On October 6, 1999, it was announced that the Houston Texans would become the 32nd team in the NFL. In 2002, the Texans kicked off for the first time. It would take nearly a decade, but since 2011, the Texans have made the playoffs on four occasions. Through the first 15 seasons, we have seen some really talented players come through the ranks of the organization, and some who weren’t so great.
We want to take a look at both sides of the spectrum, remembering the biggest draft and free agency home runs, as well as the busts. When it comes to the best players that the Texans have had, those that just miss the cut include Brian Cushing, Eric Winston and even DeAndre Hopkins, though there’s a feeling that Hopkins will certainly join the ranks in a couple of years.
Remembering the bad players, there have been enough to fill an entire roster it seems. Those that didn’t make the list include defensive linemen, Louis Nix and Amobi Okoye, as well as Jacques Reeves, Mike Flanagan and even David Carr. So who did make the cut? Here are the eight best and seven worst Houston Texans in team history.
15 Best - DeMeco Ryans
Our list begins with a middle linebacker that stuck around the league for 10 seasons, more than half of which were in Houston. The Texans used the 33rd overall selection in 2006’s draft to pick up DeMeco Ryans out of Alabama, and he became a staple of the Houston defense for six seasons. Ryans was a two-time Pro Bowler, not missing a single start in five of his six seasons.
He amassed 479 tackles and 157 assists during his time in Houston, also picking off two passes and collecting 8.5 sacks. Sadly, he would not end his career with the Texans as he moved on to Philadelphia for the final four seasons of his career. Still, Ryans was a solid player for an extended period of time, which is what the young franchise needed.
14 Worst - Brock Osweiler
There is a chance that Brock Osweiler could end up even worse on this list, join the best ranks or completely fall off by improving to a mediocre level. As it stands now, Osweiler is the biggest mistake in the history of the Texans franchise. Osweiler was signed by the Texans before the 2016 season for a massive contract valued at four years and $72 million with $37 million guaranteed.
The former Bronco has not impressed in the slightest as he completed less than 60 percent of his passes in 2016 with just 2,957 yards, 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Thankfully for his legacy, he has a 13-8 career record as a starter in the NFL. However, he has had some pretty good defenses to help him out.
13 Best - Mario Williams
Heading into the 2006 NFL Draft, everyone assumed that the Texans were going to select USC running back Reggie Bush with the top overall pick. He was a “can’t miss” prospect that dominated the NCAA, but the Texans passed on him. Fans booed as it was announced that Mario Williams from NC State was going to be the Texans pick, but it turned out to be a good one.
Williams got off to a slow start, but then settled in and collected 14 sacks in his second season. Williams spent a total of six years in Houston with a pair of Pro Bowl selections, finishing with 53 sacks and 11 forced fumbles. Williams departed from the Texans after the 2011 season and has played with the Bills and Dolphins since then.
12 Worst - Bennie Joppru
The Texans really needed some home runs in the 2003 NFL Draft as they were looking to build into their second season. They did indeed get a home run in the first round with Andre Johnson, but not in the second round. With the 41st overall pick, the Texans picked Bennie Joppru, a tight end from Michigan with Jason Witten still on the board.
Joppru would appear in just one game during his Texans career, getting released early in the season. It was clear that Joppru was not ready for the NFL as he signed with the Seahawks without getting much playing time. He played sparingly in special teams, but his two-year career came to an end after 2007 without a single catch.
11 Best - Matt Schaub
Unfortunately, the first thing that a lot of people think about when it comes to Matt Schaub is his penchant for throwing pick sixes. While that became a problem late in his career, Schaub was still a very good quarterback for Houston. Schaub signed before the 2007 season from Houston, starting 11 games in his first year. He held onto the job through most of the 2013 season, starting 88 games (46-42 record).
Schaub also threw for 23,221 yards, 124 touchdowns and 78 interceptions while with Houston, being selected to two Pro Bowls in the process. It seemed like he fell off of a cliff fast, though, and has only started two games since leaving Houston. He is currently a backup with Atlanta, the team that drafted him.
10 Worst - Tony Hollings
Another member of the 2003 Texans class, Tony Hollings was actually not selected in the entry draft, but rather the supplemental draft. The Texans were willing to surrender their 2004 second round pick to take the Georgia Tech running back. Hollings would appear in 14 games during his rookie season, but only collected 102 rushing yards on 38 carries (just 2.7 yards per carry).
Hollings would stick around for two more seasons, getting just 47 more yards on 11 carries, mainly being relegated to special teams duties. Hollings was done by the 2005 season and never played for another NFL team. Supplemental picks have not worked out all that well in the past 20 years, and Hollings is another in the long line of disappointments.
9 Best - Johnathan Joseph
A former first round pick in 2006, it was not the Texans that drafted cornerback Johnathan Joseph, but rather the Bengals. After several solid seasons, Joseph became a free agent and signed with the Texans. Houston offered Joseph five years and nearly $50 million. It was clear that it wasn’t a disappointment after his first two seasons, as he was named to a pair of Pro Bowls and collected six interceptions.
Joseph has remained with the Texans ever since, playing in a total of 89 games with 12 interceptions and five forced fumbles. He hasn’t had a Pro Bowl appearance since 2012, but Joseph is still a big part of the Texans defense. He came up big during the Texans wild card round win against Houston in the 2016 season.
8 Worst - Travis Johnson
Not that many people seem to remember the career of Travis Johnson, he was a standout at Florida State, entering the 2005 NFL Draft. Houston used the 16th overall selection on Johnson to become the team’s starting defensive end. Instead, he would start just three games in his rookie season. Johnson switched positions after two seasons to nose tackle, spending another two seasons there.
In four total seasons with the Texans, Johnson would start 38 games, collecting just two sacks and 80 tackles. The ultimate sign of being a bust was the fact that the Texans were willing to unload Johnson for a sixth round pick in 2009. Johnson played two years with the Chargers before ending his career with a total of three sacks and 103 tackles.
7 Best - Duane Brown
The varied success of the Texans and their first round draft picks continues with one that ended up working. This time, it’s left tackle Duane Brown, the 26th overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft. Brown has been playing for the Texans ever since, and has started and played in 132 out of 142 possible games. Brown is what the Texans were hoping to get out of Tony Boselli when they started the franchise, but at least they finally found their staple left tackle.
Brown has been selected to three Pro Bowls and an All-Pro team during his long career. Though it seems to be winding down to an end with his performance dropping in the past two seasons, he still has turned in a solid career.
6 Worst - Anthony Weaver
Anthony Weaver came into the NFL in the same year as the Texans in 2002, but did not start with the team. Weaver had been a second round pick by the Ravens from Notre Dame, and he had some decent seasons in Baltimore. Weaver played four seasons at defensive end, collecting 14.5 sacks. When he became a free agent after the 2005 season, Weaver signed with the Texans for five years and $26.5 million.
Weaver would only play three of those seasons, not putting up much production at all. He played in 46 games, but only collected one sack and 86 tackles. While that contract sounds small by today’s comparisons, you have to remember that 10 years ago it was a huge waste of money.
5 Best - Arian Foster
Nobody expected an undrafted running back from Tennessee to end up being one of the elite running backs of the NFL, but it happened when the Texans picked up Arian Foster. Foster started out his rookie season in 2009 by showing some glimmers of hope, and ended up getting the starting job in 2010. He didn’t disappoint, rushing for 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Foster would spend a total of seven seasons in Houston, being named to four Pro Bowls and an All-Pro team. He totalled 6,472 rushing yards and 54 touchdowns while also adding 2,268 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. He was a phenom, and though he probably won’t make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there are plenty of fantasy football players that would induct him.
4 Worst - Ahman Green
Sometimes you get an undrafted running back that goes off for big numbers, and then you have overpriced running backs who don’t produce. Ahman Green falls in the latter category. Green has spent seven seasons in Green Bay, where he collected more than 8,000 rushing yards and 97 touchdowns. In 2007, the Texans signed him for big money, giving him $8 million in his first season.
Green would produce just 260 rushing yards and two touchdowns with 123 receiving yards. Green could not stay healthy and didn’t see much of the field, playing in just eight games the next season, while adding just over 300 total yards and three touchdowns. Green was let go after 2008, and returned to Green Bay for one final NFL season.
3 Best - Andre Johnson
The first ever NFL Draft for the Texans produced the so-so David Carr in the first round, but then produced a potential Hall of Famer in their second draft. With the third overall selection, Houston picked up Andre Johnson out of Miami in 2003. Johnson had a strong rookie season with nearly 1,000 yards, though he would eventually eclipse that milestone in Houston...seven times.
Johnson was a machine through the middle part of his career, topping out at 3,144 yards over 2008 and 2009. Overall, Johnson was selected to seven Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams. In 12 seasons with Houston, Johnson collected 13,597 receiving yards and 64 touchdowns. It has been odd to see him playing for the Colts and Titans since leaving Houston, but rest assured his number 80 will be retired in Houston.
2 Worst - Ed Reed
If this list contained the best NFL players to ever wear a Texans uniform, Ed Reed could make a strong case for number one. However, his Texans career was definitely forgettable. Reed had been a monster with Baltimore for 11 seasons, being named to nine Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams. Reed also had 61 interceptions, six sacks and 13 fumble recoveries. He signed with the Texans in 2013, and had no stats in those categories.
It’s hard to believe that Reed played so poorly that he wound up losing his job to Shiloh Keo. Eventually, Reed was released during the season and signed with the Jets. Interestingly enough, Reed would sign with the Jets to end the season, and his career, with three interceptions. It was not the best $15 million that the Texans had spent by a long shot.
1 Best - J.J. Watt
Even though J.J. Watt has not played on the Texans as much as Andre Johnson did, his accomplishments still stand out. Watt was the 11th overall pick from Wisconsin in 2011, and had a decent rookie season with 5.5 sacks. Watt would then become an absolute monster in his second season, collecting 20.5 sacks, which he did again in 2014. From 2012 to 2015, Watt made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams.
Though he played in just three games in 2016 before getting injured, Watt still has good career numbers with 76 sacks, 299 tackles and 15 forced fumbles. Watt also has three receiving touchdowns. Hopefully, he can come back in 2017 and become the dominant force that he has been for his entire career.