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Pro Football Focus Ranks the 2021 NFL Rookie Classes

PFF thinks Nick Caserio knocked this one out of the park.

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Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

You know what time it is. It’s the offseason. It’s time to regurgitate and ponder on the words and thoughts of others.

Pro Football Focus recently ranked the NFL’s rookie classes by Wins Above Replacement (WAR), and finally, the Houston Texans have found themselves on the top of one of these lists. Here’s where Nick Caserio’s first draft class ranked by this metric:


Why they’re ranked here: The Texans benefit from the fact there weren’t really any expectations for their class because of how little draft capital they had at their disposal last offseason. Davis Mills finished the season ranked 30th among quarterbacks in PFF grade, but he still finished with roughly 0.7 wins above a replacement-level quarterback, which is a strong outcome for a third-round selection. Houston also got contributions from several later picks, such as Brevin Jordan, Nico Collins and Roy Lopez.

How their top pick fared: Mills, like all of the rookie quarterbacks except Mac Jones, graded among the bottom-half of starting quarterbacks this season. The rookie out of Stanford finished the season with more turnover-worthy plays (20) than big-time throws (16), but he did have flashes of strong play and areas where he outperformed expectations. Deep passing was one of them: Mills’ 123.5 passer rating on throws 20-plus yards downfield led all quarterbacks this season. Houston just needs those flashes to appear more regularly if Mills is given another chance to start in 2022.

Best value pick: Getting a starting quarterback like Mills, who wasn’t a complete disaster, in the third round is the primary reason that the Texans earned the second-highest PFF Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for their 2021 draft class. That’s how valuable the position is.

Even though using WAR to analyze the game of football doesn’t make much sense, it’s still impressive nonetheless, considering the lack of draft capital Houston had in 2021. Aside from Roy Lopez, who is going to be a starting run stopping defensive tackle for years to come, the jury is out on Houston’s selections on the future. Can Houston create a better situation for Davis Mills and will his accuracy improve down to down? Is Nico Collins going to start catching vertical routes to open up the rest of his route tree? Does Garrett Wallow’s size make playing defense impossible? Will Brevin Jordan learn how to block and can he beat man coverage? These are all questions for the future, but for now, Caserio had the second ranked draft class by WAR.