As we move each day further and further away from Draft Night 2011, we understand at a higher level how instrumental that one night was to the future of the Texans. Let me refresh your memory…
...with the 11th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans select... J.J. Watt, defensive end, Wisconsin.
Teams throughout the league have had similar type moments. Who can forget the Packers finally taking Aaron Rodgers out of his green room misery with the 24th pick of the 2005 NFL Draft? Vikings fans look back on the 1998 NFL Draft in a similar way as Dennis Green stuck his neck out for a receiver from Marshall named Randy Moss.
Franchises changed on those days, although it was difficult to see immediately; it takes time. Eventually, Watt, Rodgers and Moss became transcendent players for their franchises and throughout the league.
But, what if it went a different way? I thought about this on Thursday when I stumbled upon an old mock draft done by a friend of mine Lance Zierlein. We covered the draft together for years prior to me taking up residence at NRG Stadium on a daily basis. When it came to mock drafts, though, I left that all to Lance. Loved reading them. Hated putting one together.
So, trying to find something I wrote from a few years ago to help me with an article I was working on presently, I found Lance's mock draft from April 2011, three weeks prior to the draft that year. Uh, yeah, I'm going to click on that.
That draft was a turning point moment for many teams and it's a draft that was littered with future Hall of Famers and All-Pros. Cam Newton went first overall to Carolina to kick off the draft and, of course, Watt was selected by the Texans at No. 11.
But, what if the draft had gone the way Lance's mock suggested? I immediately scanned to number one and he had…
Carolina - Marcell Dareus, Alabama. Now, Mr. Big Stuff is a game-changing interior defender and has been since he came into the league, but I think Panthers fans are happy with Cam. Speaking of Newton…
With the fourth pick, Cincinnati selects - Cam Newton, Auburn. Had that happened - Hue Jackson with Cam Newton in Cincinnati for the past five years? Whoooo! Of course, Cincinnati ended up with A.J. Green, then took Andy Dalton in the second round. Not a bad haul, honestly, in reality.
So, I then moved down to the 11th pick.
With the 11th pick, the Texans select - Julio Jones, Alabama. Listen, no one is Watt and will ever be Watt, but Jones would've been a strong consolation prize if you will.
There were really no bad options, outside of QBs not named Cam Newton, in this draft. So, when I saw LZ's Texans pick, my next thought was where Watt was in his mock.
That would've been a nightmare.
With the 17th pick in the first round...wait for it...wait for it...the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS select - J.J. Watt, Wisconsin.
It's okay, Texans fans, LZ's mock draft didn't come true. But, when I saw that I literally chuckled out loud, thinking that's what it feels like to wake up from a bad dream. Watt as a Patr...I can't even finish the thought.
That's really why I love mock drafts, though, to think about what could be or what could've been. Luckily, Watt wasn't the fish that got away. A Patriot fish, to be exact.