Sean Pendergast

Setting Expectations For Each Houston Texans 2018 Draft Choice

Bill O'Brien gets to begin molding the Texans' rookie class later this week.
Bill O'Brien gets to begin molding the Texans' rookie class later this week. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Up until this week, the NFL's offseason calendar has been practically all roster-building activities — free agency signings, draft evaluation, the actual draft, with a few weight room (sorry, SPORTS PERFORMANCE CENTER) sessions mixed in. Now, this week, the Texans' rookie class arrives to NRG Stadium to allow the coaching staff to begin the acclimation process to professional sports.

This Texans' rookie class comes in with very little fanfare, in large part because it lacks the star power of a first or second round pick. However, the opportunities for this entire set of eight drafted rookies to not only make the 53-man roster, but to contribute, as well, are right there for the taking.

Consider for a moment the roster that these rookies are stepping onto — a top heavy list of players with about a dozen or so decent to superstar players, and after that, a slew of question marks. Last season, with Deshaun Watson setting records, the team was still 3-4 when he went down with a knee injury, and finished 1-8 after that. The Texans sent 16 players into unrestricted free agency off their final roster, and to this point, the only one who got a multi-year deal for anything more than just above minimum was Johnathan Joseph, and that was just a  TWO YEAR DEAL... oh, and he re-signed WITH THE TEXANS.

My point is that 2017's roster was not deep, nor was it very good, and these rookies will not have to be anything special to make the team and possibly provide an impact. (To be clear, when I set "make the team" as a bar to clear, I'm directing that more toward the sixth and seventh round picks.)

So let's set some parameters for preseason performance for the eight drafted rookies, by identifying the veteran players on the current roster who should be put on notice with the selection of each drafted rookie. Here we go:

JUSTIN REID, safety, 3rd round
 Pushes ANDRE HAL for starter's reps at safety
WORST CASE: Battles COREY MOORE to see the field early

MARTINAS RANKIN, offensive lineman, 3rd round
BEST CASE: Shoots past JULIEN DAVENPORT in tackle race
WORST CASE: Replaces KENDAL LAMM as swing tackle

JORDAN AKINS, tight end, 3rd round
BEST CASE: Replaces STEPHEN ANDERSON as second tight end
WORST CASE: Fourth tight in a tight end stew, makes 53-man roster

KEKE COUTEE, slot receiver, 4th round
BEST CASE: Starter's reps at slot WR over BRUCE ELLINGTON
WORST CASE: Battles with BRAXTON MILLER to make the 53-man roster

DUKE EJIOFOR, outside linebacker
WORST CASE: Special teams body, makes 53-man roster

JORDAN THOMAS, tight end, 6th round
BEST CASE: Replaces STEPHEN ANDERSON as third TE after Jordan Akins bumps Anderson from second TE to third TE
WORST CASE: Practice squad

PETER KALAMBAYI, outside/inside linebacker, 6th round
BEST CASE: Squeezes one BEN HEENEY or BRIAN PETERS as a depth LB/special teamer
WORST CASE: Practice squad

JERMAINE KELLY, cornerback, 7th round
BEST CASE: Makes the team as 5th CB over DEE VIRGIN
WORST CASE: Practice squad

Let's see how this all goes over the next four months!

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast