Let me start by saying that I'm ecstatic about the Texans' selection of Kevin Johnson in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. I think there is a strong possibility that he becomes a top-10 cornerback in the NFL after a couple of years, and that is a critical position to invest in for a team's long-term success. That being said, it is human nature to look at the past and ask questions, or second-guess, certain circumstances that could have led to a different reality had things been done differently.
Houston's defense is one of the best in the NFL with J.J. Watt leading the way, and it's possibly number one in the league with the return of Brian Cushing and Jadeveon Clowney. I'm a HUGE fan of defensive play, and I fully subscribe to the notion that "defense wins championships." However, the offense has to score points for the team to win. The offense also needs to sustain drives to give the defense time to recover and to keep the other team's offense off the field. Like many of you, I have been quite frustrated when watching the team stall out on offense in so many games over the last couple of years. In some of those games, the offense repeatedly went "three and out," which led to exhaustion for the defensive players and enabled opponents opportunities to score and win.
Notwithstanding the challenges the Texans face at quarterback, the primary reason the offense struggled to sustain drives and score points was the lack of star power at other key positions. Unless you have one of the top quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers, you have to have several playmakers on offense. Last year, the Texans had three playmaking stars on offense in Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, and DeAndre Hopkins. With Johnson departing for the Indianapolis Colts in the offseason and the news that Foster suffered a severe groin injury, the offense is now down to just one surefire star in Hopkins. We can hope, and we certainly will, that other players rise to the occasion to become playmaking stars this year for the Texans' offense.
Our current "hope" for playmaking stars on offense would be a lot stronger had the outcome of the 2015 NFL Draft been different for Houston. What if the Texans had drafted Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon or Miami wide receiver Phillip Dorsett? Well, rumor is they at least attempted to do just that.
CBS Houston/SportsRadio 610 reports that the Texans wanted Gordon:
A source with the Texans tells SportsRadio 610 the team wanted Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon in the 2015 draft. Gordon was the top back on the team’s draft board.
In 2014 the Badger rushed for almost 2,600 yards and 29 touchdowns. Gordon finished second in the Heisman voting.
A draft night trade with the San Francisco 49ers allowed the San Diego Chargers to select ahead of the Texans at 15 where they took the highly touted ball carrier. With the pick following, the Texans ended up selecting cornerback depth with Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson.
Another recent article from CBS Houston/SportsRadio 610 highlights that Houston was indeed trying to trade up to get Dorsett:
I went ahead and included the entirety of the second article because it spotlights the fact that in the last two drafts, other teams jumped in front of the Texans to eliminate Houston from potentially obtaining a talented QB, RB and WR. Any of them could have been the playmakers the team so desperately needs on offense right now.
We'll never know for certain if the Texans would have drafted any of these players if given the chance, but at least three other teams made sure the option wasn't available. I strongly believe that Houston wanted an offensive star from the first round of the latest draft, and it is quite possible they felt cheated out of getting a shot at Gordon and Dorsett if there is any truth to those stories. It's interesting how aggressive Houston was after that first round. They obviously realized that if there is a player they truly wanted, they needed to trade up to ensure they got him:
- Benardrick McKinney: Instead of holding tight with their 19th pick in round two, the Texans traded up to the 11th pick in the second round with the Cleveland Browns. The cost to Houston was their 2nd round pick (51 overall), a 4th round pick (116 overall) and a 6th round pick (195 overall). The Texans used that to invest in Benardrick McKinney - ILB (Miss. St); they also received a 7th round pick from the Browns (229 overall).
- Jaelen Strong: The Texans traded with the Jets in the third round to move up and snag Jaelen Strong with the 70th overall pick, giving up a 3rd round pick (82nd overall), a 5th round pick (152nd overall), a 7th round pick (229th overall) and WR DeVier Posey.
The aggressive moves to get McKinney and Strong were a welcome departure from the previous "sit and wait" drafting strategy. It's entirely possible that Houston attempted to move up; perhaps they just wouldn't pay the price being asked, or they rolled the dice to see if that player fell to them at no cost. It certainly would have been interesting to see this team with Bridgewater, Gordon and Dorsett filling three critical roles on the offense. That's especially true as we sit here today while two players continue to battle for the starting quarterback job and the player who has been the heart of the offense for the last five years goes under the knife tomorrow.
I have faith that Bill O'Brien will guide this team to better places eventually, but it might have been sooner than later if he had gotten any one of those three potential stars. With Foster gone, the offense is going to need guys to step up and exceed expectations. Hopefully there are a few diamonds-in-the-rough about to rise up for Houston.
In conclusion, I remain as hopeful as anyone that Ryan Mallett becomes a franchise quarterback for this team. I hope that a few wide receivers and running backs can breakout to thunderous applause. I hope that Xavier Su'a-Filo proves worthy of the large investment the team made in him during the 2014 NFL Draft. I hope Ben Jones becomes an anchor of the offensive line as the starting center. I dream of a day the tight ends make us roar like Owen Daniels once did.
Hope is all we have right now.