Your Houston Texans have driven the #1 overall draft pick bus for weeks now. The tankathon talk has gone on all season long. The debate of wins vs draft position, beaten like a horse corpse, has shown that 77% of Texans fans would rather they draft high than win meaningless games.
As it stands right now, rolling into the final game of the Texans season, they’re still driving that bus. However, this is the Cal McNair led franchise we’re talking about, so the detour into the bar ditch is always a likely off-ramp on the road to success.
NFL Draft order probabilities (in parenthesis):— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) January 3, 2023
1. Texans (78% chance)
2. Bears (63%)
3. Seahawks (64%)
4. Cardinals (61%)
5. Colts (53%)
6. Lions (51%)
ATL, LV, CAR all have extreme low chances (< 10%) at top-6 picks
The Texans face the Indianapolis Colts this weekend, a team handing the reigns to backup quarterback Sam Ehlinger... you’ve heard of him, right? Right?? He’s the guy famous for... well... ummm... running the Baby Horse offense in the last game of a meaningless season?
#Colts HC Jeff Saturday said Nick Foles (ribs) won't be able to play in their season finale vs. the Houston Texans. Sam Ehlinger will get the start in a game that should have significant impact in draft positioning.— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) January 2, 2023
Not much sounds more winnable than a game against a floundering division rival, led by a rookie head coach with ZERO meaningful coaching experience and a back up to a back up under center.
Meanwhile, Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith is pounding the war drums of winning games. Let’s just file that into “too little too late” and hope no one takes notice. Or, at least Nick Caserio and McNair don’t when they have the “Who are we hiring as the 2023 Houston Texans head coach?” conversation.
Lovie Smith made it abundantly clear that Texans will play to win the game against the Colts.— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) January 2, 2023
It obviously wasn’t “abundantly clear” when the Texans and Baby Horses faced off earlier this season, as Smith’s team blew a commanding lead and came away with a solid tie... well, as solid as a tie can be, which really isn’t very solid now is it?
And, therein lies the rub with Smith’s leadership. Earlier this year, it was obvious the tank was in.
For your consideration, here is Exhibit A:
Brian T. Smith
How does this get better?
By putting a better product on the football field.
Brian T. Smith
Why didn’t that happen today?
Because I didn’t think I should do it today.
Well, if he wasn’t going to do it in early November, he certainly shouldn’t try in week 17, with nothing to gain and quite a bit to lose.
Over at Texans Wire, Mark Lane has an interesting piece with some of Coach Smith’s latest soundbites pertaining to draft picks and positioning.
Smith met with reporters and emphasized his commitment to winning the game, and that picking high is what matters, not specifically having the first pick in a draft.
“I think it’s easy to answer that question,” said Smith. “Where are we right now, you say the No. 1 overall pick can help? Is that what you said? Yeah. How about the No. 2 overall, can that help? Yeah. No. 3, there’s a lot of picks that can help. That’s how I look at that. We know the picks that we have coming in, we’re going to add a lot of good football players.”
“As you look at history a little bit too on whether you get the first or second pick, third, you never really know how they all are going to turn out,” Smith said. “I think eventually it helps your ball club when you can get some of those top guys. I think if you’re picking early you’re going to get some top players. I think it’s safe to say we’re going to get some impact players that will help us. We understand what position we’re in right now.”
The problem with this thinking is the Texans need all the help they can get at this point.
What is a top NFL Draft pick worth?
OvertheCap has good piece on the Fitzgerald-Spielberger NFL Draft Trade Value Chart. On that chart, the value of the top pick is 3000 points. The second is 2649, the third is 2443, fourth - 2297, and so on. How this works, for those not on the tip, is any team that would like to trade for the #1 draft pick needs to offer up an equivalent of 3000 points. Maybe that’s the #6 pick, worth 2092 points and the #37 pick, worth 1170. Houston comes out ahead in that, but they can toss in, say, the 159th pick and get the in return 197th also.
Why the #1 Draft Pick Matters to the Houston Texans
The overall idea is to use those points to land a deal as close to “even-Stevens” as possible. Obviously, the higher the points Houston general manager Nick Caserio has to trade with, the better the potential return.
Should Lovie Smith get his way and the Texans win this weekend, they would swap places with the Chicago Bears and land the second pick, losing 351 points - the equivalent of a fifth round pick - in the first round alone. D.J. Reader was a fifth round pick. As was T.J. Yates, Stephon Diggs, Richard Sherman, Kevin Greene, Rodney Harrison and Herschel Walker.
More likely, that fifth round pick value gives Caserio more cards to wheel and deal with as the draft evolves.
There is absolutely no upside to winning the game this weekend. It won’t “end the season on a high note” because there are no high notes with three wins across 17 games. It won’t improve the 2023 Houston Texans roster. It won’t give H-Town a shot at the playoffs in 2023 or 2024. It won't even show that Smith was a better choice than David Culley...
What it will do is diminish available draft capital.
Now, there’s a lot to be said of the difference in picking #1 vs #2 as a negligible thing when your team is targeting a position the other team doesn’t need. And the Bears aren’t likely to draft Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud or any of the other quarterbacks that will go in the opening rounds. Justin Fields is likely entrenched and the Bears would do well to build more talent around him in 2023.
From that narrow POV, winning this weekend wouldn’t hurt the draft. Except that one slot drop also pushes the Texans entire draft board back one position, which will amount to more trade points lost. Of greater importance, having the pole position for each round gives Nick Caserio more time to evaluate the shifting landscape of his draft board, particularly the opening rounds each day (round one on Thursday, round two on Friday, round four on Saturday).
At this point, the Texans brass should use this weekend’s matchup as the first preseason game of 2023. Mothball all the players they want to keep to avoid unnecessary injuries and wear & tear, play all the guys on the bubble and call situational plays that have no chance of winning the game but do allow Caserio more talent evaluation reps in a live game.
However, suddenly firing up the “Just Win Baby!” mantra right now is the most Texans thing possible at this stage in history.