Editor’s note: Brien is a well-traveled Houstonian and Army Combat Veteran with an extremely wide range of talents and interests including the NFL (Packers), Irish History, and writing. Follow him on twitter @ODonalsVanguard
By BRIEN O’DONAL
As is the way of people in the last hours of a Friday in the office, there are often discussion of topics that can drag out until the last remaining minutes of the day. I had one such conversation last Friday; this time about the Texans draft and who they should pick. The Texans fans in the office spoke with a mix of optimism and assurance that they would be choosing a quarterback with the 25th overall pick. I expressed the opinion that they should hope that is not the selection. I explained that the quarterbacks in this draft, with the exception of Deshaun Watson; are not worth being taken in the first round (I believe Watson should go late in the first round but we all know he will go much sooner). What I want is for the Texans to take the best available player and build a roster with talent everywhere regardless of need. Let’s examine what might be available at pick 25 and see if you think it would be better than a quarterback who might not be a solid contributor in year one or even two.
As it sits, one of the most glaring needs for the Texans is up front on the offensive line. Without a solid quarterback they will have to rely heavily on Lamar Miller and whoever else is splitting reps with him. To be effective there they will need to start by getting a better right tackle. Most draft experts are pointing to the end of the first round as the starting point for the good offensive tackles. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them go higher and by the time the Texans are on the clock Cam Robinson and Ryan Ramczyk are gone. It also wouldn’t shock me to see Forrest Lamp, who projects as an interior lineman; taken before the Texans can call his name. That doesn’t mean that they still can’t nab Garett Bolles or Dan Feeney. But what if the draft shakes up and someone expected to go higher is still available?
I fully expect that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey will be gone before the Texans pick but what if one of them isn’t? Lamar Miller is the only solid running back on the Texans roster and like I said before, they should be leaning on their running game to get them through the season. Drafting Cook or McCaffrey would give the Texans an opportunity to bring in a young talented player to help share the running back duties throughout the season. Long term, if they can get a young back under a rookie contract to develop into a star player it will be easier to let Miller go when his contract is up. I for one would be happy for a season or two of a top rushing offense. What if all the top running backs are gone as well? Maybe a top defensive player is still available, what then?
Well, if the Texans come on the clock and a player like Jabrill Peppers, Quincy Wilson, or Tre’Davious White is still sitting there? I wouldn’t be opposed to picking one of them over a quarterback not named Watson. Adding depth to an already talent laden defense will only serve to make the best part of the Texans that much better. Imagine the creativity that Romeo Crennel could scheme with Peppers, a guy who can play as a safety or outside linebacker. Imagine having solid corners on the outside able to give Clowney and Watt an extra second to sandwich the opposing quarterback. If I were a Texans fan I would be happy to see the defense get better than they were in 2016. They won 9 games then and maybe they can get 10 with an added first round talent.
My point is this; pick 25 could be just the right spot for the Texans this year. The best offensive linemen fit in this range or there may be a great player or two who slides back just a few picks to where they are. Despite having a great defense and talent at the skill positions it is never a bad idea to add top young talent when it fits where they are drafting. It would only help to make the roster better though they lack in the quarterback position. Reaching for a player not worthy of starting day 1 under center would let a better player get drafted to compete against them. No one wants to pass on Khalil Mack because they were sure Blake Bortles was a can’t miss prospect.
Despite all this, I am uncertain. Although the Texans generally do well in the first round this is not an ordinary year. Their 2016 season was marred by the abysmal play of their big splash free agency signing. The fans and the media have been howling for them to improve the quarterback position and it seems like they passed on doing anything in free agency in the hopes that they would sign Tony Romo. I think it would be the wrong move to reach for one in the first round when they can improve other positions. If they can get 9 wins with Brock Osweiler throwing the ball then surely they can win at least that amount with the quarterbacks they have now. Drafting the best available player might get them one more win; and just one more could get them back in the playoffs in a still weak AFC South.