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Red Zone Play: The Texans’ Roster Has A Lot More To Gain(e)

It’s early, but the Texans’ 2018 draft class sure has been good.

NFL: Houston Texans at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s usually premature to rank a year’s draft haul prior to season’s end, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t think new Houston Texans new general manager Brian Gaine didn’t provide an immediate upgrade over drafts of recent memory.

While Gaine was incredibly handicapped by decisions former GM Rick Smith made, having no first or second round pick didn’t stop the Texans from landing some premiere talent and immediately adding starters. Let’s take a look at what’s come to pass so far in H-Town:

Round Three: Justin Reid, Safety

Taking the field in place of the temporarily absent Andre Hal, Reid has immediately put his name in the Defensive Rookie of the Year hat. He’s started eight games so far, delivered 60 total tackles (48 solo), forced and recovered one fumble, corralled three interceptions (including one he ran back for a 101-yard touchdown), and made clutch play after clutch play. Reid, along with Tyrann Mathieu, Kareem Jackson and the triumphantly returning Andre Hal, is part of the best safety corps the Texans have ever had, bar none.

Round Three: Martinas Rankin, Offensive Lineman

The jury is still out on Rankin, who suffered a broken foot in preseason practice, and then took over for Julien Davenport for a few games at left tackle, with fairly disastrous results. It’s never easy to evaluate a mid-round offensive lineman early on, so Rankin might still produce, but so far he’s provided more questions than answers. It’s premature to use the label “bust,” but if there is one in the draft class, Rankin is it right now.

Round Three: Jordan Akins, Tight End

It’s been so long since the Texans have had a solid tight end, it almost seems like a myth that they ever did. Now, not only do they have one, but two, affectionately known as the “Jordan Twins.” Akins, along with sixth rounder Jordan Thomas, have provided a glimpse of what Houston’s offense can do with quality tight end play. Let’s just call Akins TE1 for the next decade.

Round Four: Keke Coutee, Wide Receiver

Coutee has been nursing a hamstring injury all season, but when he’s been moderately healthy, he’s shown flashes of record-setting brilliance a la Will Fuller V. Once next season rolls around and Coutee, DeAndre Hopkins, Fuller, and Demaryius Thomas all take the field with a clean bill of health, Houston’s passing attack is going to be lethal.

Round Six: Duke Ejiofor, Defensive End

It’s almost a cliché at this point that Houston will land a studly defensive lineman and/or linebacker in each draft. Ejiofor has a motor like J.J. Watt, a slipperiness similar to Whitney Mercilus of years past, and an uncanny nose for the ball like Jadeveon Clowney. All that from a third day draft pick.

Round Six: Jordan Thomas, Tight End

As mentioned earlier, Thomas has managed to contribute far more than one would expect from a sixth-round tight end. With 14 catches and four touchdowns (including two against the Dolphins), Thomas has already proven he deserves to be TE2 over incumbent Ryan Griffin.

Round Six: Peter Kalambayi, Linebacker

Here’s where Gaine finally seemed to slide into roster depth territory. Kalambayi hasn’t seen much action but seems to be a solid bench guy Houston can pull onto the field to spell starters when necessary and late in games where they have a comfortable lead.

Round Seven: Jermaine Kelly, Cornerback

It’s hard to grade Kelly at all, as he hit the Injured Reserve list on September 3rd. But, if he’s the only guy Gaine drafted who doesn’t contribute in any meaningful way in 2018, you really can’t knock Gaine at all.

It’s hard to state this is the best draft in recent memory, but it is tempting to say that. As with all drafts, looking back requires time and distance to really see them in full context.

Armed with a much better suite of draft picks in 2019, Gaine should be able to properly stock the offensive line and add more depth in other areas. As of this moment, the Texans have at least one pick in every round (with two in the second). Based on their current season trajectory, they will pick in the bottom portion of each round. However, considering what Gaine pulled out in the third round and beyond last year, Houston should be sitting pretty next summer.

What do you think? Are you ready to anoint Brian Gaine as the best general manager in Texans history? Lamenting the loss of Rick Smith? Don’t care either way as long as the Texans destroy the Colts this week?