Sean Pendergast

The Degree of Difficulty In What Houston Texans GM Brian Gaine Is Trying To Accomplish

Brian Gaine's first crack at the first round of the NFL Draft is just days away.
Brian Gaine's first crack at the first round of the NFL Draft is just days away. Screen grab from
Our long wait is almost over, Texans fans. After more than 720 days without a first round pick in the NFL Draft, the Texans will soon be on the clock, picking 23rd overall in the draft coming up this Thursday night. The consensus says that they will take either an offensive lineman or a cornerback, but who knows? This is the first time Brian Gaine's had a first round pick as a general manager.

Hell, this is the first time that Brian Gaine's had a SECOND round pick as a general manager. In fact, he has two of them, thanks to the Duane Brown trade back in 2017. Actually, that's a good jumping off point for the crux of this post — one first round pick, two second round picks, and then a third round pick, as well. Indeed, Brian Gaine has four picks among the top 86 in this draft.

We know this is an important fact of which to take note, because Gaine pointed it out not just once during the first five minutes of his pre-draft press conference on Thursday:

“First I’d like to start out by just thanking some groups of people here. It’s an exciting time to be in player personnel and scouting and to be involved in the football operation here. But just a lot of people to thank behind the scenes – the scouts, obviously. They’ve been out there on the road since August, grinding away, sacrificing, countless hours and days spent on the road away from their families. The coaching staff, pairing with them here from January here all the way through April, the time spent on the evaluations. They were out on the road for us as well. The trainers and the docs (doctors), their commitment to providing us the medical evaluations, and just the support staff. There’s a ton of people behind the scenes who really help us arrive here to this point in time. So, just a lot of gratitude and appreciation to the staff to be here at this moment right now. We’re very excited in terms of our scouting operation, our player personnel operation, the coaching staff. We have four picks here in the top 86, so we get four selections here in the top three rounds. We’re going to get four very good players. As it relates to that, we have seven picks overall. We’re certainly excited about that. Ready to go to work. We’ll let the board speak for itself and let the board talk to us.”
.... but twice:

“Correct. We were able to address some situations in free agency, and free agency’s certainly more of a needs-driven environment. We felt like we were able to add some pieces to the puzzle here to help us come into this draft and to be in position to take the next best player. So, we’re pleased with some of the things we did in free agency and now we’re positioned here in the draft, I think, to go back to this, to get four players in the top 86. We hope, at some point in time, all four of those players would be starters or eventual starters if you’re drafting them in the first three rounds. So, we have an opportunity here and we have every intention of getting it right, to potentially get four new starters in seven days’ time.”
So, let's examine the degree of difficulty of what Gaine is trying to accomplish — acquiring four "very good players," getting "four eventual starters" in the first 86 picks. Those are Gaine's exact words. To examine this, let's look at the recent history in the NFL Draft as it pertains to the four draft slots the Texans will use, barring a trade — the 23rd, 54th, 55th, and 86th overall selections.

We will use Pro Football Reference's draft index for our information, including their Approximate Value (AV) metric, which is a cumulative stat that adds up the value of a player throughout his career, based on a fairly complex formula. We will go back to 1990, so we have 29 years worth of data. For the "Average Years Starting" and "AV" metrics, we will use players from 1990 through 2014, since those stats become artificially diminished by adding younger, more recent players:

Let's start with the recent history of the 23rd overall pick:

23rd OVERALL PICKS THIS DECADE (* still in the league in 2018):
* 2018, NE - Isaiah Wynn, T, Georgia
* 2017, NYG - Evan Engram, TE, Ole MIss
* 2016, MIN - Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
* 2015, DEN - Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
* 2014, KC - Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
2013, MIN - Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
* 2012, DET - Riley Reiff, T, Iowa
2011, PHI - Danny Watkins, G, Baylor
* 2010, GB - Bryan Bulaga, T, Iowa

AVG. YEARS STARTING (picks thru 2014): 5.04
CAREER AV (picks thru 2014): 32.48

5 - Ty Law (1995)
3 - Antoine Winfield (1999)
2- Davin Joseph (2006), Willis McGahee (2004), Deuce McAllister (2001), Jeff Hartings (1996)
1- Dee Ford (2014), Dwayne Bowe (2007),

2- Ty Law (1995)
1 - Jeff Hartings (1996)

HALL OF FAMERS: Ty Law (1995)

Michael Oher (2009), the Blind Side!.... Antowain Smith (1997), former Coog.... Randal Hill (1991), will forever be remembered by me for the most soul crushing play in Notre Dame history.

And now it gets more daunting. Here's the the 54th overall pick:

54th OVERALL PICKS THIS DECADE (* still in the league in 2018):
* 2018, CIN - Jessie Bates, S, Wake Forest
* 2017, MIA - Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
* 2016, MIN - Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
* 2015, DET - Ameer Abdullah, RB< Nebraska
2014, TEN - Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
* 2013, MIA - Jamar Taylor, DB, Boise State
2012, DET - Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
2011, PHI - Jaiquawn Jarrett, DB, Temple
* 2010, CIN - Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida

AVG. YEARS STARTING (picks thru 2014): 3.12
CAREER AV (picks thru 2014): 23.32

3 - Anquan Boldin (2003)
2 - Carlos Dunlap (2010)


 Bernard Pollard (2006), a former Texan favorite, began his journey as the 54th pick in the draft... other than that, this draft slot reads like a "30 for 30" on my failed running back fantasy picks — Abdullah, Sankey, Maurice Morris (2002), Mike Cloud (1999), yeesh.

And now, with the 55th overall pick:

55th OVERALL PICKS THIS DECADE (* still in the league in 2018):
* 2018, CAR - Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
* 2017, NYG - Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama
* 2016, CIN - Tyler Boyd, WR, Pitt
* 2015, BAL - Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
* 2014, CIN - Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
* 2013, SF - Vance McDonald, TE, RIce
2012, ATL - Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
* 2011, KC - Rodney Hudson, C, Florida State
* 2010, DAL - Sean Lee, ILB, Penn State

AVG. YEARS STARTING (picks thru 2014): 3.76
CAREER AV (picks thru 2014): 27.68

4 - Andrew Whitworth (2006)
3 - Ray Rice (2008)
2 - Sean Lee (2010)
2 - Rodney Hudson (2011)
1 - William Moore (2009)

2 - Andrew Whitworth (2006)
1 - Sean Lee (2010)


OTHER NOTABLES: This draft slot is probably best known for its two infamous sucker punchers, Jeremy Hill (2015) and Ray Rice (2008).... Greg Jones (2004) has a pretty sweet viral moment that is far less illegal than those other two... the best case scenario for the Texans is they find the next Andrew Whitworth at 55 overall.

And finally, the 86th overall pick:

86th OVERALL PICKS THIS DECADE (* still in the league in 2018):
* 2018, BAL - Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
* 2017, KC - Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
* 2016, MIA - Leonte Carron, WR, Rutgers
* 2015, AZ - David Johnson, RB, Northern Iowa
* 2014, PHI - Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
2013, IND - Hugh Thornton, G, Illinois
2012, PIT - Sean Spence, LB, Miami (FL)
* 2011, KC - Allen Bailey, DE, Miami (FL)
2010, PHI - Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE, Washington

AVG. YEARS STARTING (picks thru 2014): 1.72
CAREER AV (picks thru 2014): 15.76

7 - Marshal Yanda (2007)
1 - Kareem Hunt (2017), David Johnson (2015), Bertrand Berry (1997), Tedy Bruschi (1996)

2 - Marshal Yanda (2007)
1 - David Johnson (2015)


OTHER NOTABLES: Humble's own Bertrand Berry (1997) and Patriot three time Super Bowl winner Tedy Bruschi were drafted in this spot. Also, the damn QB who threw that ball to Randal Hill on that 3rd and 43 play in the above video was drafted 86th overall. It's like the football gods hate me today!

SUMMARY: The average player coming out of the 23rd spot is, at best, a serviceable starter for a few years. After that, the average career length of the second round guys is less than the length of a rookie contract, and most of the third round are guys are out of the league fairly quickly.The Texans need to hit for a much higher average in all of these spots, especially if they're drafting a left tackle or a cornerback, if Gaine is going to live up to his self-proclaimed hopes.

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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