As a connoisseur of NFL Films for as long as I can remember, I loved anything and everything they did on the 1970s Oakland Raiders. Both sides of the ball were populated with Hall of Famers, but one guy that wasn't a Hall of Famer was the offense's most lethal weapon. Cliff Branch (#21) was as fast as anyone in the NFL at the time. He averaged 17.3 yards per catch in his career and his best season was in 1976 when he averaged a whopping 24.2 yards per catch. That's an astonishing number. Each and every game in Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, a sign hung in the end zone.
Speed Kills #21
The message was short yet agonizingly true for the Raiders' defensive opponents. I couldn't help but think about Branch, and that sign, as the Texans draft concluded on Saturday. First, the Texans drafted Notre Dame star Will Fuller, who ran 4.32 at the Scouting Combine.
Then, on day two, the Texans drafted Ohio State swiss army knife Braxton Miller, who posted a 4.36 at his Pro Day. Finally, on day three, the Texans drafted San Jose State burner Tyler Erving, who ran 4.39 at the Scouting Combine.
Let's examine how each draftee can impact this offense in 2016. We will start with the Texans first round pick, Will Fuller out of Notre Dame.
Cheer, Cheer for Old Will Fuller
There's little question that the Texans scouting/coaching staff fell in love with how Fuller made impact plays consistently throughout his career. After his 2014 season, I studied him as a potential draft prospect and noted his ability to be a catch-and-run receiver.
What impressed me was that Fuller would catch a tunnel screen at a near standstill and go 0-to-60 in a hiccup. But, at the time, I questioned whether he could evolve into more than just that type of player.
Then, the Irish went to Charlottesville for their second game of the 2015 season against Virginia. The Irish trailed 14-12 midway through the third quarter. On the first play of the next series from their 41-yard line, Fuller aligned outside in one-on-one coverage. The corner played seven yards off, with no safety help behind him.
Fuller, literally, just ran a nine route (go route) right past him. Quarterback Malik Zaire launched it as far as he could and Fuller made the over the shoulder catch for the 59-yard TD to take the lead. He ran right by him.