Football Outsiders came out with their Almanac last week. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure it’s great, it always is, and it’s always better than whatever Athlon Sports puts out and the rest of the glossy NFL Preview pages that guard HEB’s checkout line. One of the foundations of the book is their top 25 prospects list, and over the last few iterations, Battle Red Blog Alumnus Rivers McCown has put said list together. This list is also published as an ESPN Insider article as well.
For year’s list, Rivers named three Houston Texans to it. This is what he had to say about OUR guys:
Age: 22 | Draft: Fourth-round pick in 2018
Offensive snaps in 2018: 267
Texas Tech’s speedy wideout wasn’t deeply appreciated by the “talk to the scouts” crew, who tend to disregard production coming out of lower-profile Air Raid schools. Coutee was also dinged at the NFL combine, where he had subpar showings across the board -- aside from his 4.43 40-yard dash time -- and where he measured in at 5-foot-9, 181 pounds.
So it was certainly notable that the Texans still believed he was worth taking in the fourth round. Coutee, who dealt with hamstring troubles all season, caught 11 balls in his first game in Week 4. He has the speed to threaten the deep post from the slot, but hasn’t been utilized like that yet in Houston. When the Texans tried last year, he was a step out of sync with Deshaun Watson.
Coutee’s seasonal upside depends mainly on Will Fuller V’s health, but Coutee has the potential to be one of the best slot receivers in the NFL for the next three years. He can win short, he can win deep, and he has the ability when healthy to break tackles in space. All he needs is the opportunity.
Age: 24 | Draft: Third-round pick in 2018
Offensive snaps in 2018: 430
Coming out of Mississippi State, Rankin drew a Justin Britt comp from NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, who believed Rankin would be an instant starter on the interior line. As a college tackle, he struggled with edge speed. But Rankin has the athleticism to be terrific on the interior and his strength will play as more of a plus tool inside.
Rankin was a disaster in his rookie year, but the context of that disaster was that he was confined to playing tackle for most of the first half of the season because of injuries and poor play from other Texans linemen. Of the 15 blown blocks that Sports Info Solutions credited to Rankin, only three of them occurred after Week 5. When Rankin rotated back into things, he was inserted at guard late in the season.
It’s worth being skeptical about Rankin’s performance in the near term just because the Texans haven’t been very good at developing linemen under Bill O’Brien. But when put at guard late in the year, Rankin did just fine. He’ll probably be able to do that again in 2019. If he improves at all, the Texans might just have a good offensive lineman in him.
Age: 22 | Draft: Sixth-round pick in 2018
Offensive snaps in 2018: 470
Of the two Jordan tight end prospects the Texans have, we’d rate Jordan Akins as the one with the better ceiling, even though Thomas is ahead on the depth chart. Akins has the talent to be a true No. 1 stretch tight end, and he demonstrated more skill in the receiving game. Fortunately for Thomas, he is 22 years old instead of the 27 that disqualifies Akins from this list and, again, is ahead of Akins on the depth chart.
Thomas took over as the primary red zone tight end in the middle of the season after Ryan Griffin left the Texans wanting more out of the position. Thomas fits that role quite well as a 6-5 former wideout at Mississippi State with big hands. A lot of Thomas’ big plays actually came on busted plays last season, as tight ends aren’t a huge part of the Bill O’Brien offense.
Thomas ran a nice 40 at the combine, but most of his other scores as an athlete were poor. His 20-yard shuttle time of 4.75 seconds was in the first percentile of all tight ends since 2000. However, Thomas also seemed to struggle with coaching in college, and the Texans actually brought something out of him last year. He has the size to be a better blocker than he is. There’s an every-down tight end somewhere in here, but Thomas still has some steps to take.