The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, and for the Houston Texans, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that, despite a draft class where they didn't pick until the third round and only came away with five players, the Texans' 2021 Super Bowl odds were not adversely affected by the draft. The bad news is that they went into the draft with the worst odds to win the Super Bowl of any team in the NFL (150 to 1, if you're curious), and that's exactly where they remain: Rock Bottom.
If there is one big takeaway from this past weekend, it's that the draft was a sobering reminder that this rebuild is going to be a long, painful, arduous process. Bill O'Brien did more damage to this roster than I think we even cared to acknowledge during a mess of a 2020 season. Call it denial, call it what you will. This team is a mess, and its draft was underwhelming, through no real fault of new GM Nick Caserio, who was left with very little to work with.
As a result, the slew of experts that put out draft report cards, collectively, destroyed the Texans' effort to refortify their roster, as they received the worst composite grade of the 32 NFL teams when you add together the couple dozen prominent NFL Draft analysts. The chart with the total grades is below:
So, in this letter grade format, the Texans have a composite GPA of 1.71. It's not a Blutarsky situation, but by NFL standards, it's not far off.
OK, beyond that, here are some thoughts on the grades for these NFL draft classes:
The key to "report card" success — having multiple first round picks
These NFL Draft report cards are more about quantity than quality. If you have extra picks, it's really hard to get a grade below a "B" level. There were four teams that had multiple first round picks in this draft, thanks to trades for prominent non-QB position players — Jacksonville (for CB Jalen Ramsey), New York Jets (for safety Jamal Adams), Miami (for LT Laremy Tunsil), and Baltimore (for OT Orlando Brown). Those four teams finished 8th, 5th, 4th, and 11th among the 32 teams. So considering the Texans are likely to deal Deshaun Watson at some point for draft capital that includes multiple future first round picks, expect them to grade out much better in the 2022 and 2023 drafts.
The key to "report card" failure — there are a few
So let's look at the bottom five teams in the report card exercise for the NFL Draft. Starting at the bottom of the barrel with the Texans. They didn't have a first or second round pick, so they were operating with a major glass ceiling. The Seahawks finished 31st, and selected just three players. The Raiders finished 30th, had their full complement of picks, but reached heavily on their first round pick by drafting OL Alex Leatherwood from Alabama. The 29th rated team, the Rams, didn't have a first round pick, and finally the 28th rated team, the Saints, had only six picks. The lesson here? If you want to finish out of the cesspool of the report card world, have at least seven picks, including your first round pick, and don't reach in the first round.
The AFC South didn't exactly knock it out of the park
The Texans finished at the bottom of the barrel in this exercise, and that's obviously bad. To repeat what I stated earlier, the rebuild of this team will be long and painful. If there is a silver lining, and we believe the pundits, it's not like the AFC South took a quantum leap ahead of them during this draft. The Jaguars did a nice job, finishing 8th overall, but that should be expected, considering they had the first overall pick in the draft with a generational talent at quarterback. The Titans are 20th and the Colts are just 25th on the report card big board. So it's not like any of the Texans' opposition in the division ran away and hid, in terms of its drafted talent influx. So that's a small positive in a sea of largely negative news this offseason.
The Dolphins can thank the Texans for their stellar grades
Hey, let's really torture ourselves for a second and circle back to the grades near the top of the board. The Miami Dolphins, with a bounty of picks in 2021 and future years stemming from the Laremy Tunsil trade, finished 4th overall in this report card exercise. They turned the Texans' 3rd overall pick into a net gain of the 6th overall pick and an extra 2023 first round pick. If Jaylen Waddle, who they used the 6th overall pick on, ends up being the real deal, it will be doubly painful for Texans fans as not only did they use the net gain from the Texans' pick to draft him, but Waddle played his high school football at Episcopal High just off the 610 Loop here in Houston. OUCH.