Finding “your guy” in the NFL Draft can be a blessing or a curse. If you have identified a franchise-altering player in the first round, you spare no expense to go get him. Last year, the Texans did so by surrendering their first round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to acquire Deshaun Watson. From the glimpse of a rookie season that ended in an ACL injury, Watson seems to be “The Guy” for the foreseeable future.
That move, which no one is going to say was a bad decision in March of 2018, has put the Texans in quite a predicament. With no first or second round pick (the Cleveland Browns also own our second round pick thanks to the HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED trade), the Texans do not have a pick until the first of three selections in the third round. Listed below are the eight picks the Texans currently have in the 2018 NFL Draft.
3rd Round (68th overall)
3rd Round (80th overall, from Seattle)
3rd Round (98th overall, compensatory - A.J. Bouye)
4th Round (103rd overall)
6th Round (177th overall)
6th Round (211th overall, compensatory - John Simon)
6th Round (214th overall, compensatory - Quintin Demps)
7th Round (222nd overall)
The compensatory picks given to the Texans by the league definitely alleviate some of the losses that the Texans suffered in free agency last year, but the value that the Texans are missing out on in the first two rounds is unmistakable. The first two rounds of the draft are filled with players slated to be instant starters and impact players for their prospective franchises. Look at how the Texans have built their team off of first round selections. If the Texans find “their guy” in the first round of this draft, whether it be on the offensive line or in the secondary, they will have to get creative as to how they move up to select him.
Using this draft value chart meticulously created by Rich Hill of Pats Pulpit, I have constructed a few trade scenarios for the Texans to get into the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. From a value perspective, the Texans are most likely targeting a draft pick in the range of 25 - 32 with these trades
Plan A (A Pure Draft Trade): Texans trade picks 68, 98, and a 2019 second round pick.
This trade relies on a trade partner that sees a ton of value in the middle rounds and is willing to stock up on picks in Day Two. The Philadelphia Eagles are an interesting target at 32nd spot. It would be the least valuable pick of the night, and the Eagles do not have a pick on Day Two of the 2018 NFL Draft. The Texans received an extra 2019 second-round pick from the Seattle Seahawks in their trade of Duane Brown. Trading that selection, although less valuable this year than next, would provide ammunition the Texans need to trade up. Protecting Deshaun Watson with the best talent we can accumulate has to be a top priority for new GM Brian Gaine.
Plan B: Texans trade Whitney Mercilus, Picks 68 and 177 for 2017 1st, 2nd, and 5th round picks.
The first team that jumps out to me in this scenario that might be willing to make this trade is the Buffalo Bills. They have two first round picks this year (20th and 22nd), two second round picks (53rd and 56th), and two fifth round picks (149th and 157th). They could make this deal and still have a pick in each of those rounds. They would also pair Mercilus with OLB Lorenzo Alexander for an amazing combination of pass rushers. The Texans would do this if they think the team can successfully subtract Mercilus yet still have a dominant front seven. It would leave a massive hole for us at OLB with Brennan Scarlett a likely starter, but that can be addressed with moving Jadeveon Clowney back to OLB . If the Texans moved into the first and second round this year, they’d ideally target one offensive lineman and one secondary player. A looming question in your head may be, ‘Okay... well, if we are going for broke, why not trade J.J. Watt?’ Well, my curious friend, Watt’s value and future is the most volatile commodity in the entire NFL right now. If a team is willing to take a risk and the price is worth it, the Texans could deal Watt since he currently holds 11.63% of our entire salary cap number and Jadeveon Clowney is about to get paid a king’s ransom. That being said, I think Houston would be set ablaze if the Texans traded away Houston’s favorite and most generous athlete of all time.
Plan C (A Mixed Bag): Texans trade Lamar Miller and Picks 68 and 103 for a first round pick.
As you can see, the Texans’ 68th pick is going to be their most valuable asset. The Texans have misused Miller and have two more years left on his contract. He averaged 3.7 YPC this past year and did not eclipse 900 rushing yards. His salary cap hit for 2018 is also projected to be $6,750,000. If the Texans do sign another running back in free agency, expect Miller to be on the move quickly.
D’Onta Foreman showed great promise as a rookie before rupturing his Achilles. Recent reports claim that he is doing well and will be back by Week One. The Texans also have Tyler Ervin on the roster; he has shown glimpses of potential but has been hampered by injuries. With Watson in the backfield, the RB position is made easier because the linebackers must attend to Watson’s potential to tuck it and run. The Texans would have to resort to a running back by committee approach or select a back like Bo Scarborough from Alabama later in the draft. This pick could get us deeper into the first round and may even see us net another pick later in the draft.
Plan C Part 2: Other Tradable Texans...
Kareem Jackson could be trade bait for a needy franchise. With a full-fledged demolition of the secondary ensuing, The Texans would take $9,000,000 off their books and sign a younger corner in his place. Kevin Johnson would be the immediate replacement for Jackson along with what we bring in free agency. Hi, Malcolm Butler.
Although the Texans just released Brian Cushing, I can see them dealing Dylan Cole to a team in a trade mixed with other players. He’s a solid back-up behind Benardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham, but could start elsewhere.