texans a third-round pick in 2020, but it worked out relatively well. Conley was instantly better on the Texans than he was on the Raiders. Through eight games, Conley surrendered 24 receptions on 46 targets for 299 yards and two touchdowns, which is pretty good for a starting corner getting used to a change of scenery. Despite that, the Texans declined his fifth-year option. Conley can use this as motivation and potentially earn a sizable contract extension from Houston before the season ends or from a team once he hits the open market.
1. WR Will Fuller
We remember when Will Fuller was a hyped up wide receiver prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft. He showed flashes of being a great pass-catcher during his time at Notre Dame, but once he joined the Texans, he's proven that he's unable to remain healthy for a full season. In his first four years, Fuller broke his collarbone, tore his ACL, and suffered a hamstring injury. That's far from ideal for a player taken with a high draft pick. His health is more important than ever, as he's now an even more crucial receiving option with Hopkins gone. Fuller has shown that he can be a dangerous deep threat in Houston's passing attack, but if he wants to stay in H-Town and earn a nice new deal, then he better play all 16 regular season games in 2020.