For Week 16, Marshall Faulk wants to know:
At the end of the day, every GM has the same goal: win a championship. But when you’re Professional Grade, it takes vision to build a path toward that goal. Look back at all the moves your front office made this year, and give them a grade. Is your team on the right path?
Let me start by saying that I feel Houston is in a rebuilding mode that will take two to three seasons to reach full potential. This is mostly due to unforeseen circumstances and injuries that left the roster depleted in a few key areas. Roster depth issues were further exacerbated by back-to-back draft classes in 2013 and 2014 failing to deliver the necessary talent to help the team now.
2014 Draft Grades
2014 Draft Grades
In order to answer Marshall Faulk's question as it pertains to this season, I don't think it looks too good for the Texans' front office for this year overall. It is my opinion that Bill O'Brien and the coaches have done an excellent job with a very limited roster. The draft class hasn't contributed nearly as much as we had hoped in those first few days following Houston's haul of young talent.
2014 has been a much more active year for the Texans with respect to free agent signings. I don't know if this is the result of O'Brien and his staff pushing the front office to get more talent on hand each week, or if Rick Smith and his recently revamped scouting department are (finally) doing more to try and fill the holes in Houston.
2014 NFL Draft Class:
|1||1||DE||Jadeveon Clowney||South Carolina||4||6||149|
|4||83||DT||Louis Nix III||Notre Dame||0||0||0|
Undrafted rookie free agents:
|POSITION||PLAYER||SCHOOL||STATUS W/ TEXANS||GAMES
|OT||Bryan Witzmann||South Dakota State||Injured Reserve||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|OT||Chris Martin||Central Florida||Released||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|OT||Matt Feiler||Bloomsburg||Practice Squad||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|WR||Travis Labhart||Texas A&M||Practice Squad/Injured||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|TE||Anthony Denham||Utah||53-Man Roster||2||25||28|
|TE||Chris Coyle||Arizona State||Released||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|LB||Chris Young||Arizona State||Released||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|LB||Max Bullough||Michigan State||Injured Reserve||1||17||17|
|LB||Jason Ankrah||Nebraska||53-Man Roster||2||3||21|
|DT||Sullivan Grosz||Cal Poly State||Released||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|DT||Leon Minto||Johnson C. Smith||Released||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|CB||Marcus Williams||North Dakota State||Released||n/a||n/a||n/a|
Notable free agents signed:
|POSITION||PLAYER||SIGNED||STATUS W/ TEXANS||GAMES
|QB||Ricky Stanzi||12/16/2014||Practice Squad||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|QB||Case Keenum||12/16/2014||53-Man Roster||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|WR||EZ Nwachukwu||12/15/2014||Practice Squad||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|LB||Kourtnei Brown||12/10/2014||53-Man Roster||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|QB||Thad Lewis||11/26/2014||53-Man Roster||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|LB||John Simon||10/7/2014||53-Man Roster||9||108||303|
|DB||Jumal Rolle||10/1/2014||53-Man Roster||8||133||326|
|DB||Josh Aubrey||9/30/2014||53-Man Roster||2||18||18|
|DL||Ryan Pickett||9/24/2014||53-Man Roster||11||28||295|
|DB||Danieal Manning||9/1/2014||53-Man Roster||14||191||698|
|OT||Jeff Adams||8/31/2014||53-Man Roster||0||0||0|
|WR||Damaris Johnson||8/31/2014||53-Man Roster||14||526||33|
|DB||Darryl Morris||8/31/2014||53-Man Roster||9||332||89|
|QB||Ryan Mallett||8/31/2014||Injured Reserve||3||0||157|
|DB||Kendrick Lewis||3/21/2014||53-Man Roster||14||67||1018|
The complete list of transactions for 2014 can be found HERE on The Mothership.
There is no question that the quarterback position is the most important for every team in the NFL. Every week we see dramatic reports of how well a team is doing when they have an elite signal caller, or how another team is in dire straights, trying to find their way out of a bad situation when their quarterback(s) are struggling to perform. The fact that the Texans were in the driver's seat at the top of every round in this year's draft and blatantly ignored the quarterback position until selecting Tom Savage with a compensatory pick late in the fourth round has proven to be a devastatingly painful experience for Houston in 2014.
What makes this even more frustrating is the unforeseen string of injuries to first overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney and how his future career has turned uncertain. If we assume that Clowney was the consensus top talent in the draft that all 32 teams would have chosen had they been in that same situation, and that Houston was therefore correct in selecting him, then Blake Bortles was the only quarterback in the draft that was realistically out of reach.
Houston was leapfrogged by Minnesota when the Vikings selected Teddy Bridgewater at the end of the first round (one pick before the Texans would have started the second round on the following evening). Derek Carr went to the Raiders three picks after the Texans took Xavier Su'a-Filo at the top of the second round. The Patriots jumped forward late in the second round to collect Jimmy Garoppolo, which was three picks ahead of the Texans selecting C.J. Fiedorowicz with the first pick of the third round.
The Texans made a good trade with the Patriots to acquire Ryan Mallett on the eve of the regular season, but now they must find a way to re-sign him so that a more thorough evaluation can be completed to see if he is the franchise player that Houston desperately needs.
The complete mismanagement of the quarterback situation makes grading the front office for 2014 very difficult. When you consider how the Texans have been able to play so many close games this season, it would suggest that having better talent under center could have been the difference in winning a few more than they lost.
2014 Draft: D
This 2014 class for the Texans might make a better contribution in 2015 and beyond, but I have to grade what they have done to date, which is not much. When you have the top pick in each round, those first three to four picks should be able to help the team immediately. They haven't even come close to doing that, while other teams have benefited greatly from players picked after Houston in each of the top four rounds.
With the luxury of perfect hindsight, consider some alternatives in areas of need for the Texans in each of the top four picks:
OLB - Jadeveon Clowney: 4 games, 149 snaps (14.3% of all defensive snaps, 1.5% of all special teams snaps), 7 tackles.
WR - Sammy Watkins: (4th-overall pick - Bills) 14 games, 903 snaps (96.4% of all offensive snaps, .5% of all special teams snaps), 59 receptions, 850 yards, 5 touchdowns.
OLB - Khalil Mack: (5th-overall pick - Raiders)14 games, 974 snaps (90.9 of all defensive snaps, 21.4% of all special teams snaps), 68 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 3 passes defended.
OLB - Anthony Barr: (9th-overall pick - Vikings) 12 games, 847 snaps (82.9% of all defensive snaps, 18.2% of all special teams snaps), 70 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 passes defended.
DL - Aaron Donald: (13th-overall pick - Rams) 14 games, 676 snaps (66.1% of all defensive snaps, 17.3% of all special teams snaps), 39 tackles, 8 sacks, 1 pass defended.
ILB - C.J. Mosley: (17th-overall pick - Ravens) 14 games, 964 snaps (98.4% of all defensive snaps, 12.4% of all special teams snaps), 120 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 interceptions, 8 passes defended.
FS - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: (21st-overall pick - Packers) 14 games, 932 snaps (84.4% of all defensive snaps, 27% of all special teams snaps), 90 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 6 passes defended.
OG - Xavier Su'a-Filo: 13 games, 192 snaps (13.6% of all offensive snaps, 16% of all special teams snaps).
QB - Teddy Bridgewater: (1st round, pick 32 - Vikings) 11 games, 671 snaps (74.6% of all offensive snaps), 351 attempts, 223 completions (63.5%), 2,451 yards, 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 32 sacks.
OT - Joel Bitonio: (3rd pick of 2nd round - Browns) 14 games, 997 snaps (100% of all offensive snaps, 14.3% of all special teams snaps).
QB - Derek Carr: (4th pick of 2nd round - Raiders) 14 games, 856 snaps (95.1% of all offensive snaps), 529 attempts, 313 completions (59.2%), 2,898 yards, 18 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 20 sacks, 4 fumbles.
WR - Jordan Matthews: (10th pick of 2nd round - Eagles) 14 games, 674 snaps (66% of all offensive snaps, 1.1% of all special teams snaps), 56 receptions, 709 yards, 7 touchdowns.
OLB - Trent Murphy: (15th-pick of 2nd round - Redskins) 14 games, 794 snaps (64.3% of all defensive snaps, 56.4% of all special teams snaps), 32 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass defended.
TE - C.J. Fiedorowicz: 13 games, 497 snaps (43.1% of all offensive snaps, 22.5% of all special teams snaps), 2 receptions for 16 yards.
DL - Louis Nix III: Placed on injured reserve before the regular season.
FS - Dezmen Southward: (4th pick of 3rd round - Falcons) 14 games, 380 snaps (20.6% of all defensive snaps, 45.2% of all special teams snaps), 13 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 2 passes defended.
OLB - Preston Brown: (9th-pick of 3rd round - Bills) 14 games, 1,051 snaps (92.9% of all defensive snaps, 41.5% of all special teams snaps), 102 tackles, 1 interception, 2 passes defended.
ILB - Chris Borland: (13th pick of 3rd round - 49ers) 14 games, 608 snaps (53.2% of all defensive snaps, 35.5% of all special teams snaps), 107 tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 5 passes defended.
FS - Terrence Brooks: (15th pick of 3rd round - Ravens) 11 games, 352 snaps (24.9% of all defensive snaps, 31% of all special teams snaps), 19 tackles, 2 passes defended.
Free Agents: B
There have been some players who rose to the occasion this season. Kendrick Lewis, Jumal Rolle, and Darryl Morris have all provided some meaningful contributions to the defensive secondary. Ryan Pickett has adequately filled a void in the middle of the defensive line after it was learned that Louis Nix III was heading to injured reserve (and the dog house) for his rookie season. John Simon has shown some flashes in his limited time on the field when filling in for Whitney Mercilus, but not enough for us to truly know his potential. All in all, I think the front office has done what they could in increased activity trying to find talent off the streets to help the team.
Overall Grade: C
This is the score that defines mediocrity. At 7-7 with two games remaining, it matches the results on the field. If the coaching staff hadn't done such a good job with what they have, this grade for the front office might be closer to a "D" based on worse results. I'd argue that a majority of other NFL teams' coaches would have won fewer games than O'Brien did with this same roster.
In summary response to Faulk's question, I don't think the team is on the right path for 2014 as they find themselves slipping away from any postseason opportunities. Sure, it has been a marked improvement from a 2-14 season in 2013, but that season was more affected by failure at the quarterback position than anything else. In fairness, Houston was much better than a 2-14 team last year. With stronger results from the last two drafts and free agency options, this team could be contending this year.
I have confidence that things will improve in 2015 and that some of these deficiencies from several players will elevate and meet (or exceed) expectations going forward. For now, it is what it is...."average."
That's my take. Let's hear your thoughts on how you feel the front office did in 2014.