Every season, the hard working professional football writers at Football Outsiders take a look back at the NFL Draft that occurred six years before. At that point, rookie contracts are up, free agency has come and gone, and the players pretty much are what they are. The value has been established. We know what the classes are. We know who the players are.
If you forgot, in 2015, the Houston Texans selected Kevin Johnson (Round 1, #16), Benardrick McKinney (Round 2, #43), Jaelen Strong (Round 3, #70), Keith Mumphery (Round 5, #175), Reshard Cliett (Round 6, #211), Christian Covington (Round 6, #216), and Kenny Hillard (Round 7, #235). The Texans no longer have anyone left on the roster from this class. Johnson didn’t get his fifth-year option, McKinney was traded to Miami, Strong was released, as was Mumphrey, Covington started for awhile but signed with Dallas once his rookie contract was up. Cliett and Hillard did nothing at all.
Of this class, McKinney was far and away the best player. A pure run stopper. Gruesome and macabre. He was a defensive tackle playing linebacker, sticking guards, turning the hole into mass graves, his hands looking like this so Zach Cunningham’s would look like that. He was integral to Houston’s sturdy front seven and was one of the main reasons why the Texans turned out great run defense after great run defense. As mentioned, McKinney was traded to Miami for Shaq Lawson a few weeks ago, as Houston chose to trade run defense for pass rush; it was a fine trade for both teams. I love B-Mac and I’ll miss him.
Johnson looked the part. He could break on the ball in a flash. Off-man coverage was easy for him . Concussions derailed his career in Houston. His poor tackling was exacerbated and he became unplayable. Since then, Johnson has accidentally found places to play in Buffalo, Cleveland, and now Tennessee. He’s a what-if player. What if he was never injured? Could he have become a Pro Bowl caliber player? He showed talent and skill his rookie season but could never conistently pick it up and put it back together.
Some think of K. Johnson as Rick Smith’s second first round bust. Bryan Knowles of Football Outsiders had the following to say:
Biggest Bust: Kevin Johnson. The Texans took Johnson 16th overall, the other corner taken before Peters. Injuries have cost Johnson a pair of seasons since then, but even when healthy, he has wobbled somewhere between useful rotational piece and overmatched starter. While Johnson has occasionally flashed some of the speed and footwork that made him a desired prospect, he has never been able to put it all together for an extended stretch of time.
At least Johnson still has a career, however; plenty of those Day 2 flyers are long gone. A list of the lowlights includes Jalen Collins (42nd overall to Atlanta), Mississippi’s Senquez Golson (56th to Pittsburgh, never played a game), Florida Atlantic’s D’Joun Smith (65th to Indianapolis), and Stanford’s Alex Carter (80th to Detroit).
Strong could never beat press man coverage despite his size. He was a long runner who never put together great routes. He at least caught a Hail Mary once. But I’m sure his CBD sales are picking up. Don’t forget, Rick Smith traded up for this.
The other receiver Houston selected, Keith Mumphery, also played a lot more than he should have ever played in his brief time in Houston. He was the perfect complement for Tom Savage. No one has a positive Keith Mumphery memory.
Covington was fine, a rotational player who played more than he ever should have played. His time in Dallas was empty, as was his time in Cincinatti. He’s a free agent and will catch on somewhere this summer.
All in all, the Texans’ 2015 Draft was kind of crappy. They found one consistent Pro Bowl caliber player in McKinney. Johnson’s performance and career drags the class down, and the ripple effects from it hurt the rest of Houston’s secondary for years to come. The decision to trade up for Strong was fatal, and the late round picks didn’t amount to much.
Six years later, it’s all fairly underwhelming.