It’s the question everyone is asking me, “What do you think of the draft?”
The real answer doesn’t come for another couple of years, right? Sometimes picks come out of the gate and shine, like Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, Andre Johnson, Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans.
Others bloom through the course of their rookie campaign, like J.J. Watt (J.J. was eye-popping with bat-downs in his rookie training camp, but really exploded in the postseason). Others go through a learning curve like Duane Brown and Kareem Jackson.
Not all the picks pan out, of course. It’s an inexact science, they say. And ‘they’ couldn’t be more accurate.
What the Texans are trying to do is make sure they have players with the right ability and psychological make-up to hang through the grind, improve, and contribute to wins.
All offseason we talked about the Texans possibly getting some combination of cornerback and tackle early on. They did just that and got three outstanding prospects in Tytus Howard, Lonnie Johnson Jr. and Max Scharping.
Howard, a former quarterback (how does that happen?) has boatloads of athletic ability and drive. He now needs to download the playbook and grow his skill set. In talking with him, you see how he loves playing the position. He reminisces about memorable blocks like I discuss my children’s accomplishments.
But (breaking news) tackle is tough. Duane Brown’s first start was at Pittsburgh and he had to go against James Harrison. If Howard starts right away, he’ll be operating at a very fired-up Superdome. This is a process and here’s hoping the learning curve gets negotiated as quickly as possible.
Johnson’s inspirational story tells us he’s tough and hungry. He’s a large corner who the coaches think can help slow down some of the big targets the Texans see week after week. Don’t discount run support and the limitation of YAC when evaluating corners. Think of all the times J-Joe and Kareem have had to make big hits when backs or receivers are looking to get a head of steam outside the numbers.
Scharping gave up only one sack on a gazillion snaps in college. The mini highlight mash-up we put up on social media (yes, O-lineman highlights) show you what kind of player he is. Now he has to take his game to the highest level.
Kahale Warring, taken in Round 3, was a bit of a surprise. Keep in mind that Brian Gaine and Bill O’Brien have discussed so many possibilities as to how the board would move. So it was no surprise to them. He’s a fantastic talent. And if they didn’t bet that he would have the mental juice to build his talents into an NFL blocker/playmaker, they would not have taken him.
It felt like an eternity until the next pick, Charles Omenihu, came off the board. The Longhorn defender is confident and eager to find a spot in the front seven. Pro Football Focus (who I only reference when it’s convenient to me) says he and the next selection, cornerback Xavier Crawford were great value picks, selected over two rounds higher than projected.
And if you’re an Aggie, you got a solid glimpse of Texas A&M and Houston football culture with the drafting of “12th Man” Cullen Gillaspia. Cameras were rolling at his house (the Aggies are shooting a documentary on him) as he displayed the emotion of getting selected by his hometown team. He should instantly contribute on special teams and be a favorite in the community and who knows what else.
These rookies and the undrafted free agents will take part in their own camp next week. It’s already been a long haul for them in the pre-draft process and it won’t get easier as they get their initial taste of NFL life. The journey has just begun. Stay tuned.