I find two items worth remembering as you look at this draft effort by the TEXANS. You must remember that the reason the team doesn’t pick until Round 3 is because of the trade to move up in 2017 to draft DeSHAUN WATSON/QB. Prior to his knee injury WATSON was off to a fantastic start to the 2017 season. So assuming a return to good health this year there is no reason to bemoan the worth of trading up for him last year. This was also the first Draft with BRIAN GAINE as the new GM and boss man. So having said all that, what did they do, with what they had to work with?
With Pick 68, in Round 3 the team got a 2nd Round value and a potential new starting S in JUSTIN REID/Stanford. REID is an above average athlete, who only needs a bit of sanding down of some rough edges to become a starter in their secondary. Unfortunately, the timing and value of the selection became even more significant in early June when ANDRE HAL was diagnosed with cancer. As he fights his battle with the Big C, RIED will battle for his job. REID clocked a 4.41/40 at the Combine. He has very nice size at 6’1/207, and large, supple hands (9 3/4″). Last year at Stanford he recorded 99 tackles, including 6.5 TFL. He also showed his coverage ability and good hands with 6 PBU and 5 INT. For a team that has been challenged over the years with marginal S play in general the thought of REID and the HONEY BADGER teamed up at the S spots is tantalizing for TEXANS fans. Good value at the Pick as well as filling a major area of need.
The OL has also been an area of talent upgrade quite often for this team. In part that is due to being unable to hold onto talented players due to injuries and Salary Cap issues at times. So in similar fashion to the REID pick, I give them high marks for the selection of MARTINAS RANKIN/OL/Miss State at Pick 80. He had enough talent to be an able starter at LT for the Bulldogs for 2 seasons in the SEC. But his overall ability and mid-level athleticism make him best suited as an INT OL. He may get a shot at RT because of team needs, but I think he’s best suited to replace VFA loss XAVIER SU’-A-FILO at OG. If Rankin fails to win a starting job he may be able to back up all 5 OL positions on game day. RANKIN is a big man at 6’4/308, but can move a bit as indicated by his 5.15/40-time. He also sports 33 3/4″ arms and 10 1/8″ hands. He’s a potential starter and another good value Pick.
The team hit the trifecta, IMO, with their Compensatory Pick in Round 3, at #98 with UCF/TE/JORDAN AKINS. AKINS is a converted wideout who may spend most of his time in the slot. He blocks a little, but his forte is as a receiver, where he runs a lot faster than his 4.80/40-time would indicate. He could not run at the Combine after tweaking his knee in the bowl game with Auburn. He did participate in the Senior Bowl venue and there were times in passing drills when I actually thought he looked like a big wideout running down field. Even though he’s not the same style player, he also fills a need at TE where C.J. FIEDOROWICZ retired due to chronic concussion issues. I think a healthy AKINS could contribute to the TE group significantly as a Rookie. He’s 26-years old after playing minor league baseball for 4 seasons. Nice value at the Pick for them.
In Round 4, at Pick 103 the team reached a bit for a very productive receiver in KEKE COUTEE/TEXAS TECH. He’s of course raw to the NFL route tree after playing under Kingsbury in that Red Raiders air-raid Offense, but he’s explosive and catches the ball well despite only 8 3/8″ hand size. At 5’10/181 he will have to be used sparingly to protect his health, but he is explosive after the catch and also brings some valuable return skills with him. He averaged 31.5 yards per kick-off return in 2017. He also caught 93 balls for 1429 yards and 10 TD last season. He ran a 4.46/40 at the Combine, but he sure looks faster than that in game action, not to mention nice quickness. He looks like a solid slot receiver option to me. With the failure of BRAXTON MILLER to show much progress as a WR in two pro seasons, COUTEE could run himself right into the No.3 wideout job as a Rookie.
IMO the TEXANS may have gotten a steal in Round 6, at Pick 177, with DUKE EJIOFOR/DE/Wake Forest, who I had in my Top 100 players. Every time I watched Ejiofor in game action I was impressed by his quickness and all-out effort. At 6’4/270 he could shuffle between OLB and DE for DC CRENNEL. He has very long arms (34 7/8″) and heavy hands (9 3/4″), which he uses to fend off blockers. A very high effort player who finds the ball and runs it down. His 4.75/40 time is solid when he plays with his hand on the ground and comes off the edge. He had a banged up shoulder which cost him some playing time in 2017. He likes to play out of a 4-point stance, which they may try to change. That could help him long term in his get-off, but might slow him down as a Rookie. I really like the way this guy plays and he might be a DL key for them in 2019 and beyond when they likely loose a few of their Front-7 starters to age and VFA. Very high value Pick .
At Pick 211 they took another TE cut from a very different mold than AKINS. JORDAN THOMAS/TE/Miss State is a mountain of a man whose blocking potential is off the charts. I got to see him up close and personal during Shrine Week in January and he is massive. He needs to improve as a blocker, but he’s not as lacking in that role as some would imply. He is 6’6 and weighs 280 lbs. He has 11″ hands and 34 1/8″ arms. Carrying that frame around he still ran a 4.78/40 at he Combine. His 82 1/2″ wingspan also gets your attention. He is going to be a serious developmental project but if some coach can become his mentor the potential here is huge. With AKINS and THOMAS around we are going to find out how good TE Coach TIM KELLY is at developing players.
At Pick 214 the team grabbed another Stanford player in LB/PETER KALAMBAYI who is a better athlete than he is a football player. He’s too tentative and stiff to make an impact at the NFL level right now from scrimmage. Can the Training Staff and JOHN PAGANO develop him and work on his flexibility both physically and mentally? Time will tell, but for now if he’s to make the team I would suggest he will have to be one heck of a Special Teams player. By the way, I sense a pattern here perhaps. KALAMBAYI is he one of four ex-Stanford defensive players on their current roster.
In Round 7, at Pick 222 they surprised me with the selection of CB/JERMAINE KELLY/San Jose State. He was not even on my list of 400+ prospects. He reportedly has good athleticism and has decent size at 6’1/195. SJSU has been pretty bad the last few seasons, which may have hurt his cause. Someone on their scouting staff had to see something he really liked in this guy.
Considering no Picks until Round 3 this looks like a solid effort, with a few guys who could be fighting to win jobs right away. I also think their URFA signing group looks pretty solid and may provide a few guys at the bottom of their roster. And it will look even better if Mr. Watson comes back at full health by September to pick up where he left off after half a season in 2017. A solid Draft effort here given the overall circumstances of the organization.