I will preface this post by saying that I think one of the silliest things in the sports world are NFL Draft report cards that are doled out THE WEEK AFTER THE DRAFT. You may respond by saying "But Sean, we need to hold our general managers accountable! They MUST be graded!", and that's all well and good. The thing is that the quality of a draft class is something that's determined over a period of years. (And yes, I get that NFL draft sites want clicks and all. I mean, I write for a website.)
To bring this back around to real life, and this is something I can relate to because I am helping plan a wedding (my own on February 29, 2020), but imagine you're planning a wedding. Ultimately, the guests are going to rate how good or bad the wedding was, right? Well, imagine if that grade was given out after merely booking the florist, the starrier, and the band. Before a single flower was put out, hors d'oeuvres consumed, or song played, you were like "Man, my wedding deserves an A-!"
My point is that the grade of a draft class really only matters after the development of the players over a two or three year period has played out, and even then what constitutes an A or a B is up for debate. Would you rather have a single All Pro from a draft class or four solid contributors? That kind of thing.
So, with that grain of salt plunked down into the middle of the table, I am here to tell you that the frontline NFL draft experts are NOT big fans of what Brian Gaine and the Texans' staff did in the draft last week. The website Football Outsiders actually compiles all of the relevant draft report cards, and combines them into a GPA grading format, which is pretty compelling, even for as inherently flawed as the draft report card process is.
The experts are the following:
Mel Kiper (ESPN+)
Evan Silva Rotoworld (AFC) (NFC)
Eric Edholm NFLDraftScout.com (Yahoo Sports)
Nate Davis (USA Today)
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)
Chad Reuter (NFL.com)
Kristopher Knox (Bleacher Report)
Mark Maske (Washington Post)
Dan Kadar (SBNation)
Andy Benoit (Sports Illustrated)
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports)
Doug Farrar (USA Today)
Unfortunately, if you buy into this sort of thing, the Texans' had the second worst draft of any team in the league, behind only the New York Giants, a team who was widely ridiculed the Friday after the first round for drafting Duke QB Daniel Jones about a dozen slots higher than anyone had him going. Here is the Texans' summary:
2. Houston Texans
Highest: B (Benoit, Iyer)
Lowest: D (Davis, Knox)
Comments: According to many of our draft gurus, a lot of the picks the Houston Texans made in this draft were reaches. After the Philadelphia Eagles leapfrogged the Texans in the first round to select Andre Dillard, Houston went on to select Alabama State tackle Tytus Howard. While many cite Howard's potentially high ceiling, most consider the selection a massive reach. Kiper had Howard and Houston's second-round selection, Northern Illinois tackle Max Scharping, as third-round linemen. Addressing the offensive line was a necessity for Houston, seeing as they surrendered a league-leading 62 sacks last year. They just happened to address the need in the wrong way.
Kentucky cornerback Lonnie Johnson was brought on to address needs in a depleted secondary; it may be the lone praised selection for Houston this offseason. Many also like the selection of Texas defensive end Charles Omenihu, who was considered a Day 2 selection. However, the Texans failed to address wide receiver, their second-biggest need, altogether.
So basically, according to this group, the Texans are on academic probation. It shouldn't be a surprise, given that these report cards tend to skew positive grades toward the teams with (a) an inordinate number of draft choices at their disposal, and (b) players with recognizable names, that played at big time schools. The Texans had neither of those things.
In case you're wondering, here is what a decent grade for the Texans sounds like, courtesy of Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit:
The Texans’ biggest problem last year was they didn’t trust their offensive tackles—and with good reason. Knowing that youngsters Julie’n Davenport and Martinas Rankin (as well as the since-departed Kendall Lamm) could not survive one-on-one, Bill O’Brien kept tight ends and backs in to help block, which gave Deshaun Watson fewer options downfield and invited defenses to blitz more out of man coverage. The result was Watson taking about three seasons’ worth of hits. You could argue it was a misguided schematic approach to pass protection, but instead of toying with that approach in 2019, the Texans invested heavily in players who they hope can fix the problem on their own, taking Tytus Howard with their first-round pick and Max Scharping with their second.
One slot before Scharping, they drafted corner Lonnie Johnson, addressing a position that felled their defense in the playoffs and will need replenishing in 2020, as Bradley Roby and Johnathan Joseph are on expiring deals, while Aaron Colvin (last year’s big free agent pickup) will be cut if he doesn’t earn more playing time. The other notable pick is TE Kahale Warring, a high-upside freak athlete who could give O’Brien the mismatch weapon that he’s long sought but never had in Houston.
And here is what a (fairly uninformed) poor grade sounds like, courtesy of USA TODAY's Nate Davis:
Houston Texans: D
To describe their draft as uninspired might prove kind. History will determine whether GM Brian Gaine panicked by taking Alabama State OT Tytus Howard in the first round after letting the Eagles jump him for Dillard, seemingly the perfect guy to step in and safeguard battered QB Deshaun Watson. Also some skepticism as to how much Howard, second-round OT Max Scharping and third-round TE Kahale Warring are equipped to help this aging team win immediately.
This "aging" Texans team was one of the youngest in the NFL last season with a quarterback who is 23 years old, so... okay, I guess. For the record, the best five drafts, according to this grading methodology, belong to the Patriots, Cardinals, Redskins, Bills, and Broncos.
We will see you in 2021 to find out if any of this was accurate!