Predicting a team's 53-man roster on the first day of training camp is obviously an exercise fraught with inherent inaccuracy risk. Certainly, injuries can undermine the accuracy of what you're about to read, but history also tells us that there will be a couple names about which we have zero clue right now, names who will become integral parts of the roster conversation as Week 1 of the regular season draws closer.
I can actually rephrase the previous paragraph in a much easier context by telling you that my initial crack at a 53-man roster for the Texans last season, around a year ago, included Wendell Williams, Sio Moore, and Robert Nelson. So... yeah, tough sledding.
That said, I must be fearless! I must put myself out there! So here's my first version of the 53-man roster for the 2018 Houston Texans, and here's to going back and laughing at a few of these names a year from now. Let's do this....
THE VETERAN and DRAFT PICK LOCKS
QUARTERBACK (1): Deshaun Watson
There's only one quarterback right now that I'll call a "lock" to make the team, and he is a lock to make the team from now until about 2030.
RUNNING BACK (2): Lamar Miller, D'Onta Foreman
The two locks to make it at running back are the same two that were locks last year. The only variable here is Foreman's health, as he comes back from an Achilles tear that ended his rookie season in November
WIDE RECEIVER (4): DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Keke Coutee, Bruce Ellington
The first three are no surprises, as Hopkins might be the best receiver in football, Fuller is in line for a breakout year if he can stay healthy, and Coutee is my pick to win the slot receiver role. Ellington makes the cut as a lock based on his performance after being picked up off the street last season.
TIGHT END (2): Ryan Griffin, Jordan Akins
There are four names in line for what might be three tight end spots. Griffin, as the most experienced and most productive, makes the team, and Akins, as the third round pick, makes it, too.
OFFENSIVE LINE (7): Zach Fulton, Senio Kelemete, Nick Martin, Julien Davenport, Seantrel Henderson, Greg Mancz, Martinas Rankin
Lots and lots of new names, thanks to free agency (Fulton, Kelemete, Henderson) and the draft (Rankin).
DEFENSIVE LINE (3): J.J. Watt, D.J. Reader, Christian Covington
I am considering Clowney as a linebacker, listing-wise, so Watt, Reader, and Covington are the locks along the defensive line.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (3): Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney, Brennan Scarlett
Mercilus and Clowney are obvious picks, and I am going to go out on a limb and put Scarlett in here, as well, as he was making real progress before injuries cut his season short.
INSIDE LINEBACKER (3): Bernardrick McKinney, Zac Cunningham, Dylan Cole
McKinney just signed a contract extension making him one of the highest paid inside linebackers in football, and Cunningham may be right behind him in a couple years. Cole showed a serious nose for the football, while healthy, in 2017. O'Brien really likes him.
CORNERBACK (3): Aaron Colvin, Johnathan Joseph, Kevin Johnson
Solid threesome of corners if Johnson can return to his form of 2015 and 2016.
SAFETY (3): Tyrann Mathieu, Justin Reid, Kareem Jackson
Wow, last season the safety position heading into camp was Andre Hal and a bunch of guys who were undrafted or picked up off the street. Now, you've got the Honey Badger, a talented rookie in Reid, and a repurposed Kareem Jackson. Upgrade alert!
SPECIALISTS (3): Jon Weeks, Shane Lechler, Ka'imi Fairbairn
Easy group to nail down.
Okay, so before we start shopping from the training-camp bubble to fill out the 53-man roster, here's where we are:
OFFENSE (16): 1 QB, 2 RB, 4 WR, 2 TE, 7 OL
DEFENSE (15): 3 DL, 3 OLB, 3 ILB, 3 CB, 3 S
SPECIALISTS (3): 1 P, 1 LS, 1 K
So let's start filling out the rest of the roster with the next layer of the depth chart. Here we go...
35. Brandon Weeden, QB
I will put Weeden in here, but I don't have to like it. Look, Savage was abysmal last season, and Weeden got cut from a team that had Tom Savage. There has to be a better backup solution.
36. Jay Prosch, FB
My take on Prosch is unchanged from last year — there will be a fullback on this team. There's always a fullback on this team. I'm told Jay Prosch is good at doing fullback things.
37. Alfred Blue, RB
I so want to put undrafted rookie Terry Swanson in here as the third string running back, but my fear is they will revert back to Alfred Blue and the cloud of dust that comes with the three yards he gains each carry.
38. Chris Thompson, WR/ST
This is more of a special teams play than a wide receiver play. The Texans' behavior this offseason indicates an acute attempt to revamp special teams. Thompson's gunner abilities aid that endeavor.
39. Jordan Thomas, TE
My upset special — Thomas bumps Stephen Anderson off the roster. Boom.
40. Kyle Fuller, G
41. David Quessenberry, G
Interior line depth, and continued story about how awesome it is that David Quessenberry is playing football again.
42. Carlos Watkins, DT
43. Joel Heath, DE
44. Brandon Dunn, DT
Defensive line depth.
45. Duke Ejiofor, OLB
46. Ufomba Kamalu, OLB/DE
If Ejiofor was as good a draft value (because of injuries) as some say he is, he should be able to push Scarlett for snaps. Kamalu is an imposing, versatile body.
47. Brian Peters, ILB/ST
Another guy who makes the team because of leadership on special teams.
48. Treston Decoud, S
49. Corey Moore, S
Decoud moves to safety full time, but his experience at corner makes him a valuable backup piece. Corey Moore just won't go away!
50. Johnson Bademosi, CB/ST
The Texans made him the highest paid special team-specific player in football, so he should probably be a lock (and likely will be on Version 2.0)
So here are the numbers now:
OFFENSE (23): 2 QB, 4 RB, 5 WR, 3 TE, 9 OL
DEFENSE (24): 6 DL, 5 OLB, 4 ILB, 4 CB, 5 S
SPECIALISTS (3): 1 K, 1 P, 1 LS
Let's pick three players to round this bad boy out:
51. Sammie Coates, WR
Hey, the Steelers (who are the best in the NFL at picking wide receivers) saw something in Coates, enough to draft him. Worth the flyer the Texans are taking, I'll take him over Braxton Miller making the team.
52. Roderick Johnson, OT
I honestly feel like there's a decent shot that the Texans break camp with a tackle that's not on their roster right now, but for now, I'll put Johnson here.
53. Joe Webb, QB/ST
Hey, a third string QB and a special teamer, all in the same body! No way!
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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