The Texans offseason has left the team in a weird spot — nearly all of Bill O'Brien's moves have been questionable, at best, and yet, I think they should probably be favored to win their third straight AFC South title. Much of my optimism is based in the existence of Deshaun Watson, but there needs to be contributions from others, as well.
So the question is "How equipped is this Texans' roster to make the postseason, and win a couple games in January?" Time will tell, but there are ways to examine the roster and overall talent level of this team. One of them is to see what people INSIDE the buildings around the league are saying. To that end, ESPN.com conducted a really insightful exercise over the last couple weeks, polling 50 people from around the NFL across multiple disciplines — executives, scouts, coaches, players — to find out who they think the top ten players are at each position. These rankings are for the 2020 season ONLY, not a ranking on their overall futures, or where they would go in a redraft of the league.
If you want the full lists, you can find them here:
* Tight ends
* Running backs
* Wide receivers
* Offensive tackles
* Interior offensive linemen
* Edge defenders
* Interior defensive linemen
* Off-ball linebackers
Here are a few thoughts I have on these rankings, as pertains to the Texans:
Deshaun Watson's ranking here seems very fair
Watson is ranked fourth among quarterbacks, which I think is very fair. He trails only Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers. I think it's tough to argue that Deshaun is a better 2020 option than either of the first two guys, and that's why the highest ranking he had among the 50 voters being 3rd best QB seems fair. Now, I'm not sure who voted Watson as the 11th best QB in the league, his worst ranking among the 50 voters, but someone did. Watson is the everything for the Texans.
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Is this vindication for Bill O'Brien regarding the Laremy Tunsil trade?
The highest rated player the Texans had at any position was left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who was rated by this cross section of 50 NFL people as the 2nd best offensive tackle in football. A couple things here — first, Tunsil is five years younger than the top rated tackle, Dallas Cowboy Tyron Smith. Beyond that, the question must be asked — does Tunsil's ranking here somewhat vindicate Bill O'Brien for giving up as much as he did to nab Tunsil from the Dolphins? That trade, while expensive, is looking more reasonable after Tunsil's first season here.
How do we process J.J. Watt's ranking as the fifth best player at his position?
It's strange, because on the one hand, you could look at J.J. Watt being ranked fifth at his position and say, that sure seems high for someone who's missed 32 of 64 games the last four years. On the other hand, when you take into account the gruesome nature of Watt's injuries in 2016 (herniated disc in his back) and 2017 (tibial plateau fracture), it's really miraculous that he's worked his way back into these conversations about elite players at various positions.
If granted one wish, which Texans' player would you choose to make the leap onto these lists next season?
Aside from the three Texans mentioned here, the only other current Texan to show up on these lists was inside linebacker Zach Cunningham as an honorable mention. The logical choices to work their way into these types of conversations this season would be safety Justin Reid, wide receiver Will Fuller (if he plays 16 games), running back David Johnson (if he gets rejuvenated), and maybe center Nick Martin.