The Houston Texans are the youngest franchise in the NFL making the league an even 32 teams in 2002. Within their relatively short time as a part of the NFL they have had a number of players make large impacts in the league and for the city of Houston. This list will focus on the players’ careers as a Houston Texan only.

There were a couple of guys that would be just out of my top five. Matt Schaub is the franchise leader in basically every passing category. He also had a big 2009 season leading the NFL in passing yards. The relationship with the fans in Houston didn’t end on the best note, as Schaub struggled with throwing touchdowns to the wrong team. This pushed him out of my top five.

New head coach Demeco Ryans was an immediate stud after being drafted by the Texans 33rd overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. He won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006 after leading the league in solo tackles and was named to two Pro Bowls with the Texans. He is the Texans’ all-time leader in tackles, but after being on the team for six years, he left for Philadelphia to finish his career. That placed him just outside of the top five. Now to the actual list.

Five Greatest Players in the History of the Houston Texans

5) Arian Foster (RB 2009-2015)

Out of my top five, Foster has the least amount of games in a Houston uniform. That does not diminish the impact that he had on the field. Even though he went undrafted in 2009 his smooth one-cut style running ability was a match made in heaven with Gary Kubiak’s zone-style run game. He burst onto the scene in 2010, and the only thing that held him back later in his career was injuries. He is the all-time leader in attempts, yards, and touchdowns in Texans history, by a lot. He went to the Pro Bowl 4 times, was 1st team All-Pro in 2010, and 2nd team All-Pro in 2011.

Texans RB Arian Foster (23) - Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Former Texans RB Arian Foster (23) – Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

From 2010 to 2012, Arian Foster had one of the best three-year stretches a running back could have. He led the league in rushing yards in 2010, and also led in touchdowns in both 2010 and 2012. No back had more touchdowns than Foster in that stretch, and the only guy with more yards was Adrian Peterson with his 2097 yard 2012 season putting him 100 yards over Foster. His receiving skills were also put to great use in Kubiak’s offense. Averaging 53 receptions, 480 yards, and 2 TD a season between 2010-2012.

He was an all-around back that when his four best seasons are averaged out (his three other seasons, he played eight or less games); he produced 1818 scrimmage yards and 15 touchdowns a season. Foster retired during the 2016 season after injuries limited him to just eight games in two seasons. His unreal numbers, which were a fantasy football player’s dream, snuck him into the top five, but his lack of longevity kept him from climbing up the list anymore.

4) Duane Brown (LT 2008-2017)

In order for Schaub to lead the league in passing and Foster to lead the league in rushing the offensive line has to be pretty solid. The anchor of the offensive line for almost a decade was Duane Brown. He was an immediate starter after being drafted 26th overall. If the 25 picks before them had a do-over, then he for sure would not have fallen to them in the draft. There were seven offensive tackles taken before him, and not only is he the only one still playing, but those other seven tackles combined for eight Pro Bowls while Brown has been to five himself. (3 with the Texans)

Texans LT Duane Brown (76)

Former Texans LT Duane Brown (76) – Nick Cammett/Getty

There aren’t many stats to pull for offensive linemen, but when a guy only misses 12 starts in nine full seasons as a left tackle for one of the top offenses that says something. In Brown’s first six years in Houston the team had three top-five finishes for offensive yards, and the worst was 13th, a year where Matt Schaub missed six games. Brown paved the way for many of Arian Foster’s touchdowns, as you can see in the picture above, where a handful of his touchdowns, no one is near him.

During the 2017 season, Brown was dealt to the Seahawks for draft picks after a long holdout. He signed a two-year deal with the Jets last year and is slated to be their starting left tackle. Brown is the best offensive lineman in the organization’s history with Laremy Tunsil trying to catch him. That puts him in my top five, as I have a soft spot for the big hoggs, but it would have taken an even more impressive nine-year stretch to leap the top three.

3) Deandre Hopkins (WR 2013-2019)

I was having trouble putting 3, 4, and five in order on this list and kept going back and forth. Then I watched the greatest catch that didn’t count, and that made up my mind. There are two reasons Hopkins isn’t higher on this list:

  1. He left in his prime
  2. Who 1 and 2 are

Besides that, Hopkins has been an elite receiver since he was drafted 27th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Absolutely terrorizing secondaries with his route running and unreal catch range. He was a constant target for the Texans QB carousel that he played with, amassing 1048 targets in his seven years with the team, which led to four Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pro, and one second-team All-Pro.

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (10)

Former Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (10) – Tim Warner/Getty Images

In Hopkins’s first five seasons, Houston had five different quarterbacks lead the team in passing. Despite zero consistency on who was throwing him the ball, he collected three 1200+ yard seasons and two double-digit touchdown seasons. In 2017 Houston traded up to draft Deshaun Watson, and the three years that these two shared the field were Hopkins’s best stretch with the team. Over that span, he averaged 105 receptions for over 1300 yards and ten touchdowns. All three seasons being awarded first-team All-Pro and the Pro Bowl. After the 2019 season,

Hopkins was traded to the Arizona Cardinals and is once again a hot trade target that every fan wants their team to trade to get him. Having just turned 31, Hopkins should still have a few good years left in him to make some more highlight reels.

2) Andre Johnson (WR 2003-2014)

With the 3rd pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans selected their first superstar. This big-bodied Miami, Florida prospect was the ultimate receiver. 6’ 2”, 230 lbs, ran a 4.41 with a 39” vertical. He stepped into the Texans facility and was immediately the best receiver in the building and one of the best in the league. He was the total package and could beat a secondary in many different ways. The game plan was to throw it to number 80 and see if anybody could stop it.

Texans WR Andre Johnson (80)

Texans WR Andre Johnson (80) – Bob Levey/Getty Images

In his 12 seasons with the team, Andre Johnson led them in receiving yards every year except 2011, when he only played seven games, and 2014 which was his last season with the team when only DeAndre Hopkins had more yards than him. He led the team in receptions every season except 2007, nine games, and that 2011 season. Yes, he still led the team in receiving yards in 2007 in only nine games. These stats led him to seven Pro Bowls, two first-team All-Pro selections, and two second-team All-Pro selections.

He was the first Houston Texan player put in their ring of honor, and the only other player inducted will be honored this upcoming October and is our greatest Texan of all time.

1) JJ Watt (DE 2011-2020)

Justin James Watt. Drafted 11th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Had a decent rookie year with 5.5 sacks, a few trademark JJ swats, and a couple of fumble recoveries. Come year two, JJ Watt skyrocketed to elite defensive player status. With his massive size, superhuman strength, quickness, and pure technique Watt took the league by storm and had one of the best four-year stretches in the history of the NFL. Becoming the second player ever to win three Defensive Player of the Year awards. Not only shoving him to the front of the line of all-time Texans, but putting him in the GOAT conversation.

Texans DE JJ Watt (99)

Texans DE JJ Watt (99) – Bob Levey/Getty Images

Coming into the 2012 season, since sacks became an official stat in 1982, only eight players had ever had 20 sacks in a season. Watt reached that mark in his second season with 20.5 sacks. He then did it again in 2014 with 20.5 sacks, again becoming the first, and still the only, player to have multiple 20-sack seasons. He had 69 sacks from 2012-2015, and if it weren’t for a string of injuries heavily limiting his 2016, 2017, and 2019 seasons, he would have had a great chance of being top 20 all-time in the NFL in sacks, with the majority of the list playing 3-four more years than Watt.

His 2014 season, which he was runner-up for the league MVP, was one of the most amazing seasons to see a defensive end have. His stat line was something out of a video game. To go along with his 20.5 sacks, he scored five touchdowns with three of them coming on offense. The other two were an 80-yard interception return and a fumble recovery. Then of course he also scored two points on a defensive safety. 11 of his 20.5 sacks came in the last five games, and he recorded a sack in 12 of 16 games that season.

Injuries throughout his career could have some question his all-time greatness status in the NFL, but all of his accolades confirm the greatest Texan of all time crown.

5x Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro (‘12, ‘13, ‘14, ‘15, ‘18) – 3x Defensive Player of the Year (‘12, ‘14, ‘15) – 2nd in MVP voting in 2014 – Named to HOF All 2010s Team – 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year

2017 – JJ Watt was not only the best Texan to play football, but he also did more for the city than any other player to my knowledge. In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated the entire city of Houston. JJ Watt used his platform and raised an unreal $37 million+ to help rebuild Houston. A true hero to the city and the reason he won the coveted Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2017.

The Texans are a very young franchise as they are just turning 21 this season. These five players made a huge impact on the city of Houston and have set the bar pretty high for young and upcoming players. It will be exciting to see what the next 20 years have in store for these Houston Texans.

See Also: 3 Break Out Candidates for the Houston Texans