In this series, I want to highlight some rookies I expect to take a massive step forward in year two. I’ll look at various rookies, from those who had solid rookie years to those who did almost nothing in year one. To completely break down each player, I’ll split these pieces into five sections: college career and NFL Draft profile, rookie statistics, dynasty ADP analysis, future situation, and final recommendation.
If you want to read my previous entries, I’ve included the complete list at the bottom of this article. I also added links to my 2021 series, so you can look at last year’s breakouts and how they fared. This year, I’ve enjoyed writing these articles again, especially since I’ve examined a fresh set of potential breakouts.
Now, I want to look at Nico Collins, a second-year wide receiver on the Texans. He had a decent rookie year, and he has an opportunity to improve even further in year two. Let’s jump into it!
College Career and NFL Draft Profile
Collins had an interesting college career at Michigan.
He debuted as a true freshman in 2017 but only appeared in two games with three catches for 27 yards. But in 2018, he broke out, serving as a top-tier weapon in Michigan’s receiving corps. He led the team in receiving yards and finished second in receptions and touchdowns behind Donovan Peoples-Jones. Then in 2019, his career continued progressing, as he slightly improved his per-game numbers. Ronnie Bell became the team’s leader in receptions and yards, but Collins remained ahead of Peoples-Jones and led the team in touchdowns.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic hurt Collins in 2020. He opted out of the 2020 season due to pandemic-related concerns, preventing him from cementing his draft stock. It’s difficult to know, but I suspect that decision hurt him in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, the Texans still selected him with the 89th overall pick, giving him third-round draft capital. He entered a decent situation, as the Texans had no major receivers behind Brandin Cooks.
The Texans’ 2021 roster was an absolute dumpster fire. Deshaun Watson sat out the entire season, leaving them with Tyrod Taylor and third-round rookie Davis Mills as their quarterbacks. First-year head coach David Culley presided over a terrible offense, where only Brandin Cooks provided any real fantasy value.
However, Collins found some success, even in a terrible situation.
He caught 33 of 60 targets for 446 yards and a touchdown in 14 games. Considering his draft capital and situation, averaging 2.4 receptions and 31.9 receiving yards per game was a solid output. Additionally, he finished second in receptions, yards, and targets on the team, impressive for a third-round rookie.
His statistics did not translate to fantasy production.
He peaked at 12.3 fantasy points in week 16, although he only had two double-digit performances all season. Obviously, if dynasty managers want to start Collins in their fantasy lineups, he must improve from his 2021 scoring.
Initially, Collins’s 2022 situation didn’t look great. The Texans failed to acquire a quarterback upgrade from Mills, leaving him as their unquestioned 2022 starter. They also drafted Alabama star John Metchie in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft, providing competition for the WR2 role behind Brandin Cooks.
However, Metchie recently announced that he would miss the entire 2022 season due to complications from leukemia. While he’s expected to make a full recovery, there’s no doubt that the Texans now have a massive void in their wide receiver room. They didn’t draft any other wide receivers and didn’t sign anyone significant in free agency. Therefore, Collins is the unquestioned second receiving option on the Texans, with only tight end Brevin Jordan as any competition.
Collins performed far better in the games Mills played versus those where only Taylor served as the quarterback.
As you can see, Collins had double the fantasy points in the games Mills played versus those he did not, giving some optimism for his 2022 outlook. Remember he was the second receiving target versus the same competition last year. Considering both Mills and Collins were rookies in 2021, there’s no reason not to project a step forward this year.
Additionally, his long-term future is also bright. Collins is only 23 years old, so he’s a young player with room to gain value over time. There’s also no guarantee that Metchie will ever return to the NFL, and even if he does, Collins can cement the WR2 role with a strong 2022 season.
I also believe that there’s an outside shot that Collins could overtake Cooks for the WR1 position, although that’s not likely to happen in 2022. Cooks turns 29 years old in September, and the Texans can escape his contract after the 2023 season. I know that Cooks has been a consistent producer throughout his career, but he may not continue to do so into his 30s.
Finally, the Texans will almost certainly have a better quarterback situation in 2023 than they do now. Either Mills will become their franchise quarterback, or they will use their draft capital to acquire a superior quarterback. They have the Browns’ 2023 and 2024 first-rounders from the Watson trade, so they have sufficient ammunition to move up the draft board for Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, or someone else.
Dynasty ADP Analysis
Currently, Collins is the WR73 and 166.83 overall in July’s DLF ADP data, although those mock drafts occurred before the Metchie news. I’m curious where his price lands in August’s data, which may be more similar to my value of WR65 and 149 overall. Luckily, we can look at ADP from earlier in the off-season to guess.
His value has been remarkably consistent since the Texans drafted him, hovering around 150 overall. He dipped considerably in May and June 2022 after the Texans picked Metchie, but he already began to rebound in July. I predict he comes in somewhere around 150 overall, similar to his price from February to April before the Metchie pick.
Trade Options and Final Recommendation
It’s often difficult to trade for lower-valued players like Collins directly. Let’s look at the DLF Trade Finder for some examples.
Here, for example, the purpose of the trade is selling Allen Robinson and acquiring picks. However, getting Collins on top of the future second and third-rounders makes the deal slightly more appealing. I’d probably lean toward the package side in this trade, although it’s a fair trade.
Once again, Collins isn’t the featured piece in the deal, as this trade is mostly a straight-across swap of Tee Higgins for DK Metcalf. Those players are relatively similar, but Collins is a far better asset than Jerome Ford.
Beyond these deals, I wouldn’t mind paying a 2023 third-round pick for Collins, although that isn’t typically my style of playing dynasty. Therefore, I’ll probably stick to drafting him onto my team in a startup or targeting him as a throw-in as part of large trades. Overall, though, I believe Collins is an ascending asset, and now is an excellent time to buy in.
2021 Entries: D’Andre Swift, Cole Kmet, Chase Claypool, Harrison Bryant, Gabriel Davis, CeeDee Lamb, Tee Higgins, Lynn Bowden, Joe Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darnell Mooney, Bryan Edwards, Jerry Jeudy
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Second-Year Leap: Rondale Moore, WR ARI - August 19, 2022
- Dynasty Fantasy Football Second-Year Leap: Nico Collins, WR HOU - August 13, 2022
- The Ask DLF Weekly Rundown - August 12, 2022