2017 NFL Draft: Houston Texans Trade Up To Draft QB Deshaun Watson
Let me start by saying that I have no idea if Deshaun Watson is going to work out as the Houston Texans quarterback of the future. Given that there are only about a dozen quarterbacks on the face of the Earth who seem to check off most of the boxes for their respective fan bases, chances are that it won't work out. That's not a knock on Watson, it's just the math of the whole thing. Nobody has a crystal ball.
But let me also say that even amidst the complete and utter failure the Texans have experienced at the quarterback position since signing Brock Osweiler last season, the set of moves over the past 12 months that culminated with Watson getting a phone call from Rick Smith have been a refreshing change for this organization from a risk-taking standpoint.
After years of staying on a "soft 17" with Matt Schaub, and two years of hoping the dealer would bust while holding a "12" with Fitzpatrick, Hoyer, Mallett and friends, the Texans at least started to make some big-boy moves at the blackjack tables. Signing Osweiler, as it turns out, was a failure in evaluation, but not in rationale. Swing big, try to get your guy. They did, they busted, but trying was defensible.
Ejecting from Osweiler was also the right thing to do, cost (a second-round pick in 2018) be damned. The first year didn't work, they knew it never would going forward, so they ejected swiftly...right move. Finally, trading next year's first-round pick to the Browns to move up 13 spots to draft Clemson's Deshaun Watson last night is the type of bold move a QB-starved franchise needs, and a move that its players and fans deserve.
It's going to be uncomfortable trying to operate next draft season without a first or second pick (for now), but nothing that's worth it comes easy. This is the price the Texans have chosen and paid, and if Watson works out as a future franchise quarterback, the truth is he's worth about the next FIVE years' first-round picks. It may work, it may not, but it's a bold move, and if nothing else, the Texans have gotten good at making bold moves over the last year. I like that.
Now, a few follow-up questions (and educated answers) on this monumental trade and selection that went down Thursday night...
1. So three quarterbacks went in the first round, all in trade-up situations — how did the Texans trade compare to the other two?
Very well, if you're a Texans fan. The cost to move up 13 spots (2018's first-round pick) wasn't cheap, but it was about the going rate. As a basis of comparison, the Chiefs sent their 2018 first rounder and 2017 third rounder to move up 17 spots in the first round to take Texas Tech's Pat Mahomes, and the Bears got fleeced by 49ers rookie GM John Lynch by sending their third- and fourth-round picks in 2017, and their third-round pick in 2018 to move up one spot from third to second overall to draft UNC's Mitchell Trubisky. Yikes.
2. So a trade with the Browns again? What does the overall sum total of this trade and the Osweiler trade look like?
This is probably a good way to look at the transaction last night, as Rick Smith has clearly had an open line of conversation going with Browns VP Sashi Brown in trying to fix the Texans QB position, so here goes:
QB Brock Osweiler
S Jabrill Peppers (25th pick)
Texans 2018 1st round pick
Texans 2018 2nd round pick
Texans 2017 6th round pick (188th, orig. Bears)
QB Deshaun Watson (12th pick)
Browns 2017 4th round pick (142nd, comp. pick)
$10 million in extra cap space (Brock relief)
Bottom line — if Watson becomes "the guy," the Texans are laughing. If he doesn't, then everyone except Rick Smith is fired (because...well, because Rick Smith).
3. So, who is the starting quarterback for the Texans?
Bill O'Brien didn't go WAY out of his way to say it in the post-pick press conference, but he did casually mention that Tom Savage is their starting quarterback. Rick Smith, at one point, tried to remind the media that the team REALLY likes Tom Savage (who has yet to throw a touchdown pass as an NFL player, and who has never been given the chance to compete for the starting position until this season, in which it's being HANDED to him). I would expect Watson to start at some point this coming season, given his intelligence level, Savage's propensity to get hurt and the fact that Watson is the most talented QB on the roster.
4. What did some of the other players think of the pick?
Well, DeAndre Hopkins seems to be in favor of it...
— Deandre Hopkins (@Nukdabomb) April 28, 2017
As is Jadeveon Clowney...
5. Most important, what is this Watson fellow like, anyway?
The positives — clutch performer, winner, off-the-chart intangibles, athletic, intelligent, can hurt teams with his legs, isn't Brock Osweiler.
The negatives — arm strength, accuracy (sort of), a little turnover-prone.
But is he, as Matt Schaub would day, TEXAN WORTHY? Well, you be the judge...
Look, you're going to be inundated with "intangibles" and "winner" talk with Watson, so if you're someone who needs a certain speed on his fastball, or a certain vertical leap or cone run, this is a good time to go get a bottle of whiskey and begin drinking heavily. That said, you could see where the Texans would be hypersensitive to their next franchise quarterback overflowing with leadership qualities when they just endured a year of the Big Anti-tangible, Brock Osweiler.
Finally, if you're wondering why the Texans would trade a treasured first-round pick next season for a move up to get a quarterback, especially in light of their success with first rounders (every single one going back to 2008 still on the roster), consider this — what have all those GREAT first rounders gotten them? A bunch of division titles in a crappy division? The possibility of going 9-7 for the fourth straight year?
What I'm saying is, in a way, the Texans should know better than anybody else what the value of being successful at picking first rounders is without having a franchise QB — at best, it gets you 9-7.
Swing big or go home, and the Texans swung big. Again.
Rookie minicamp begins May 12.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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