Justifying the Demaryius Thomas Pickup
Houston Texans Give: 2019 Fourth-Round Pick, 2019 Seventh-Round Pick
Denver Broncos Give: WR Demaryius Thomas, 2019 Seventh-Round PIck
Demaryius Thomas was drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft by the Denver Broncos. He broke out in his third season with Peyton Manning at quarterback. He finished with upwards of 1300 yards in four straight seasons, exceeding ten touchdowns in the first three of such.
Since losing Manning he has been a good wide receiver, but he has definitely struggled to be as significant a threat as he was over the four year span. Now, sitting at 30 years old, Thomas has the opportunity to play with an electric quarterback once again. Watson isn't Manning, but he is an upgrade over Siemian and Case Keenum.
Will Fuller has been making a name for himself as one of the best second options in the league. While missing some time with injury, he was still on pace for over 1000 yards and eight touchdowns. In the week eight Thursday night game against the Miami Dolphins, Fuller went down with a knee injury. It was later announced that he would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.
The Texans had to act quick if they wanted to remain a competitor with the trade deadline less than a week away. With the three other teams in the AFC South sitting below .500, it was time for the Texans to run away with the division. To do this, they had to truly replace Fuller at the second wide receiver spot, rather than shifting each receiver up a spot. Coutee would be capable of playing as the number two, but Vyncint Smith and Coates wouldn't be able to be a formidable third option.
Demaryius Thomas and Will Fuller are not completely interchangeable in terms of their play styles. Adding Demaryius Thomas though should give the Texans receivers very clear roles for the remainder of the season.
Hopkins will not need to make any adjustments. He plays out wide as well as in the slot, he runs drag routes, crossing routes, comebacks, and go routes. Hopkins is one of the most well-rounded wide receivers in the NFL.
If anything, with the connection we've seen between Watson and Fuller, Hopkins' biggest adjustment may be adjusting to more targets. In terms of playing style though and his role, Hopkins will not need to change anything about his game.
Demaryius Thomas ran a 4.41 at his combine, but he is nearly 31 and is no longer expected to beat defenders over the top on a regular basis. That doesn't mean that he is unable though, and hopefully the Texans will see him do it a few times over the course of the season.
Thomas leads the NFL with seven drops on the season, and this isn't a good thing by any means, but his receptions and receiving yards look very good for a clear second option. Also, with defenses worrying about Hopkins more than Sutton, and Watson creating more explosive plays than Keenum, Thomas will likely find himself in a better spot in Houston than in Denver.
Thomas has been asked to play out of the slot more than ever before this season, and that likely won't be the case in Houston. He has been successful crossing the field, running in routes, slants and drags. The Texans may use him downfield more than Denver did, but his role will likely be to line up out wide and cross the field with speed. The deep targets will also be more evenly allocated to each of the three receivers rather than a large share of them going to Fuller.
Coutee has been an integral part of the offense in the games he's played. His best routes in college were the slant route and the go route but since joining the Texans we are yet to see Coutee run deep routes. He's caught a few screen passes, as well as running some out routes, but the playbook will now call for some different plays from the rookie.
Coutee ran a 4.43 at the combine, confirming what the tape shows. Coutee has the ability to take the top off the defense. He hasn't been called upon to do this because Fuller's speciality is running the deep routes, a play in which we've seen tons of time with Watson at quarterback. With Fuller out, and Thomas less able to beat defenders downfield on pure speed alone, the offense will likely make adjustments to have Coutee running those go routes.
He's capable, and he will likely have some growing pains, but route expansion is good for young receivers. Also, it will be good for an element of surprise on this Texans offense for the rest of this season and moving forward. For this season, teams may hesitate to put slot cornerbacks on Coutee if they know he may be called upon to burn the defense downfield. Next year, defenses will need to account for Coutee and Fuller as deep threats, while the other has the speed to create separation on slants and drag routes as well.