With Week 2 officially in the books, it's time to shine a spotlight on the league's standout performer and hand out a "Game Ball." I will do this every week from now until the end of the season. If you missed the Week 1 Game Ball — given to Tua Tagovailoa — check it out here.
After grinding every single snap from the week, I will be bringing to the table a combination of film analysis and advanced data to break down the week’s most outstanding player.
And with that said…. My Week 2 Game Ball goes to Houston Texans WR Nico Collins.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of the other standout performances from the week — we saw some monster performances from the league’s WR group. Bucs WR Mike Evans, Rams WR Puka Nacua, Vikings WR Justin Jefferson, and Cowboys WR Ceedee Lamb all had incredible games.
THE IMPORTANT STUFF
Collins had the best game of his young NFL career on Sunday as he put up a career-high 7 catches for 146 yards, also a career-high. He also added a touchdown in the 2nd quarter and was responsible for 5 of the Texans’ 9 third-down conversions.
Between the playcalling and Collins’ ability, he was basically uncoverable all day long. The connection we have seen between Collins and rookie quarterback CJ Stroud has looked special through two weeks. There is a trust factor there that will be crucial for that offense's development.
In the predraft process, I was highly critical of Stroud’s ability to process quickly and throw with anticipation, but he is doing both of those things at a high level when looking Collins’ way. It cannot be understated how important this is for both Collins and Stroud.
LET’S DOMINATE THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD
Texans WR Nico Collins has a special connection with rookie QB CJ Stroud.— Brett Whitefield (@BGWhitefield) September 19, 2023
Collins dominated the middle of the field Week-2. There is a trust factor there with Stroud.
I’m feeling a big breakout incoming. pic.twitter.com/GsPZhPOmUJ
Collins did all of his damage almost exclusively over the middle of the field. Whether short, intermediate, or deep, Collins built a mansion in the middle of the Colts' secondary. He was winning on slant routes, in-breakers, post routes, and even hit the seam from a reduced split for his lone touchdown.
While Collins is a big and athletic target, I was very happy to see how technical his performance was. He really thrived getting off press and running routes, particularly his ability to sink and explode out of breaks. This movement from a guy his size is unusual, and it was too much for the Indy corners. When he saw off-coverage, he expertly used tempo to secure the needed leverage.
Lastly, Collins was excellent after the catch and a nightmare for opposing defenders to bring down. He made four defenders miss and routinely out-physicaled opposing DBs, dragging them for extra yards. 55 of his yards came after the catch, which was especially impressive considering not one of his 10 targets was of the “schemed” variety that typically favors gaudy YAC numbers.
DATA POINTS TO KNOW
CJ Stroud had a passer rating of 155.8 when targeting Collins
126 of his yards came against middle-of-the-field closed looks (Cover 3, Cover 1)
Route participation of just 68.2% through 2 weeks
Ranks 6th in YPRR (3.10) through 2 weeks (min 30 routes run)
Charted with at least a step of separation on 17 of 20 targets.
I firmly believe that targets and snaps are earned in the NFL, and through two weeks, there might not be a better candidate for increased usage in the entire league than Nico Collins. His production so far this season on less than 70% route participation is incredible. His three-level connection with CJ Stroud bodes very well for Collins’ future.
I think a big-time, third-year breakout is in store for Collins, and while I am not necessarily a fantasy guy by trade, I am targeting him in dynasty leagues now before the price gets too high.