Lovie Smith is going to have to take some pacifiers out of babies’ mouths this offseason as the influx of rookies will need to grow up quickly.
With 20 rookies - nine drafted and 11 undrafted free agents will start training camp on the Houston Texans roster. Losing rookie receiver John Metchie deals a blow to this group’s ability to make an impact on the team. There’s an even blend of players across all positions, which allow for this class to break through across the roster.
Most importantly, there are multiple high-profile draft picks in positions of need. The Texans should field three or four rookie starters immediately with another handful to rotate in throughout the season.
Derek Stingley, Kenyon Green, and Jalen Pitre will be the rookies to jump in and help out day one. This offseason is debatably most important for Derek Stingley to be completely healthy and prepared to make the leap. The lack of play over the past two seasons don’t give the Texans reason to celebrate. They’ll need to see it on the field.
With the lack of depth on the Texans roster and a swath of holdover players from the Bill O’Brien era still on the roster, mid-late round rookies plus undrafted free agents will have an unprecedented chance to not only make the team but be a contributor.
Everyone’s eyes are on fourth round running back Dameon Pierce out of Florida. He’s in an up-for-grabs backfield with two veterans. The bar is so low at the running back position. Pierce isn’t a long term answer, but he could be a Ben Tate-level guy who can come in and take 15-carries for 85 yards on his back week-in and week-out.
Another player with late-round prospects is Thomas Booker. While I may not be the highest on Booker based on his film, he is a strong fit for the system and is a position agnostic player. He’ll push Ross Blacklock in rotation of the interior defensive lineman.
With so many undrafted rookie free agents, one or two will establish themselves on this roster. The Texans are weakest at defensive back, wide receiver, and defensive end.
Dameon Daniels and Kurt Hinish are to interior defensive lineman to keep an eye out for. Daniels breaks the scales at 6-3, 325 pounds of Nebraska corn-fed strength.
He’s got strong speed for his size and is a beast in the run game. His lack of pass rush ability took him off draft boards, but he could surprise people and beat out Ross Blacklock. Meanwhile Hinish is the most well-known name among our UFA. He was a star defensive lineman at Notre Dame and a linchpin on their front seven.
Tristin McCollum is a name to watch too. The 6-3 defensive back from Sam Houston State will stand out as the tallest player in the secondary. He can play both corner and safety and posted a 4.48 40-yard dash at Sam Houston State’s Pro Day.
Cornerback Jacobi Francis could also flash come Friday’s first training camp practice. He has five years of college football under his belt playing in a whopping 61 games. He recorded nine passes defended and two interceptions in back to back seasons. Francis could slide into the Texans thin cornerback room.
With Metchie out, the slot receiver position become fair game. Johnny Johnson III didn’t put up miraculous numbers in college, but he could make an impact on the offense given its similarities to his system in Oregon.
Regardless the position, the Texans need help. Sure, there are veterans who will lock down starting roles, but for the most part the back half of the roster is up for grabs. With an influx of youth, the Texans should find three to five long term players to play for the team long after their rookie year.