It happens every year. The NFL Draft comes and goes, the Houston Texans draft some guys, and then we all sit around, tossing out opinions on who will be a star, who is gonna bust, and exactly when the team is gonna give UprootedTexan his shot at defending the quarterback’s blind side. It could happen. This could be his year.
The question I posed to the staff was which members of the Texans’ 2018 rookie class were most likely to make an impact on Houston’s 2018 season. These were the answers.
Justin Reid-- A SPARQ freak and a steal in the third round, I hope that Reid can play meaningful snaps from the jump. For the short term, this might mean being the third safety behind Andre Hal and Tyrann Mathieu, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he surpasses either of them during the season. With his size, Reid could also play the nickel role in which we’ve seen Eddie Pleasant in the past.
Martinas Rankin - At a minimum, we’ll see him subbing along the offensive line, and it’ll be interesting to see where he finally lands.
Jordan Akins - Tight ends usually need some adaptation time in the NFL. However, between Akins’ advanced age and the trash heap at TE on the roster, it wouldn’t surprise me if he sees meaningful snaps.
Keke Coutee - If he does nothing but return punts and kicks this year, that’d be a tremendous contribution for this team. I mean, he can’t be worse than Tyler Scissorhands, can he?
Duke Ejiofor - Will almost surely see rotational snaps in sub packages.
Jordan Thomas - Not a good athlete at all. I don’t know if Thomas makes the 53-man roster.
Peter Kalambayi - I’ll take the over if the line is five (5) sacks for Kalambayi.
Jermaine Kelly - I think Kelly’s most likely role is being on the DS this year.
I expect all of the first four picks to play in some role this season.
I expect all but Akins to actually make meaningful contributions.
I think a lot of these guys will be heavy contributors on special teams. Reid and Rankin for sure will be contributing mightily, barring injury. After doing some reading up on Rankin and going over Weston’s thoughts, I do think (again barring injury) he will end up starting at right tackle for the Texans even if there are a lot out there saying he’s better inside.
The defense gives so many multiple looks and values versatility so much that I fully-expect to see Reid out there almost from day one. Maybe not as a starter, but I think he’ll see the field plenty. I see no reason Coutee won’t see the field a ton as well unless Braxton Miller suddenly “gets it”, and even if he does - he’s been injured plenty.
The coaches clearly see something in Akins that none of us and none of the rest of the NFL Draft folks do; that’s cool, and I’m willing to go with that. I can’t see it, but he should also see the field plenty; that may be more about who’s in front of him than how good he is.
In fact, that really is the appropriate way to assess how much this class will contribute: Look who they’re competing against. Akins is competing with back-of-roster (if that) TE talent. Rankin is competing with one of the worst position groups in the entire NFL. Reid has more natural talent than any safety on the roster other than Tyrann Mathieu. Coutee has a thus-far failed experiment in Braxton Miller ahead of him, and Coutee is every bit of a SLOT receiver, not just a receiver who hasn’t found his best fit yet. There’s always room for rotational players on the defensive line, but that might be the strongest group on the team.
So I think we may see a ton from this rookie class, but then again you know at least one of them will end up being legit hurt and maybe even one other will be an infamous “IR rookie stash”.
Reid needs to make an impact or we’re screwed. I’d like to see our sixth and seventh round picks at least do something to help on the mass of suck that is our special teams crew.
Biggest starter potential: Rankin
Biggest Pro Bowl potential: Reid
Most likely to contribute on ST: Kalambayi/Coutee
I think all of the draft picks make the team if healthy. Reid boosts secondary depth, which was awful in ‘17. Coutee is going to be either really good or really bad; time will tell. I think the Texans will hit on one of the tight ends, and Akins fits the need more than Thomas does. Matt Lengel and Thomas are interchangeable in my opinion, but Akins gives the offense a huge receiving threat open in the middle; he might actually have the most potential to contribute on offense, even more than Coutee.
The Texans’ secondary is going to be more complicated and fluid than RCB, LCB, SS, and FS this season. They are going to play three safeties at times. They don’t have anyone who can really lock anyone down in man coverage. Romeo Crennel is going to be moving a lot of parts around to try and make this scab stick. Justin Reid is perfect for this. He can play nickel linebacker in the box, single high, short hook zones, double high, and he can blitz. The one thing you don’t really want him doing is playing man coverage against wide receivers. Even with Andre Hal and Tyrann Mathieu around, Reid will play a lot, even if he isn’t a de facto Sharpie-him-in starter.
Rankin is going to start at right tackle for the Texans this year.
Akins will get time because Houston needed a tight end. His age, among other things, worries me.
Coutee should return punts or kicks. I don’t know if he can get open on anything other than gadget plays and force feeds, but if he can learn how to run some quick drags, outs, and ins, he’s going to be diabolical. The dude can turbo past defensive backs vertically. A wide receiver who can split safeties deep will be enormous for this offense, especially when defenses roll overages toward DeAndre Hopkins.
Duke Ejiofor can ball despite not having burst and bend on the edge. He also struggles with offensive linemen who can get their hands on him. But he’s super nimble. He’s a real candlestick jumper. Both his rip and swim are swift masterpieces to get him off blocks instantly and inside off offensive linemen. If he can stick to the edge, whether at the five or as an outside linebacker, and turn his spin move into a real weapon, he can be a professional inside-out pass rusher and edge defender.
I’m not expecting much from the rest. Thomas is big and runs fast in a straight line. Kalambayi is solid, doesn’t get embarrassed, but he doesn’t make plays. He’s a pick from the Rick Smith era. There’s nothing on Kelly out there video-wise. But like Akins and Kelly, if he plays it will probably be because of need.
Have to admit I’m pretty jazzed about Justin Reid, especially with Tyrann Mathieu playing opposite, not to mention the addition of Aaron Colvin. This secondary finally has the potential to get scary good and generate turnovers out of the pressure J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus will produce.
Martinas Rankin also entices me to believe he can do something meaningful - even if that means standing in someone’s way long enough for Deshaun Watson to get out of reach and complete a strike downfield.
Keke Coutee has one of those names that’s fun to say, but my gut feeling is that that’s all the enjoyment Texans fans will get from him this year. Honestly, I’m a little puzzled as to why they drafted him at all. He doesn’t possess elite speed, great route running ability, tremendous return skills, or much else to get excited about. He just seems like Lestar Jean 2.0, but without the hype Jean had, whatever it was...
Duke Ejiofor gets my curiosity vote. Honestly, the more I read about him, the less convinced I am that he’s a certainty to go either way, Pro Bowl or bust. Some rave about his ability, while others say he was a major reach. In some film, he looks like a beast, but if he’s really that good, why was he still hanging around at Pick 177? I guess time will tell...
There you have it. The
expert opinions of the masthead. Time to take this knowledge, invest it, and then sit back sipping mai tais on a beach while you reap the rewards of our knowledge.
Or, more realistically, slamming Bud Light from the official Houston Texans cans while you devour brisket smoked in the parking lot outside NRG Stadium. If this describes you, it’s obvious proof we’re great at predictions...
Which rookies are you hyped to watch? Who do you think is a colossal bust? What moves made you cheer? Which still have you scratching your head? Drop your own science in the comments section.