Did the Texans hit all the right notes?
As the 2019 NFL Draft comes to a close this is the first in a 4-part series looking at the picks made by each side in the AFC South. First up it is the Houston Texans. Going in to the Draft the main needs for the Houston Texans were the Offensive Line, the Secondary and at Tight End. Let’s see how they did.
On opening night the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to no.22, one spot ahead of the the Texans, and snatched Andre Dillard. This will have taken the wind out of the Texans’ sails and I suspect Dillard was high on the Texans’ board at tackle. At that point the Texans had a quick decision to make: whether to go ahead and address the Offensive Line or switch to a Secondary target. The Texans stayed true to their most urgent need which is to keep Deshaun Watson upright and took Tytus Howard from Alabama State. The issue here is that Howard (a converted Tight End) is more of a developmental prospect at tackle than a day 1 starter. It could be argued that an alternative would have been a day 1 ‘plug and play’ offensive lineman available at that point (Jawaan Taylor, Greg Little, Kaleb McGary?). The other option would have been to switch to one of the top Cornerback or Safety targets, especially as there was subsequently a run on those positions early on day 2.
The Texans continued day 2 of the Draft focussing on the main areas of need on the roster. In round 2 they secured a defensive back in Lonnie Johnson JR (Kentucky) and returned to the offensive line with Max Scharping (N. Illinois). Then in round 3 depth was added at Tight End with the pick of Kahale Warring (San Diego State). On the face of it that was a good return. However, taken in tandem with the first round pick of Tytus Howard there are questions about the path the Texans have taken.
The addition of Johnson JR at no.54 as a Defensive Back (DB) was a must. However, was this ‘their guy’ or did the run on this position on day 2 take potential better targets off the board? Seven DBs were taken from 30-47 and this may have severely hampered who the Texans were able to take. Johnson JR may well prove to be the right pick but again there is more of a developmental aspect to his play than day 1 starter material.
Max Scharping was taken at no.55 and he is another who will take time to adjust to the demands of blocking against NFL standard defenses. In tandem with Howard there is a concern that neither addition to the Offensive Line is a definite day 1 upgrade in the protection of Deshaun Watson.
Kahale Warring is a tight end the Texans had demonstrated a lot of interest in pre-draft with private workouts and visits. The Texans GM described Warring as meeting all the Texans standards for the position in terms of physicality and character. With the first round TEs off the board (Fant and Hockenson) and Irv Smith and Jace Steinberger also gone early in the 2nd round, the Texans have taken a player they are comfortable with and have done a ton of background on. The only question would be that Dawson Knox was also waiting (taken at 96 by the Bills) and he would have been the other highly rated player in that position.
The Texans wrapped up their selections with three further picks across rounds 5-7. In round 5 they selected Defensive End Charles Omenihu (Texas). This was a great value pick for someone able to adapt to either rushing off the edge or playing at defensive tackle with his hand in the dirt. His versatility will be key and even with his size (6’6 274lbs), he has the athleticism for an excellent burst off the blocks. A great addition to the Texans defense. This pick was followed up with more help in the secondary in round 6 as Xavier Crawford (Central Michigan) was selected. Crawford is an aggressive corner who likes to dominate receivers at the line of scrimmage. His 2018 production was impressive with only one touchdown allowed (PFF stats). Another good value pick in a late round. Finally in round 7 the Texans finished off their draft haul with Fullback Cullen Gillaspia (Texas A&M). This is a great hometown pick and he is the first ‘12th man’ to be drafted by an NFL team. There isn’t time to go into the Texas A&M 12th man tradition in this article but it basically means Gillaspia is a ‘team first’ kind of guy, willing to pitch in to anything the team needs. An ideal guy to have on the roster. After his performance at the A&M pro-day he was invited to the Texans local pro-day. He has good speed (40’ time of 4.5s) great blocking skills and his willingness to be involved will make him a special teams asset. His ability to block will no doubt also be used to keep Deshaun Watson out of trouble. This may be the pick I loved the most for the Texans. Everyone will be rooting for Gillaspia.
In terms of adding key pieces on to the roster it is job done for the Texans. However, in a division where all three opponents will be snapping at their heels in 2019 I’m not sure they have done enough. One or two more definite day 1 starters, particularly for the offensive line, may have been more prudent. However, it is only April so there is time to develop the potential of these rookie recruits and that is, after all, what the NFL Draft is all about.
(Image: USA Today Cullen Gillaspia, 7th round pick)