Best Texans Players Of All Time: Top 7 Houston Legends, According To Fans

The story of professional football in Houston is long and arduous, to say the least. From 1960 to 1995, The Houston National Football League (NFL) franchise was named the Oilers. In 1996, the Oilers moved from Houston to Nashville, Tennessee, and changed their name to the Titans. Houston went without an NFL team until 2002, when the league granted them an expansion team. That team is now the Houston Texans, and they’re the youngest and most recent franchise in the NFL. The Houston franchise has certainly produced some legendary athletes to this point, but only a few can be called the best Texans players of all time. 

Speaking of teams producing players, a recent study suggests that fans prefer championship teams comprised of homegrown talent as opposed to teams stacked with pricey free agents. Researchers at the University of Kansas surveyed 1,500 Americans. Luckily, the Texans boast a mixture of both kinds of players. For example, Jalen Pitre and Kenyon Green were drafted in 2022, and both are from Texas, according to the team’s website.

Watching your favorite draft picks go from obscurity to stardom is a satisfying experience for sports fans. But, nothing beats the thrills of watching those players live and in person. Another study found that the average sports fan is willing to travel, and spend decent money, just to see their favorite team play in person. The average fan is willing to travel a whopping five hours and 48 minutes plus spend an average of $762.20 on tickets just to see their favorite team play live. For that kind of time and money, let’s just hope the Texans win. 

So, which players are considered the greatest in franchise history? StudyFinds did our homework, consulting 10 sports and football-related websites in an effort to bring you a consensus on the best Texans players of all time. Our list comprises the seven most frequently listed Texans players from across these sites. Think we snubbed one of your all-time favorites? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below! 

Football player holding his helmet
Football player holding his helmet (Photo by wavebreakmedia on Shutterstock)

The List: Best Texans Players, Ranked by Experts

1. J.J. Watt

Easily topping the list of the best players in Houston Texans franchise history is none other than legendary defensive end, J.J. Watt. He was a top draft pick out of the University of Wisconsin and he’s one of the premiere defensive players of his generation. “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,” writes Defiant Takes Football

It was clear that Watt was going to be a great player right from the start of his career. “After starting every game as a rookie in 2011, Watt made a name for himself with an interception return for a touchdown in the first round of that year’s postseason and 2.5 sacks in the next round. He was then named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in three of the next four seasons while racking up 69 sacks in that period,” explains Sports Illustrated

Watt did suffer from a few injuries over the course of his career in Houston. However, the legendary defensive end will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and he’ll go down as one of the most dominant defensive linemen of all time. “Despite his prime being momentarily stalled because of injuries, Watt is easily the greatest player in Texans’ history. He and Lawrence Taylor are the only players in NFL history to win the Defensive Player of the Year award three times. Watt holds a slew of records. He’s the only player with two seasons with 20 or more sacks. Watt earned First-Team All-Pro honors in five of the six seasons where he’s played all 16 games. It’s a shame injuries keep interrupting Watt’s dominance. But he’s a slam dunk first-ballot Hall of Famer as well as Houston’s all-time defensive leader, with 96 sacks and 23 forced fumbles,” adds Clutch Points

2. Andre Johnson

During his prime, Andre Johnson was one of the most productive wide receivers in the NFL, and he’s a lock for one of the top Texans of all time. “Johnson had over 1,000 receptions with the Texans, 64 touchdowns and 13,597 receiving yards. Johnson was apart of many teams that suffered from poor quarterback play. It begs the question of what his statistics would look like if he had a good quarterback his whole career? The seven-time pro bowler and 2-time all-pro receiver will be remembered for his silent leadership. A single star on struggling teams at the beginning of his career,” writes House of Houston

Johnson was an absolute menace on the football field. Johnson led the league in receiving yards and total receptions in 2008 and he was one of the most consistent players on a struggling Houston team for several years. “They selected him third overall in the 2003 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami. Johnson played twelve seasons with the team from 2003 to 2014, where he was one of the best wide receivers in the league… He led the league in both receptions and receiving yards in 2008,” adds Rookie Road

Johnson played with some less-than-ideal quarterbacks over the course of his career and still put up huge numbers. It wasn’t until the Texans signed quarterback Matt Schaub that Johnson really started to show just how dominant he could be in the NFL. “It was when the Texans brought in Schaub, though, that Johnson really took off. Since that 2007 season, Johnson has had two seasons with over 100 catches, including a 115-catch season in 2008. Each of his four seasons with Schaub at quarterback has produced more touchdowns than any season with David Carr at the helm,” furthers Bleacher Report

3. Arian Foster

Arian Foster is hands down the greatest running back in Texans history, and he’s easily one of the best offensive players the team has ever had. “The second-best offensive player in Texans history, running back Arian Foster, went undrafted in 2009 and started his career as a backup for Houston. But in his second NFL season, Foster exploded, leading the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, kicking off three years in a row with over 1,000 yards and over 10 touchdowns. After an injury-shortened 2013 season, Foster bounced back in 2014 with another 1,000-yard season before injuries once again derailed his career. Foster played seven seasons with the Texans. Only four times did he play in double-digit games. But man…those four seasons. He made the Pro Bowl in each of them,” raves Rotoballer

Foster ran the Texans’ stretch, zone running plays to perfection. He could find holes in the run game and exploit those for big gains over and over again throughout a game. “In his prime, Arian Foster was arguably the best running back in the league. He recorded 1,200 rushing yards in four of his seven seasons with the Texans. He led the NFL in rushing touchdowns twice (2010, 2012) and made four Pro Bowl trips. Foster is also the franchise’s all-time leader in rushing yards (6,472) and rushing touchdowns (54). If he had not retired early, he would have been on track to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” furthers Sportskeeda

It’s hard to believe that Foster went undrafted out of the University of Tennessee, but he did, and the Texans were wise to snatch him up. Foster ran for more than 50 touchdowns and over 6,000 yards over the course of his career in Houston. “The undrafted free agent from Tennessee left the Texans with 1,476 carries for 6,472 yards and 54 touchdowns, all of which are franchise records. It is true that Foster had better offensive lines than some of the other rushers in club history, but it is also true he took advantage of the opportunities present. Foster won the NFL rushing title in 2010 with 1,616 yards on 327 carries. He also notched his first of two seasons leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns,” adds Texans Wire

4. DeAndre Hopkins

Also known as D-Hop DeAndre Hopkins was drafted to be the replacement for Andre Johnson, and he did nothing but deliver every season. He played for the Texans from 2013 to 2019, had a brief two-year stint with the Cardinals, and now plays for the Titans. 

What was he known for? “DeAndre Hopkins could be counted on for two things throughout his Texans career—being on the field and gaining a lot of yards. In his seven seasons with Houston, Hopkins missed just two games and gained at least 800 yards every season. That included five seasons with at least 1,000 yards and three seasons with more than 10 touchdowns. As a dynamic receiver, Hopkins finished among the top five in the NFL in receiving yardage in three seasons (2015, ‘17 and ‘18), and he also caught at least 100 passes three times. When fellow receiver Andre Johnson departed for the Colts in 2015, Hopkins became the No. 1 option for Houston in 2015, and his 11 touchdowns that year broke the single-season team record,” explains Sports Illustrated

D-Hop had everything an NFL team was looking for in a wide receiver, so it’s hard to believe he fell all the way to the very end of the first round of the NFL draft. Still, he produced huge numbers during his first few seasons in the league. “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,” furthers Defiant Takes Football

Hopkins certainly experienced his fair share of mediocre quarterback play in Houston and still put up all-time numbers. “Hopkins is second in Texans’ history in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns by a wide margin. He accumulated 8,602 yards in Houston. During his seven seasons with the Texans, Hopkins established himself as one of the NFL’s best receivers. Despite playing with journeymen like Case Keenum, Brock Osweiler and Savage early in his career, Hopkins produced Pro Bowl numbers,” adds Clutch Points

5. Duane Brown

During his time in Houston, Duane Brown was easily one of the top offensive linemen in the entire league. “While Houston had some decent players on the line in the early days, it wasn’t until they drafted left tackle Duane Brown in 2008 that the team really found a high-end tackle. Brown—who is still in the NFL at the time this was written, playing for the New York Jets—started every game he played for Houston. He was a First Team All-Pro in 2012 and has been named to the Pro Bowl five times, with the first three of those coming when he played for the Texans,” writes Rotoballer

Brown could do it all on the offensive line – he was a great run blocker and an excellent pass protector. Brown was also extremely durable and consistent during his time with the Texans franchise. “Duane Brown has been a top five left tackle for much of his time in the NFL. The anchor of the Houston Texans’ offensive line has been shutting down the best pass rushers in his nine seasons. Brown has been an ironman for the Texans as well, he’s only missed 12 career regular season games. The three-time pro bowler and 2011 All-Pro has earned his spot on this list,” adds House of Houston

Brown eventually left the Texans for the Seahawks, before moving onto the Jets today, but he’ll certainly go down as one of the best offensive linemen the Texans have ever had. “Even though his time with the Texans ended prematurely in a way, no offensive lineman has been able to accomplish for Houston what Brown was able to: three Pro Bowl (2012-14) selections and an All-Pro selection (2012). Brown was another part of the offensive line that paved the way for Arian Foster to have the success that he did for the Texans franchise. It is no coincidence that the Texans offensive line went into an immediate rebuild once Brown left,” furthers Texans Wire

6. Matt Schaub

Matt Schaub was a backup in Atlanta but finally got a chance to start in Houston and he did not disappoint. “Matt Schaub owns nearly every major passing mark in the Texans’ franchise record book, and was also the quarterback who finally lifted them into postseason contention. Houston gave Schaub his first NFL starting job, and after establishing himself as a star, he helped push the Texans into the playoffs in 2011 (though he was injured and unable to play in the postseason). His breakout season came in 2009, when he led the league with 4,770 passing yards; it was his first of three seasons with at least 4,000 yards. He passed for 4,370 yards in 2010 and would likely have had a third straight season of 4,000 yards in 2011 had he not been injured,” explains Sports Illustrated

Schaub really never the same player after that. But, he had an incredible run at quarterback for the Texans. “Schaub has by far been the best Quarterback in Texans history…In his seven seasons with the Texans, Schaub threw for over 23,000 yards, 124 touchdowns and won 46 games,” writes House of Houston

Perhaps the most important stat of Schaub’s career is his total wins. Simply put, he was a winner, a competitor, and a tough quarterback who could play through adversity. “In 2009, he led the Texans to their first winning season with a 9-7 record, and was selected for his first Pro Bowl. Schaub had the Texans on the right track with a 7-3 record after Week 10 of the 2011, even though he was lost for the season with a broken foot. In 2012, Schaub helped Houston return to the playoffs with a 12-4 record and earned another Pro Bowl selection,” addsTexans Wire

7. Mario Williams

Rounding out the list of the best players in Texans franchise history is none other than former first overall NFL Draft pick, defensive end Mario Williams. Williams had a lot of pressure on him as a former number-one overall pick, but the defensive end out of North Carolina State more than lived up to expectations. “Williams played every game in his first four seasons to become one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL. As a rookie, Williams posted modest but respectable numbers, but he had a breakout season in 2007. He opened that year on a high note in a 20–3 victory over the Chiefs, recording two sacks and recovering a fumble and returning it 38 yards for a touchdown. By season’s end, he had 14 sacks,” explains Sports Illustrated

Like most great defensive players, Williams really put it all together in his second season in the NFL. He wasn’t the consensus number-one pick in the 2006 Draft, though. “Everyone thought it would be running back Reggie Bush as the top selection in the 2006 NFL draft, but Houston shocked everyone by taking Mario Williams instead. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound defensive end was slow to get going but wound up becoming a star for Houston. The best season as a Texan for Williams was his second season when he had 59 tackles and 14 sacks. He followed that year up with 12 more sacks in 2008 and made his first Pro Bowl,” writes Toro Times

Williams was eventually surrounded by more talent and that’s when he really started to shine in Houston. “As the feature edge defender in Houston’s 4-3 defense, Williams had 48 sacks in five seasons. In 2011, the club hired Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator, and Williams posted 5.0 sacks, the fewest since his rookie season when he had 4.5. With Brandon Brooks and J.J. Watt as promising rookies, and Williams having ended his season on injured reserve, the team let him walk in free agency in 2012,” adds Texans Wire

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