Houston Texans: J.J. Watt’s early case for NFL Hall of Fame

J.J. Watt has started his season strong, but is the Houston Texans’ best defensive player already a Hall of Famer?

While the Houston Texans have taken back-to-back losses from two of the NFL’s best teams in Kansas City and Baltimore, J.J. Watt has shined with his on-field play. Through the first two games of the 2020 season, Watt has registered one pass defended, five solo tackles, and two sacks.

The 6-foot-5 defensive end’s early-season performance brings excitement to many Texans fans who have questioned to what extent Watt could contribute following his latest surgical procedure. While past injuries have plagued the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Watt appears ready to keep marching toward potential enshrinement in Canton.

Though Watt enters his 10th season of play, due to various injuries he has only taken the field for the equivalent of roughly seven full seasons. Nevertheless, in limited playing time, Watt has managed to stand alone in first place as the NFL’s career leader in quarterback hits—a relatively new NFL stat only kept since 2006. What’s more, the five-time Pro Bowler amassed 265 quarterback hits in only 112 games. To provide context for how efficient Watt has been at getting to quarterbacks in his career, the now-retired second-place finisher in this statistical category, DeMarcus Ware, played 60-plus more games than Watt and achieved 36 fewer quarterback hits.

While hits on a quarterback do not necessarily constitute a sack, they do imply disrupting an offensive play. And it is my belief that Watt’s production alone in this category might already lead to his induction among Hall of Fame voters if he were to retire from football at the end of his current contract that runs through 2021. Also, bolstering his chances at induction into the Hall, Watt enters the 2020 season in a four-way tie for 46th all-time in NFL history with 23 forced fumbles.

J.J. Watt is nearing 100 career sacks

What many Texans fans might not know, however, is that Watt sits just two sacks short of achieving 100 for his career. Watt’s 98 career sacks entering the Texan’s week three matchup against the Steelers already ranks him 35th in NFL history. Additionally of note, only three active players feature more sacks than Watt.

In line with Watt’s personal mantra, “Dream Big, Work Hard,” the question presents itself—could Houston’s star defensive end finish with the most sacks in NFL history? It does not appear likely, but mathematically, yes, it remains possible.

For example, for Watt to achieve 200 career sacks—the NFL record held by Hall of Famer Bruce Smith—he would likely need to play for at least seven to 10 more seasons at an above-average to elite level. If Watt played for exactly seven more seasons, he would need to accumulate roughly 14 sacks a year, while if he played for another decade, he would need to average at least 10 sacks per season. This raises the question—would the Texans grant the 31-year-old phenom a lifetime contract and allow him to play into his forties if he so chooses?

Houston Texans fans, do you think the Texans should offer Watt a lifetime contract? Please leave your thoughts below.