NFL Draft coverage has become its own cottage industry. You have all the pre-draft rituals like the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine game, and whatever else. Then, you have the combine and pro days. Finally, you get to the 4,000 different iterations of mock drafts found around the internet. This coverage ends up spilling over into the event itself. We get instant reactions, instant grades, and boundless stupidity.
The same is true for fans on social media and other internet sites. There are no shortage of hot takes on the draft on the positive and negative end. My social media footprint ran the gamut between this draft being the best in franchise history all the way to Nick Caserio should be fired on the spot. There wasn’t much in between.
I’ll spare everyone the time and expense. We don’t know anything more than what we knew on Thursday afternoon. Sure, we know who went where and we know what the actual draft day trades were, but we don’t know what it all means. It won’t stop any of us from guessing or making predictions. I’ll do it here, but I fully acknowledge that my guess is worth nothing more or less than anyone else’s. Years from now when they are talking about this draft, there will be three questions that get asked and answered. Those are really the only ones that matter.
How much will the Houston Texans regret winning that last game?
This is where we have to be careful and make sure we separate these questions in our mind. The easiest way to think of this is to compare this situation to the New York Jets in 2021. Similarly, they won a game late and surrendered the first pick to the Jaguars. Even two years in, this could be seen as disastrous. This is has nothing to do with Zach Wilson. That’s a whole separate deal and this needs to be said now to avoid clouding the issue. This is about Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence was always going to be the pick and that wouldn’t have changed had the Jets won the lottery.
Fast-forward to today and that is Bryce Young. The Texans would have taken Young had they had the pick. There is little doubt about that. That being said, there are three levels of number one overall quarterbacks in history. If we stick with the retired ones we can look at the Mannings as royalty. They both won two Super Bowls and likely will be Hall of Famers. There are the Alex Smiths of the world. He was a starter for more than a decade, but he was largely seen as solid and not great. Then, there was Jamarcus Russell and David Carr. Obviously, we can go into the reasons why people fail, but that’s not really the point here.
Prediction: What is most likely is that Young will wind up being somewhere in the range between Smith and Eli Manning. The current example would be Kyler Murray. Obviously, these are two different guys, with two different personalities, and two different skill sets. However, so much of a player’s performance can be controlled by what is around him. If we are keeping receipts we should remember that this is all about Bryce Young and not what happened after him.
Was Stroud the right pick at quarterback after Young? Should the Texans have avoided quarterback all together?
This is made more complicated by the fact that they traded up to take the guy they would have taken had they not selected a quarterback. This is the Zach Wilson question. Remember, we aren’t comparing Wilson to Lawrence. Lawrence wasn’t available to the Jets. This is about Justin Fields, Mac Jones, and Trey Lance. If you don’t like any of those guys then it is about who or what they could have done with that pick instead of selecting Wilson.
I have a hard time with this question. If we want to make this a Texans-centric point then we could rewind to the 2006 draft. Should the Texans have taken Mario Williams? That’s a multi-layered question. Williams enjoyed a longer and more successful career than either Vince Young or Reggie Bush. Yet, one could easily point out that the Texans never advanced past the divisional round and Williams never technically suited up for a playoff game with the Texans. One cannot always separate out individual success with team success.
Prediction: I happen to be in the group that believes that picking the quarterback is always the right decision when you do not have one. Stroud was compared to Jared Goff in the pre-draft write ups and we can compare him to Alex Smith too if we want to compare him with a quarterback that’s retired. Goff has a career 92.8 quarterback rating. In six full seasons as a starter his ESPN QBR has been below 50 (which is average) only once. Alex Smith threw 199 touchdowns and for 35,000 yards. He had six seasons with quarterback ratings over 90 and two over 100. Things improved drastically for him once Jim Harbaugh took over in San Francisco and he had Andy Reid in Kansas City.
All career arcs are different, but I see Stroud and Smith as similar guys. Harbaugh went to San Francisco in 2011. From that moment on, Smith threw 148 touchdown passes with only 56 interceptions. His lowest quarterback rating (not counting 2020) from that point on was 85.7. His lowest ESPN rating was 45.0. Again, it is often more about who is around you and who is coaching you then you by yourself.
How will the rest of the selections turn out?
Most people that rate these things say that the 2006 draft was the greatest draft in Texans history. Even people that thought Vince Young should have gone first overall say that. Why? Well, they also got DeMeco Ryans, Eric Winston, and Owen Daniels. Those guys were not only starters, but they were good starters. Add that to Williams and you had four very strong players in the draft. That just doesn’t happen very often.
If we remember one thing we should remember this: the who is far more important than the what. This becomes more and more true as the years go by. We won’t care whether we gave up a 2024 first round pick for Will Anderson if he is a Pro Bowl player. We will care if he isn’t. The same is true for any other player that we traded up or down for.
Prediction: Again, this will be about the coaching staff and what they do with these guys. I am very hopeful in Will Anderson and Tank Dell. They are both weapons that could be plus players in the right system. They drafted two centers. They drafted a second receiver and defensive end. Who cares what round they were taken in if they are successful? We need one really good wide receiver and a center to emerge. Let’s see who wins in August.