Will Fuller's big play ability will be a huge key to his long-term future with the Texans.
Will Fuller's big play ability will be a huge key to his long-term future with the Texans.
Photo by Eric Sauseda

Setting Expectations For Each Houston Texans Third Year Player

When you begin to dissect the third year players on an NFL roster, the hope that there are future foundational names begins to get very acute and very real, because for many of these players, the upcoming 2018 season will be the front office's referendum on whether or not to make them part of the plan beyond 2018 and 2019.

We saw last offseason, in 2017, with a few of the third-year-heading into-fourth-year players — C.J. Fiedorowicz, Jay Prosch, Andre Hal, specifically — that the team decided to secure them for a little longer with multi-year extensions. In one case, Fiedorowicz's, it didn't work out due to medical reasons, with Fiedorowicz sustaining multiple concussions and calling it a career. The Hal deal (around $5 million a year for three years) looks fine, and the Prosch deal (3 years, $5.75 million) is mice nuts.

With 2015's draft class, we will find out over the next few months just what the Texans have planned. Bernardrick McKinney seems to be a lock to get an extension with a year left on his rookie deal, and the team just exercised Kevin Johnson's fifth year option for 2019 a few weeks ago, although it's only guaranteed in case of injury. The only other 2015 draftee left on the roster is Christian Covington, who I'm guessing the Texans will let play out the string in 2018 before deciding anything with him.

That brings us to our subject of this post, the upcoming third year players, which is comprised of the 2016 draft class and the 2016 undrafted free agents. Amazingly, there are more of the latter (seven) than the former (five) on this season's roster, as of right now. As we've done with this season's drafted rookies and this season's sophomore class, let's determine the floors and ceilings for all of these third year guys, as they try to go get that long-term cheddar:

WILL FULLER, wide receiver, 1st round
BEST CASE:
 Fuller's first 1,000 yard season, double digit touchdown receptions
WORST CASE: 40 catches, occasional flashes of downfield speed, a half dozen drops

NICK MARTIN, center, 2nd round
BEST CASE: It all comes together, Martin makes a Pro Bowl
WORST CASE: Inconsistency, Martin flirts with a demotion or position change

BRAXTON MILLER, wide receiver, 3rd round
BEST CASE: Starting slot wide receiver
WORST CASE: Released at the end of training camp

TYLER ERVIN, running back, 4th round
BEST CASE: Asserts himself as viable third down option
WORST CASE: Released at the end of training camp

D.J. READER, defensive tackle, 5th round
BEST CASE: Plays himself into a nice extension in the 2019 offseason
WORST CASE: Rotation body in the defensive line

STEPHEN ANDERSON, tight end, undrafted
BEST CASE: Keeps his spot as a secondary tight end
WORST CASE: Released

KA'IMI FAIRBAIRN, kicker, undrafted
BEST CASE: Gains more consistency in second full season, scores lots and lots of PAT's
WORST CASE: Gets into a "Bullock 2015" situation, competition brought into building in camp or early in the regular season

JOEL HEATH, defensive end, undrafted
BEST CASE: In the defensive line rotation
WORST CASE: Released

UFOMBA KAMALU, outside linebacker, undrafted
BEST CASE: Makes the 53 man roster as backup outside linebacker
WORST CASE: Released

GREG MANCZ, center/guard, undrafted
BEST CASE: Swing interior offensive line backup
WORST CASE: Released

COREY MOORE, safety, undrafted
BEST CASE: Third safety behind Tyrann Mathieu and Andre Hal
WORST CASE: Released

BRENNAN SCARLETT, outside linebacker, undrafted
BEST CASE: Starting outside linebacker (assuming Clowney is treated as more of defensive lineman), makes big progress between Seasons 2 and 3
WORST CASE: Back end of the roster, special teams, occasionally inactive

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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