The Texans’ opening free agency salvo now behind us. It’s time to take a look at what the Texans’ needs might be heading into the 2019 NFL Draft and the reasons why they should still be drafting a armada of cornerbacks.
DRAFT NEED NO. 1: Cornerback
The Texans walked into the offseason with big questions swirling around the cornerback position. Kareem Jackson was a free agent. Kevin Johnson and Aaron Colvin were suffering from injuries and a loss of form, respectively. The voodoo magic Johnathan Joseph had been using to elongate his career had begun to wear off.
Once free agency began, the Texans bid adieu to Kevin Johnson and watched Kareem Jackson sign a three-year deal with the Denver Broncos. Just as the Denver Broncos raided the Texans for some secondary help, the Texans turned towards former Broncos first round pick Bradley Roby to help provide them with some quality. In addition to Roby, former Browns nickel corner Briean Boddy-Calhoun was added to the Texans’ depth chart at the position. These new faces add potential quality depth to a position that has been riddled with injuries and poor performances over the past couple of seasons, but neither offer any real promise of long term security. Roby signed for one season and his play throughout his career has had promising moments along with more inconsistent ones. The same goes for Boddy-Calhoun.
The draft helps teams regenerate certain positions through the addition of young talent, especially because these players are locked in on a team friendly contract for four to five years. The draft rarely benefits teams looking to add one final piece to aid in a playoff push. The inexperienced nature of younger players and the development cycles that can take two or three seasons kill teams who need them to perform right away.
However, due to the nature of the Texans’ situation at corner, there is a legitimate chance the Texans can find a player who makes an immediate impact on the depth chart. They could find their CB1 while also providing a platform to ensure long-term stability at the position. Houston is in win-now mode, and the draft often times does not favor this approach. It typically favours more forward thinking approaches to roster building, but the Texans are in a unique position.
Potential Options: Greedy Williams (LSU), Byron Murphy (Washington), DeAndre Baker (Georgia).
DRAFT NEED NO. 2: Offensive Tackle
The much maligned offensive tackle position for the Texans has certainly garnered a lot of attention this offseason due to the often noticeable failings throughout the 2018 season. Going into this offseason, the Texans’ tackle rotation consisted of Julien Davenport, Martinas Rankin, and Seantrel Henderson. The Texans primary right tackle last year, Kendall Lamm, recently signed a deal with the Cleveland Browns, further draining the Texans’ talent at the position.
This position is a bit more fluid in the sense that while the Texans have already addressed cornerback through free agency, they have yet to address the offensive tackle position. That being said, they are linked to various free agent tackles, such as former Raiders OT Donald Penn and former Bills OT Jordan Mills. For the sake of this discussion, I’m going to assume the Texans would bring in at least one veteran tackle in order to add depth and maybe quality to the position. If the Texans for some bizarre reason don’t attempt to address this position through free agency or trade, then this position takes quick precedence above cornerback. However that assumes a certain degree of negligence on the Texans part and that would never happen.........
Much like the corner position the tackle position for the Texans could almost be instantly improved, and have it’s potential future secured through the draft. However, unlike the cornerback position, the cupboard isn’t entirely bare. Davenport has showed promise at left tackle. Martinas Rankin is still young and there is room for development. This alongside the general tendency for offensive lineman to have longer development cycles (think Derek Newton) makes the prospect of drafting another young offensive lineman to come in and replace these young players harder to swallow. The most obvious problems this raises is that playing time is scarce, and yet it’s one of the factors for development, so if you are playing young tackles off of each other for playing time you can be potentially stifling their own development. Cornerback doesn’t have that same kind of issue because there isn’t any other young talent there for the Texans to potentially cannibalize.
Both of these positions are in dire need of a infusion of talent and deciding which one between them is just a splitting of hairs. The nature of the draft is to acquire and develop young and cheap talent, which is a key part of roster building, and drafting another tackle early on would work against this.
Potential Options: Andre Dillard (Washington St.) , Greg Little (Ole Miss), Jawaan Taylor (Florida).
DRAFT NEED NO. 3: Defensive Tackle
Let’s go all John Lennon for a second and imagine tackle or cornerback aren’t that much of a need. Roby is a secret stud, and Davenport is about ready to evolve into his final form. It’s easy if you try.
The Texans’ defense, and in particular its front seven, has been the most consistent and productive part of the roster for the past couple of seasons. It makes sense because the value of pass rushers seems to be one of those very few universal constants within the NFL. A strong defensive line is worth its weight in gold. Being able to stop the run and harass quarterbacks are elements that will always be needed on NFL teams. The Texans are blessed with two excellent talents in this regard in J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.
Instead, let’s examine this idea: You could make the defensive line so fantastic that its effects minimize the requirements of the rest of the defense. Think of the Carolina Panthers as a model for this. They focus their investment on the front seven with the understanding that the strength of that unit can negate the penalties of not investing evenly throughout the rest of the defense. It also protects against the potential fear that the Texans and Jadeveon Clowney can’t come to a long-term deal on a new contract. The value of a great defensive line is so great so that it could be worth far more than making slight improvements over other positions such as cornerback, offensive tackle, or running back.
POTENTIAL OPTIONS: Christian Wilkins (Clemson), Dre’Mont Jones (Ohio St.), Jeffrey Simmons (Mississippi St.)
BONUS OPTION: Burn it all down.
Earlier this offseason, we talked about how the Texans’ championship window was currently open for the next two to three seasons because Deshaun Watson will be playing under his rookie contract. During this time, the Texans are not burdened with the immense cap commitment that comes with veteran quarterbacks.
So if the Texans are truly in win-now mode, what use is the addition of younger players who may not flourish or reach their peaks within this window? Furthermore, what use are they when their rookie contracts run out and they are not able to be retained due to the scarcity of cap space thanks to Waton’s very large future contract extension? This is not to say the potential of the players selected as a whole isn’t a complete bust or a waste of an assest. Draft picks themselves are forms of ethereal assets that can hold zero or a lot of value to the holder. In this case, why wouldn’t the Texans look to utilize these assets now in order to acquire veterans who could contribute for this current potential title push?
It’s so incredibly difficult to win a title in the NFL that the value sometimes outweighs the costs that it could potentially bring about. Would anyone remember the Texans’ careful management of draft picks and sustained roster development if they never won a Lombardi Trophy? I dare say they wouldn’t. Titles mean everything, so who would care if they sacrificed potential long-term security and development for the prospect of winning a title or two now? Is it worth it?