With the 2020 NFL draft mere hours away and a wild, ‘anything goes’ offseason in full swing, there’s no telling what’s going to happen with the Houston Texans’ roster over the next several days. Will the Texans trade their first pick (#40 overall) to move up or trade down to gain more picks? Will they ship off an existing player for more draft picks? Will they ship off draft picks for more veteran players? Will they shy away from trading anything and simply roll with the draft picks they have?
At this point, it’s really anyone’s guess.
If Houston plays their cards right, however, they could land a future Hall of Fame player, which is ultimately so hard to predict. Guys like Jared Allen, Shannon Sharpe, Richard Dent, Kevin Greene, Mike Webster and Tom Brady all came off the board in later rounds. There will certainly be a few diamond-in-the-rough athletes available for Houston to draft whenever they do make their selections.
While the best Texans ever drafted all came in the first round, they’ve still managed to grab some players in later rounds who have had a huge impact on the team. We need look no further than Justin Reid in 2018 to see guys not taken in the first round that still had major upside for the Texans.
Here’s my list, in chronological order, of impact players who had to wait to hear their name called on draft day:
#5 DeMeco Ryans
Selected with the #33 pick in the 2006 draft, DeMeco Ryans proved he was for real in his very first game, notching 12 solo tackles and eventually leading the team in tackles through the first half of his rookie year. He earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after ending his rookie campaign with 155 tackles, second best in the NFL among all eligible players. Ryans put a bow on his rookie season by landing in the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately, Houston traded Ryans to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012 to hand the linebacking leadership duties in Wade Phillips’ scheme to Brian Cushing.
#4 Owen Daniels
Undoubtedly the greatest tight end Houston has ever had, Daniels was taken with the 98th overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. In 2007, Daniels caught 63 passes for 768 yards, averaging 12.2 yards per catch. While he spent his final two years with the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos (winning a Super Bowl in Denver, where he made clutch catches in the AFC Championship Game against New England), Daniels ended his career with 479 catches for 5,661 yards and 36 touchdowns. While that doesn’t put Daniels in the Top 25 tight ends of all time, it certainly puts him in the Top 50.
#3 Glover Quin
Taken with the 112th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Glover Quin never quite earned the big name recognition that went along with his play. He started his career as a backup cornerback before transitioning to safety, where he really came into his own. Sadly, the Texans let him go in free agency in favor of inking Ed Reed. Quin would sign with the Detroit Lions, where he ultimately ended his career after ten seasons. As a Texan, Quin started 12 games his rookie year and then started every single game for the rest of his career. He left Houston with 314 combined tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 3 fumble recoveries, and 5 interceptions.
#2 Andre Hal
Hal was selected with the 216th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Like Quin, Hal started as a reserve cornerback before transitioning to safety; once he changed positions, his skills really came to life. By 2015, Hal was the starting free safety, replacing ill-advised free agent signing Rahim Moore in Week 8. Hal wouldn’t relinquish the role until his career was interrupted by a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in June of 2018. Proving what an amazing specimen he is, Hal was cleared to play and back on the football field by the following October. While he only started 8 games in his final season before retiring in 2019, Hal picked off 3 passes, defended 5 more, and inspired the entire locker room.
#1 Zach Cunningham
Taken with the 57th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Zach Cunningham wasted no time filling the role vacated by Brian Cushing after the veteran’s suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances kicked in on September 13, 2017. Cunningham has held that slot ever since, starting 46 games over 3 seasons. He’s contributed 119 solo tackles (15 for loss) and 7 hits on opposing quarterbacks. While Cunningham isn’t a turnover machine, he has one pick that he returned 38 yards for a touchdown and 3 fumble recoveries. Many in the football world consider Cunningham one of the best kept secrets among all linebackers.
While the sample size for these players isn’t quite large enough to gauge their impact on the history of the Texans franchise, each has shown significant promise.
Taken with the 177th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Ejiofor played in 12 games his rookie season, but suffered a torn Achilles in May of 2019 and sat out last year. While most older players never return to form from an Achilles tear, younger ones have far better odds of making a complete recovery.
Taken with the 161st overall pick in last year’s draft, Omenihu was a beast in college at the University of Texas. His play earned him Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year honors in 2018. If he continues to grow under new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver and continues learning all he can from future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt, Omenihu’s upside could be huge.
Also taken in last year’s draft (with the 55th overall pick), Scharping was treated almost like an afterthought in the shadow of the “Philadelphia trades ahead of Houston to select Andre Dillard and then Houston picks Tytus Howard” hoopla. However, once the offensive line shuffled and Sharping was inserted as one fo the starting guards, he showed the ability to be a solid piece in Houston’s offensive line for the next decade.
This guy has been electric since he first hit the field and seems to be making a case to become the all-time greatest safety in Texans history. He was top of the list but somehow got left off in typing this post. Sorry Justin, you are the man!
What do you think? Agree/disagree? Thinks someone else belongs on the list? How would you rank these players in terms of all-time greats for the Texans?