This team to me is the biggest beneficiary to playing in the league's worst division for the past five seasons. Under coach Bill O'Brien who every one touts as a quarterback whisperer has had a slew of disappointing quarterbacks like Ryan Mallett, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, Brian Hoyer, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiller, Tom Savage, and now it looks like Deshaun Watson. Overall, I question if this guy is really a quarterback whisperer or is benefiting from a team with an amazing defense and playing in the AFC South. I would be shocked if Watson does not win the job coming out of camp. Out of all the quarterbacks coming out of the draft I thought he had the highest floor where he at least will give you confidence in the pocket, high energy, and hopefully some clutch plays. However, I do expect the magic for this team to fizzle a little bit with the Titans surpassing them in overall talent and I do expect Watson to have rookie hiccups as the season rolls on. Overall, this team is still a borderline playoff squad thanks to an easy schedule and an excellent defense.
This offense like every year will probably struggle to put up points and benefit from a ferocious defense. Thankfully, I think they may have found a competent quarterback under Deshaun Watson. I do worry though with his less than ideal arm strength, hit or miss accuracy, and a penchant to throw a bunch of picks. He did average over a 60% completion percentage in college, which is normally the threshold for quarterbacks to be able to have a chance to find success in the NFL. His interceptions are a tad worrisome and coming from a simple college offense as well has me believe he may throw more picks than coaches would like in the NFL. I do think throwing interceptions really are not the end of the world though since it shows you are trying to push the ball downfield instead of play it safe guys like Alex Smith, Sam Bradford, and Brian Hoyer who have not had a ton of success getting wins. The rest of this offense is supported by a terrific receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but not much else in the wake of the injuries to Will Fuller and Braxton Miller. However, the former Buckeye quarterback should be back sooner than later, but losing Fuller for 2-3 months will be a huge blow to the offense. Their line is a mixed bag with a few question marks across the board in my opinion. They do have a good run game with Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue, and rookie D'Onta Foreman. Overall, this bad line and a rookie quarterback may be this team's undoing down the stretch.
This team like the past few years will go as far as their defense will carry them. They are of course led by a ferocious front that includes J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus capable of giving opposing quarterbacks nightmares. I do wonder how Watt looks coming off a back surgery that has hampered many defensive linemen over the years and more often than not ended careers. Backs are tricky especially at a position where leverage is a huge advantage. I do not doubt that a lesser Watt is still a very good player, but with a massive contract and a huge question mark for his future I wonder if he will ever get back to how he used to be. The rest of the down linemen with Watt include a bunch of fresh faces like D.J. Reader, Christian Covington, and Carlos Watkins. It will be interesting to see if any step up to take pressure off of Watt. Their interior linebackers are also a strength for them with Bernardrick McKinney, and rookie Zach Cunningham who I expect will beat out perennially injured Brian Cushing. Losing A.J. Bouye at corner may hurt, but in the long term their better off since he only looked amazing on his contract year so I expect him to kick it back down in Jacksonville like many one year wonders have done the past few seasons. They still have solid Kareem Jackson, Jonathan Joseph, and young Kevin Johnson who create a solid group on the outside. Safety may be their weakest position on the defense led by Andre Hal, and Corey Moore penciled in as starter. The depth behind them is extremely weak and could be a detriment if any of the starters get hurt.
In the end, this team will be a mixed bag in my opinion where they will be too dependent on their defense to make anyone a believer in their ability to make it any where past the Wild Card game. I do think Watson will go on to have a fine career, but more often than not rookie quarterbacks have up and down seasons, which will end up forcing the defense to play perfect. With two match ups against an Andrew Luck-less Colts and a quarterback mess down in Jacksonville will afford them possible 4 easy wins right there. Then they go on to play the Bengals, Chiefs, Browns, Rams, Cardinals, Ravens, and 49ers that could be wins. They also face off against the Patriots, Seahawks, and Steelers where I see them have no chance at all for a win. A 10-6 or 9-7 record is not a stretch in my opinion for a team I am not overly excited about, but they do have a fairly easy schedule.
1 (12) - Deshaun Watson QB - I was not that crazy about Watson to be honest coming into the draft. I thought people hyped him up just because he beat Alabama, but so did players like Chad Kelly, and Johnny Manziel were also able to beat Alabama. Watson to me needs to work on his accuracy and decision making before I am totally on board with him. He does have good athleticism to surprise teams to begin his career, but eventually he needs to work on moving onto his reads instead of taking off. I do love his clutch plays and ability to bring his teams to wins, but those qualities are hard to translate to the NFL since Tebow was good at the same thing in college. Overall, I am skeptical about his success overall and expect him to have a Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater (when healthy), or Andy Dalton type career.
2 (25) - Zach Cunningham LB - I loved this pick since Cunningham in my opinion had first round quality ability. He probably slid down due to the fact inside linebackers have been devalued, but getting a quality interior presence like Cunningham in the 2nd round is great value. Cunningham will probably beat out oft-injured Brian Cushing for a starting job coming out camp. He will also benefit playing behind a terrific pass rush where he can just clean up the run game and display some solid coverage abilities.
3 (25) - D'Onta Foreman RB - Another terrific pick made by the Texans. Foreman if he was healthy leading up to the draft to workout I think he might have been selected much higher. Foreman runs with a ferocity and could run through a brick wall if need be. I do question his pass catching ability, but in his one workout leading up to the draft he looked doing so. Lamar Miller in my opinion benefited from a high volume of carries to get those inflated stats and could easily be beaten out by Foreman before years end.
4 (24) - Julien Davenport OT - A nice developmental pick here for a team that needs to find better blockers to grow with Watson at quarterback. Davenport will probably need a year to develop coming from a small school as well as being a late to the game type of player being a former basketball player. He has nice feet, length, and athleticism to eventually be a left tackle. Of course learning proper technique and how quickly he does so will determine how quickly he ends up on the field. I doubt he is more than a back up this year, but next year he could fight for a job.
4 (36) - Carlos Watkins DT - I was surprised how little hype Watkins received going into the draft. He was a focal point on both of Clemson's championship caliber defenses and battled very well against Alabama's stout line. His size can be described as a bit of a tweener so it will be interesting where he plays on the Texans 3-4 defense, but if he can play nose tackle that would be great after the retirement of Vince Wilfork. Watkins should be in the rotation early for the Texans.
5 (25) - Treston Decoud S - A depth safety pick on a team that has a poor crop of starters. Decoud is a thumper old-school still safety who I think will most likely just be a special teamer throughout his career. Maybe he can be a press corner in the slot, but on a team that sports good corners I doubt he makes the field that way. Overall, this is just an okay depth pick.
7 (25) - Kyle Fuller C - Odd selection especially after drafting Nick Martin highly a year ago. I know he missed the year, but he looks to be back healthy and should be one of the Texans only solid starters. Fuller is too small to be anything more than a center so to me this is a wasted pick even though it is the 7th round. If they wanted a depth lineman I would have selected a tackle or guard who can at least be used in more than one spot.
2018 Off Season:
The biggest thing for the Texans this off season is finding a way to retain Jadeveon Clowney who has definitely found his footing in the NFL. I bet he will be even better on his contract year, which is scary for opposing offenses as well as the Texans salary cap. They also have McKinney as an upcoming free agent and I would expect them to retain him. They do not have their first round selection after trading up to get Deshaun Watson or a 2nd round for getting rid of Brock Osweiler so they will probably have to look towards free agency to try and patch up their leaky offensive line. If I were them I would also try to find another interior pass rusher who can pair up with Watt who will probably be going down production wise as he ages and his back injury continues to linger. Safety is also a big need, but thankfully this draft has pretty good depth at the position. To me this team will continue to be just good enough to make the playoffs, but unless Watson really explodes I doubt they make it that far into the playoffs.
My 2018 Mock Selections: