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'Mental Tough Metchie': Texans' Lovie Smith See High Potential In Rookie WR

John Metchie III's physical style of play and consistency could make him the top receiver in no time for the Houston Texans

HOUSTON -- Immediate production or long-term potential. That was likely a conversation had in the war room between Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio and coach Lovie Smith entering Day 2 of the draft. 

Multiple receivers were on the board when Houston elected to trade up with the Cleveland Browns for the No. 44 pick. Western Michigan's Skyy Moore was a fan favorite. So was George Pickens out of Georgia due to his size and catch radius. 

But Caserio and Smith were looking at the big picture. They wanted a player who could make a difference when healthy, but also have the potential to take over games in the slot. It became evident that Alabama's John Metchie III was the only logical option. The card was turned in and a phone call was made.

John Metchie III
John Metchie III
John Metchie III

"You know, we say we're a tough football team," Smith said Monday at the Texans annual charity golf tournament. "There's some positions that will tell if you're really tough or not...[Metchie] is a small guy, likely only to play the slot, but to play with an injury the way he did and how he's attacked coming back...He's going to give us something eventually that we don't have in our program now." 

Metchie is expected to be the team's starting slot receiver once he returns from injury. During the pre-draft Caserio, two things were evident about the 5-11, 190-pounder receiver's game; he was a technician with his routes, and consistent with his hands. 

A two-year starter for the Crimson Tide, Metchie relied heavily on technique than athletic traits to be successful as the team's No. 2 option. In 2021, he became the security blanket for Heisman winner Bryce Young across the middle of the field, recording a team-high 96 catches for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns before tearing his ACL in the SEC Championship.

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Metchie told reporters following his selection that he has progressed with his rehab ahead of time, similar to fellow Alabama Jameson Williams, who was selected 12th overall by the Detroit Lions. The decision will come down to the Texans on when he'll play, but Metchie is cautiously optimistic of his status for Week 1.

"As far as the recovery, I will be good to play football in July. I will be good to go, no training wheels," Metchie said last month. "I have been running already for the last couple months. Cutting, jumping, doing all those types of things. When I say I will be ready to go in July, it's full-go football." 

Caserio and Smith do not intend to rush Metchie back simply to see his rep count expand. Both view him as an investment pick with the potential to be a staple of the passing attack under second-year quarterback Davis Mills. 

John Metchie III
John Metchie III

Once Metchie takes the field, the pressure should be off his shoulders to be an x-factor early. Houston will have veteran Brandin Cooks as the top target once more as he looks for this consecutive 1,000-yard campaign. The Texans are hopeful second-year receiver Nico Collins can build off his role as the team's No. 2 option and Brevin Jordan can be effective in passing sets at tight end.

Along the way to a 4-13 record in 2021, Houston started five different receivers in the slot with marginal success. Metchie serves as stability at an ever-growing position of need once he returns to drills.