In 2023, the Houston Texans were one of the true success stories of the NFL, going from a team picking second in the NFL Draft due to really rough 2022 season to the new favorite to not only win the AFC South in 2024 but win it for the foreseeable future moving forward, what with their incredibly deep roster and their key top-end talent at key positions like quarterback, wide receiver, and defensive end.

And yet, despite spending the offseason loading up on top-tier talents like Stefon Diggs, Danielle Hunter, Kamari Lassiter, and Calen Bullock, who have cannibalized the headlines, the team has still made plenty of less heralded moves that could benefit the team considerably heading into the fall, including a former DeMeco Ryans favorite and a do-it-all offensive weapon.

Keep an eye on these two Houston Texans hidden gems.

Texans tight end Brevin Jordan (9) scores a touchdown against Tennessee Titans linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (2) in the second quarter at NRG Stadium.
Dec 31, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans tight end Brevin Jordan (9) scores a touchdown against Tennessee Titans linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (2) in the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

2. Azeez Al-Shaair

Now, sure, it's hard to call a linebacker who just signed a three-year, $34 million deal a “hidden gem,” but on the national stage, he really is, as few fans outside of San Francisco, Tennessee, and now Huston, know what the former UDFA out of Florida Atlantic brings to the table.

On paper, it's easy to see why Al-Shaair went undrafted, as, despite having a solid college career at FAU, he didn't really pop from a measurable standpoint, as all of his official measurements were very middle of the pack, with only his wingspan – 78 and eight inches – ranking above the 60th percentile according to Mockdraftables. Still, he flashed enough to earn a spot and a shot in San Francisco, where he developed next to a pair of very high-end starters as the team's third starting linebacker under… you guessed it, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.

Widely expected to sign in Houston last season due to this Ryans connection, Al-Shaair swerved fans by opting to take his talents to Tenessee, where he started every game for the Titans and played in 96 percent of the team's defensive snaps. Granted, this didn't lead the team to a winning record as they finished out the year at 6-11 and saw long-time head coach Mike Vrabel get handed his walking papers as a result, but still, for a team that was a little below the middle-of-the-road, Al-Shaair was a true highlight for the 17th ranked defense in the NFL.

Fortunately, the Texans' defense is already better than the 2023 Titans, and the addition of Al-Shaair as a weakside linebacker with enough speed to move sideline-to-sideline in space and enough tenacity to be a force in the run game should help to bolster the unit even further alongside incumbent starter Christian Harris, especially with Blake Cashman and Denzel Perryman leaving town for the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Chargers respectively.

1. Ben Skowronek

In the NFL, there are two types of players: all-arounders and specialists.

CJ Strod? And all-arounder, as he isn't just a deep passer, a game manager, or a mobile quarterback but a passing savant seemingly designed in a lab to run every possible play an NFL offense could throw his way.

Stefon Diggs? At this point, he's an X receiver specialist who can take snaps in the slot as a possession receiver if Bobby Slowik wants, but is probably better off staying on the outside with his foot on the line of scrimmage, as those inside snaps are better afforded to a dynamic athlete like Tank Dell.

While all-arounders are usually more prized at their positions when they do everything very well, there are also utility players who are the textbook definition of a jack of all trades but a master of none; the sort of player who can fill multiple roles and put in work on special teams, even if they don't routinely start or get consistent snaps.

Few players on the 2024 Houston Texans fit that versatile definition better than Ben Skowronek, the hybrid pass-catcher the team acquired from the Los Angeles Rams in a deal that effectively amounted to a late-round pick swap.

Technically listed as a wide receiver, Skowronek looks more like a tight end than a classic wide-out, standing 6-foot-3, 224 pounds, but has been used all over the offensive side of the ball during his college career and as a pro due to his match-up potential. Call him a wide receiver, call him a tight end, call him a fullback, heck, put him in the backfield like Kyle Juszczyk and let him run the ball as a change-of-pace power back, but if Slowik wants to add more versatility to his roster and add a player who can be motioned into all sorts of different situations, Skowronek may have a breakout year in Houston.