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In Remembrance Of My Favorite Failed Rick Smith Draft Pick

Former third round pick was Jaelen Strong was released earlier this week, and now I can’t stop thinking about Brandon Harris.

Houston Texans v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Earlier this week Jaelen Strong was released. Sad! He is now the Jacksonville Jaguars’ problem, a faux replacement for the ACL-compromised Allen Robinson. Strong’s Texans career came to an end with 28 catches on 48 targets, 292 yards, and 3 touchdowns. I remember two of these catches. The Hail Mary against the Colts in 2015, and the sideline fade against the Colts in 2016 that helped setup a game-winning field goal. Don’t look this up.

Strong’s time with Houston can best be summed up with his stat line from last Thursday night’s game against the Bengals. He was targeted zero times, but played 20 snaps. He was on the field, but he never did anything at all. He was a phantom.

Whenever moves like this happen, everyone bands together in e-mails, text messages, and Twitter to discuss #FireRickSmith’s employment and his inability to draft players in the parts of the NFL Draft outside the first round. We all look at the past and laugh and think about once being excited about Trevardo Williams’ straight line speed, or how great it all was back when the Texans were building a team the right way in 2014 by bulking up the line of scrimmage. We come to the conclusion that there were a lot of bad picks, but we never look up league-wide numbers to come up with any context to come up with a real conclusion.

The first NFL Draft that Rick Smith led as the Texans general manager was in 2007—the infamous Amobi Okoye year. Since then, 86 players have been selected by Smith. 38 of which were mid-round selections, with “mid-round” being defined as occurring between the second and fourth round. I can’t tell you if this is good or bad, but the average approximate value of these selections is 10.18, and each have started an average of 21.89 games in their NFL career. If we don’t include 2017 picks Carlos Watkins and D’Onta Foreman, six never started a NFL game: Tyler Ervin, Sam Montgomery, Brennan Williams, Trevardo Williams, Louis Nix, and my favorite, Brandon Harris.

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Texans traded back into the second round to select Harris with Pick No. 60. Houston gave up a third and fifth round pick to the New England Patriots to make it happen.

After the pick, Vance Joseph (the Texans’ defensive backs coach at the time), had the following to say:

“When you watch the kid play, he plays like a five or six-year NFL vet. His route recognition, his football IQ, was very, very high. When you meet the kid, he’s energetic. He’s a pro already. He’s going to fit right in.”

Harris himself said was going to shine:

“I’m going to bring a lot to the organization. I’m going to be a shutdown corner. I’m going to bring the University of Miami swagger to the team, be a very disciplined player, very coachable and just have a good time enjoying it.”

Neither of these things happened. The supposed shutdown slot corner played 31 games for Houston, notching 37 tackles and defending 8 passes in his three seasons. Harris was released in 2014 when Bill O’Brien came in. Harris then signed with Tennessee and is now playing in Canada. When you search for ‘Brandon Harris,’ North Carolina’s current quarterback, a person born in 1995, pops up first.

Of all these failed mid-round picks, Brandon Harris is my favorite. He fit an immediate need in the secondary. Smith traded up for him. Harris provided nothing of substance on the field, but you always knew when the “No Fly Zone” was out there. After each and every single one of the incompletions that came near him, Harris reacted by swinging his arms around like an air traffic controller. Even after obvious blatant pass interference penalties, he would stretch his arms out to the side emphatically, only to turn around and see a yellow flag laying there. These celebrations drove me insane every time. Harris was bad and shouldn’t be happy. The majority of Harris’ NFL playing time came during the 2013 season, when we were all very irritable and cranky about the ongoing hell we continued tuning into. What a simpler time this all was. Now people are upset about Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling and unemployment, worried about CTE and player safety, and we don’t even know if football is entertaining or if it’s something they just do because they always have. In a way, I miss Brandon Harris.

This is how Harris will always be remembered by me. He’s lined up in the slot on the bottom of the screen. The receiver runs a slant. Harris immediately jumps across his face. Harris is out of position, grabs the receiver around the waste to turn back around, and dives in front of the pass. It’s defensive holding, but the NOFLYZONE don’t care. Chad Henne is beside himself. The Jaguars punt. The Jaguars ended up winning this game anyway. Of all the great facts you can dig up from the 2013 season, the Texans losing to the Jaguars twice to be able to select Jadeveon Clowney is far and away the best one.

Waving his arms after incompleted passes that should have been called for penalties. That was pure Brandon Harris.

The singular play of Harris’ Texans career came during Week 14 in 2012’s blowout loss to the New England Patriots, the start of Houston losing home field advantage for the NFL Playoffs. Donte Stallworth torched Harris. Harris couldn’t make the tackle, and then Quintin Demps was outrun by Stallworth into the end zone. All of the sudden, it’s 2012 again. I’m yelling at the dog in a rotting duplex while sitting on a pea green couch playing “Princess the the Pea” with mouse turds.

These Texans-Patriots games are just the damn worst.

Who are your favorite failed mid-round draft picks? Who were you excited for, only for them to never pan out? Let’s remember them and some sad, iconic plays in the comments below.