What does that mean for the rest of us? All of the NFL-centric media is now turned to wild speculation, poorly informed imaginings and I-just-pulled-this-outta-my-backside “journalism”. Including, but not limited to, mock drafts, free agent predictions, 2019 season results and possibly even some fashion tips...
Over at ESPN.com, they’ve kindly included the Houston Texans not once, but twice in their Ten Bold Predictions for next season. The first falls into a ‘fat chance’ category, although they make a good argument to get some buy-in:
The Texans will sign Le’Veon Bell to a deal that eclipses Todd Gurley’s
Bell didn’t just sit out a whole season to take a penny less than the four-year, $57.5 million contract Gurley signed with the Rams last summer. And in spite of that missed season, Bell will have a market for his services. The Jets, 49ers and Texans are all in it, but Houston wins out by selling Bell on what he can do in an offense that features Deshaun Watson at quarterback and DeAndre Hopkins at wide receiver.
The Texans must -- and likely will -- address the offensive line in free agency and the draft. But Bell is what my colleague Bill Polian calls a “BYOB” back (bring your own blocking). He can help elevate the Texans’ offense to where it needs to be to compete for an AFC title.
First off, never in the history of ever have the Texans brass shown any signs of throwing crazy money at players who are anything but team guys. Sure, they’ll toss the gross national product of a third world country at guys like [NAME REDACTED], but someone who could legitimately help the team reach the next level doesn’t stand a chance if he doesn’t pass the locker room cancer sniff test. So, we’ll move along...
Next up, they have the Texans ruling the AFC roost, but bowing at the altar of Brees soon thereafter, kind of like how they ruled the AFC South for all of 6 days recently...
The Saints will defeat the Texans in Super Bowl LIV
Yeah, it’s crazy not to pick the Patriots to win the AFC at this point, but a way-too-early predictions column isn’t the place to take the easy way out. As for the Saints, we’re doubling down here. I thought last year that they’d rebound from the heartbreaking end to their 2017 season and reach the Super Bowl, and I was painfully close to being right. More heartbreak this time, same stacked roster and Hall of Fame quarterback. Drew Brees finally gets that second ring after being oh-so-close two years in a row.
While this is a far more likely scenario, particularly if general manager Brian Gaine can fix the offensive line, the injury bug stops biting a third of the starting depth chart and Bill O’Brien’s newest assistant turned offensive coordinator can actually call actionable plays when the game is on the line, it still remains to be seen.
Over at Forbes.com, a site not exactly known for dynamic football coverage, they took the approach of recapping what most already know prior to leaning into any predictions:
(Houston Texans) Off-Season Targets
Houston’s primary off-season targets has to be retaining both Clowney and Mathieu. From there, we’re expecting Bill O’Brien and Co. to look at the mid-tier free agent market for upgrades. Now that Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins have proven to be an elite force, the Texans have to think about what it will cost to retain them both long term.
However, Houston can’t afford to be cheap when it comes to addressing pass-protection deficiencies. It needs to go hard after at least one plus-level starter — hopefully a left tackle. There are some options here. Ja’Wuan James (Dolphins), Donovan Smith (Buccaneers) and Jared Veldheer (Broncos) have all proven to be successful blindside protectors in the NFL.
The wide receiver position is different in that Houston will have a ton of mid-tier options. That list includes Golden Tate (Eagles), Randall Cobb (Packers) and Tyrell Williams (Chargers). Each would be a solid No. 2 option and wouldn’t handcuff the Texans’ long-term cap plans.
It’s the cornerback position that might prove to be difficult here. Teams are going to be paying a premium for players other squads were willing to let go. We’re not sure how much of an upgrade the likes of Morris Claiborne, E.J. Gaines and Jason McCourty would be in this area.
The folks at BleacherReport.com - a site more often associated with football than Forbes.com - just ran their first 7 round mock draft and brought the Texans some interesting choices:
The Pick: Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma
Protecting Deshaun Watson has to be the priority this offseason. It might take more than just one draft pick too.
Oklahoma’s Cody Ford lines up at right tackle but has received grades as both a tackle and guard by NFL teams. He’s powerful, physical and showed a poise and patience that is rare from spread-offense blockers. He’s mean enough to get upfield in the run game and also has the athleticism to protect a mobile quarterback in Kyler Murray.
The Texans cannot overthink this one. Bill O’Brien and the front office have to sell out this offseason and add bodies to protect their franchise QB.
54. Houston Texans: Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame
55. Houston Texans: Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State
86. Houston Texans: Ben Banogu, EDGE, TCU
The pick isn’t listed, which begs the assumption they’re assuming Houston makes a trade
Houston Texans: Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
Houston Texans: Ryan Connelly, LB, Wisconsin
Also not listed, so BR is expecting Gaine and co. to make some trades with later picks.
While the head scratching is full-on with a few of these picks, seeing Cody Ford in battle red wouldn’t suck and watching Houston use some draft capital to land a corner and a wide out in the second round makes sense. And, anyone who has been paying attention knows the Texans would never let a draft go by without picking an edge rusher, hence the Ben Banogu selection.
Seeing Rodney Anderson (hopefully a fully recovered from season ending knee injury Rodney) do this for Houston would be nice too:
But, the off-season is long, the shelf-life of predictions and mock drafts are short and we just don’t know how things will shake out between now and the start of training camp.
Want to join in the fun of making crazy predictions? Feel free to drop your craziest Texans predictions in the comments below.