It’s March, which means spring is almost here, winter is almost over and NFL mock drafts are everywhere. While most ignore trades or simply do easy ones, the fine folks at Pro Football Focus went all in on addressing the Deshaun Watson situation in Houston. In one of the best—for Texans fans at least—Watson trade proposals we’ve seen so far—Houston finally gets busy with the Miami Dolphins and it pays off big time in PFF’s latest mock draft.
Disclaimer: There is no scenario where the Texans are better without Deshaun Watson. There is likely also no scenario where Watson plays for Houston ever again. Move along.
EE: Even though the Texans get Tua Tagovailoa in this trade with Miami, they don’t rest at the quarterback position. We’ve written about Justin Fields from a mathematical standpoint this offseason, and while his projection is not quite that of Wilson, he has a chance to find success in the NFL given the right circumstances.
Now, considering Houston already had one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Deshaun Watson and made the situation pear-shaped in a relatively short time, it might be an uphill climb for Fields. The proposed trade would amount to something along the lines of:
Miami receives: Deshaun Watson
Houston receives: Tua Tagovailoa (remember this for later), Xavien Howard, Pick Nos. 3 and 18 and another future first-rounder.
EE: Houston trades the rights to Tua Tagovailoa for New England’s first-rounder, as the Patriots trade out of the first round for the second straight year. Pairing Samuel with Xavien Howard (see the trade at Pick No. 3) gives the Houston Texans, who were the eighth-worst team at turning salary into WAR at the cornerback position in 2020, a pair of coverage guys with which to rebuild their defense in the Justin Fields era.
GC: Another part of the Deshaun Watson trade from Pick No. 3, the Texans look to rebuild their team with a replacement for future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt. Ojulari projects extremely well as a pass rusher, and he showed why in his final season at Georgia, winning 25% of his pass-rush snaps.
To summarize this scenario, Houston loses Deshaun Watson, but gains one of the draft’s best quarterbacks, one of its best cornerbacks, a solid linebacker, and an All-Pro cornerback. Plus, they add a 2022 first round pick.
If the Texans Draft Justin Fields...
In Ohio State’s abbreviated bid for a 2020 national title, Fields passed for 2,100 yards, 22 touchdowns, and had a 70.2 completion percentage. Not exactly Deshaun Watson numbers, but there are COVID asterisks there. What Fields does have in common with DW4 is his pre-draft narrative. Initially, Fields was easily considered the QB2 in the draft behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. But Fields has seen his stock fluctuate in recent weeks with many putting BYU’s Zach Wilson ahead of him.
Some say Fields doesn’t read defenses very well. Others say he stares down his receivers and doesn’t check down enough. Another criticism is how long he holds the ball - something Watson hears a lot. There’s also some criticism about Fields’ pitch speed. Sound familiar?
Over the course of his Buckeye career, Fields tossed 67 touchdowns, only 9 picks, and completed 68.4% of his passes. He only lost two games—one to Alabama (the 2020 National Championship - coming off a nasty injury suffered in the prior game versus Clemson), and the other to Clemson, also in the NCAA Playoffs.
Highest % of accurate/on-target passes on throws of 10+ air yards among P5 QBs since 2018, per @PFF:— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) February 25, 2021
65% — Justin Fields (2020)
62% — Joe Burrow (2019)
62% — Kedon Slovis (2019)
57% — Mac Jones (2020)
56% — Trevor Lawrence (2020)
Fields certainly seems like an upgrade over AJ McCarron or any other stopgap veteran the Texans could sign.
If the Texans Draft Asante Samuel Jr. ...
[Samuel Jr.] is undersized; he’s 5’10”—but it’s a Kyler Murray 5’10”. He has more of a lean frame with exceptional athletic ability that allows him to be incredibly effective in man coverage. Very light on his feet—has superb quickness, rare change of direction ability, and shows a great burst.
Excellent range and ability to cover ground - has recovery speed as well. He brings a disruptive nature and good play strength to the catch point and has solid ball skills. They only had four interceptions in college but was constantly playing through the catch point and forcing incompletions.
Overall, Samuel is a very good athlete who can play outside corner in the NFL despite his size limitation (at worst, he can be one of the better slot corners in the league).
Partnering Samuel Jr. with Xavien Howard, Bradley Roby, and Justin Reid in the defensive backfield suddenly makes Houston’s secondary respectable, if not outright dangerous. Now to work on the rest of the defense.
If the Texans Draft Azeez Ojulari...
The future of the 6’3” outside linebacker from Georgia feels a lot like the player Whitney Mercilus should be now. A great motor and high athleticism help him overcome formative technique; if he can continue growing, Ojulari should outshine Mercilus quickly.
However, taking him with the 18th overall pick might be a stretch. While the top EDGE rushers will most likely have NFL homes by #18, with the expected run on quarterbacks early, there’s an outside chance someone like Michigan’s Kwity Paye or Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham could fall to #18. For PFF’s sake, here’s what scouts have to say about Ojulari:
Azeez Ojulari aligns as an EDGE defender for the Bulldogs defense. He will align either in a 2-point or 3-point stance and has played on all three downs for their defense. He plays with good reactive athleticism when out on the edge and demonstrates good quickness, effort, and body control. Although he appears to lack ideal length for a traditional 3-4 OLB, he demonstrates very good pop in his hips and hands at the point of attack to set the edge. In the passing game, he gets home with good effort and motor. He needs to improve and refine his overall technique as a pass rusher, but shows flashes of the athleticism that projects him to have success at the next level.
Ideal Role: Off the ball 4-3 OLB.
Scheme Fit: Any defense with hybrid even/odd front principles will have no problems using him as a valuable chess piece.
What do you think of this trade proposal? All in? Hate it? Have a better idea? Want the Texans to include Jack Easterby in the trade? Let us know below !