Potential. That is the name of the game in the weeks leading up to the annual NFL Draft. The enigma that is drafting and projecting an athlete’s career is one that will never be solved. You can put all your chips into a single franchise player to be the building block of a Super Bowl run, like the Falcons did with Julio Jones. Or you can put all of those chips into one pot, only to watch the player’s body, mind, and skill set completely destroy the next several years of your franchise, like Washington did with Robert Griffin III.
There is no formula for greatness. I have read things where college scouts “knew” a player was going to be a bust because he had flat feet and therefore would never be a Pro-Bowl caliber OT. We’ve heard of players who are basically graded higher because their hand size is that of a Shrek-like proportion. These statistics malign the two true evaluations of a player’s talents: their film and their desire. Both are measurable. Both are tangible. Oh, you can’t see desire? Well, watch Ray Lewis play football and tell me that his tenacity to beat the man in front of him is not a visible trait.
To me, the Texans in the 2013 NFL Draft got caught up in too many of the tangential theories and ideals that get teams into trouble. With the draft, you have to get players whose ceiling is higher than their floor. When so many of these draft picks fell through the Moon Door of the NFL (gotta throw in a “Game of Thrones” reference), you have to re-evaluate your draft style. As 2013 was Gary Kubiak’s last draft, it’s somewhat understandable to see how this draft class looks so poor years later.
Please note Rick Smith’s evaluation of the Texans’ class directly after the 2013 NFL Draft:
“I really do, as you look at it from top to bottom. I think we added two players in the first and second round and even in the third round… there’s an element of mental toughness, of aggressiveness with all three of those players."
I have always been critical of Smith’s draft style. I was banging my head against the wall throughout the entire 2017 NFL Draft. In the first round, it was for a good reason - I had never seen him make a move like trading up to get a star player in Deshaun Watson. For the rest of the draft, I thought he made decisions that were not based on HOuston’s needs. For a team that seemed to be about two or three players away from making a run, I thought he neglected to address those issues. But that’s for another draft conversation.
The 2013 Houston Texans class should now be in their fifth season in the NFL. With their rookie contracts completed, these players should have been the centerpiece of much of the depth chart the last two years. Even though this draft for teams across the NFL was considered a major flop, this one in particular was miserable for the Texans. Many of these players...well, I will let you read and see what they turned out to be.
Round 1, Pick 27 (27 overall): WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Raw natural skill to make plays. What I loved about Hopkins coming out of the draft was how many TDs he caught at Clemson. It was unmistakeable from the beginning that he had great hands and a knack for getting open. In his final year at Clemson, Nuk racked up 18 touchdowns in a spectacular season. Thankfully he was overlooked by 26 other teams; I honestly do not know how he fell to the 27th pick. In a draft that is routinely cited as one of the worst in recent memory, Hopkins is a bright spot for the entire draft class. He was recently selected to his second Pro Bowl and has set a franchise record of twelve (and counting) receiving TDs in one season.
Round 2, Pick 25 (57): SS D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina
#twospoons. D.J. Swearinger was my favorite pick of this draft. He was going to bring a toughness and tenacity that the defense had always been lacking. His college highlight tape was one of the most punishing displays of tackling in coverage I ever saw. I thought he would be the vocal leader of the team. Unfortunately, Swearinger did not pan out as a Texan, and it can be mainly attributed to his off-the-field issues. On the field, he struggled with the deep ball and would lose players in coverage. Combine this with his pit bull biting Jadeveon Clowney on the arm, his alleged theft of his own truck off of the lot of a local body shop, and rumors that Swearinger walked out of special teams meetings because he felt that being a second round pick meant he should not have to contribute on special teams, and it was obvious that his time with the Texans would be up. Now, he is the heart and soul of the Washington Redskins’ defense and the second-leading tackler on the team.
Round 3, Pick 27 (89): OT Brennan Williams, North Carolina
If you do not do anything else today, please watch what our third-round selection is doing instead of being our desperately needed offensive tackle. Williams has signed with the developmental WWE league and is now calling himself Marcellus Black. The kid never played a down in the NFL. He proclaimed early his love for wrestling, so I guess good for him to pursue his actual dream. Williams could be considered one of the biggest busts in Texans draft history, though it would be a tough competition for him to win, given the other busts the team’s had.
Round 3, Pick 33 (95)*: OLB Sam Montgomery, LSU
When an All-American does not make it through training camp, you know you messed up. Even before he was drafted, Montgomery was stirring up trouble during his NFL Combine by saying that “effort wasn't needed” when playing inferior opponents. That will not bode well when you now are going to face professional level competition. Then Montgomery was caught with either a cigar or marijuana while with the team in Kansas City before a game with the Chiefs. Conflicting reports are difficult to parse out, but he and two other players were promptly let go from the team. I do not know if this still would have happened in today’s NFL since social and legal opinions have changed. Montgomery spent time on Oakland and Cincinnati’s practice squad, but he never played a down in the NFL. It’s always disappointing when a player’s character gets in the way of histalent.
Round 4, Pick 27 (124): OLB Trevardo Williams, Connecticut
Born in Jamaica, Trevardo provided a completely different OLB style than Montgomery. Smaller, faster, and diverse in skill set, Williams would have made a great nickel linebacker. Basically, the Texans were hedging their bet that either him or Montgomery would pan out. Welp, neither did. Williams sat out the 2013 season with a foot injury. The next season, he came back and passed his physical. This must not have been enough for the new Bill O’Brien regime as he was cut the next day. With Williams’ release, the Texans released three of their first five picks from 2013 within a year. Yikes. Between August and December, Williams went from the Texans to the Cardinals to the Colts to the Redskins. He was injured during training camp of 2015 and released by the Redskins. In 2016, he signed with the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL.
Round 6, Pick 8 (176): OT David Quessenberry, San Jose State
Thankfully, I had to rewrite his section, because Quessenberry just got upgraded to the 53-man roster for the first time in his career. Unbelievable. All that he has gone through, from being diagnosed with cancer during his second training camp to being cut by the team on several occasions, including publicly on “Hard Knocks,” the OT/OG will finally demonstrate why the Texans have kept him around for the past five years. I hope the team puts him in at some point during the next two games, because we all know the offensive line couldn’t be any worse.
Round 6, Pick 27 (195): WR Alan Bonner, Jacksonville State
With Kevin Walter leaving the Texans for the Titans, the wide receiver position was due for a complete overhaul. Bonner was supposed to be the slot receiver the Texans never had. He suffered a hamstring injury and was released a couple weeks later. The kid returned for the 2014 season and suffered another leg injury on the first day of practice. He was duly cut and never appeared again. Unbelievable how much potential can be expunged so quickly.
Round 6, Pick 30 (233): DT Chris Jones, Bowling Green
You know, it’s so thoughtful that the Texans organization loves to give our players to other teams so they can go on and win Super Bowls. How considerate. Jones’ first year was a wild one. He was cut before he could make the Texans’ 53-man roster, and then was cut again by Tampa Bay. Jones was then great for the New England Patriots and started 23 games for them, including in a Super Bowl victory against Seattle. A calf injury sidelined him for all of 2015 and he is currently on IR with the 49ers. I could see him in D.J. Reader or Christian Covington’s role with the Texans right now.
Round 6, Pick 33 (201)*: TE Ryan Griffin, Connecticut
Ahhh, a late round pick for the Texans that finally worked out. Besides being injured frequently, Griffin has been a steady force in the passing game. It took a while for him to be a major part of the offense, but once (Name Redacted) arrived and was too terrible enough to look anywhere beyond 15 yards or dead center of the field, Griffin’s numbers exploded. A pass-catching TE and a solid blocker, Griffin just signed a new contract this past offseason. With all of the concussions and injuries he’s been nursing, it will be interesting to see how strong he comes back next season.
Out of nine selections, only DeAndre Hopkins and maybe Ryan Griffin have made legitimate impact on the Texans’ franchise. Hopkins is now the highest paid receiver in the league, Williams is now a semi-professional wrestler, and Jones helped another team to a Super Bowl. Typical draft for the Texans.
When doing the research for this post, two things came abundantly clear as to why these players did not work out and why the Texans are lacking so much depth.
If you are going to do anything at a professional level, you have to love the game. From an accountant to a librarian to an outside linebacker, if there is any evidence for a lack of drive and purpose, they will burn out fast. Many of these players, specifically Montgomery and Williams, demonstrated early signs of lacking effort and must be bigger red flags. Injuries are unfortunate, as we have fully realized this year, but you cannot play for the pay. The game is too rough for that.
Second, imagine where the Texans could be if a couple of these picks came through. Williams would be holding down the left tackle position in the absence of Duane Brown. The roller coaster that is the offensive line would seem a lot smoother of a ride. Maybe fortunately for the Texans, neither Montgomery or Trevardo Williams amounted to anything, allowing the Texans to draft Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney in later drafts. Chris Jones would be a great rotational player on this team. We routinely draft mid to late-round defensive linemen. Since Jones’ pick, we have selected a nose or defensive tackle in every draft. None have fully legitimized themselves as a premier starter.
With the 2017 season falling apart as we speak, the depth and potential the 2013 class could have supplied may have been enough to help plug some of the giant holes the Texans have.