DeAndre Hopkins is gone, on his way to Arizona in a trade that has been widely considered one of the most lopsided in the history of team sports. The Houston Texans, more specifically Bill O'Brien, got fleeced by the Arizona Cardinals, and not even a failed physical by David Johnson (the overpriced running back the Texans acquired in the deal) will bring Hopkins back. (It would, more likely, result in a reworking of the original trade, but I digress.)
So now, here the Texans sit, with the 40th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft as their "grand prize" (MASSIVE air quotes around that) from the deal. Purely guessing, but the odds of finding an asset, with the 40th overall pick, that helps the Texans as much as Hopkins did in previous seasons are microscopic. The odds of the 40th overall selection helping right away to that degree are basically zero.
Removing some of the guesswork, let's take a look at the recent history of the 40th overall selection in the draft and see what the results have been, and then see if we feel any better about this trade. I went all the way back to 1980, and here's what I found:
There were two Hall of Famers chosen at 40th overall in those 40 drafts.
Hey, two Hall of Famers out of 40 drafts! That's 5 percent, so it's a pretty good, sporting chance, right? (OK, I'm ducking from all the tomatoes and other projectiles that you all are throwing at me, I get it.) Hey, the two Hall of Famers actually have deep Houston ties. Thurman Thomas was drafted with the 40th overall selection by the Buffalo Bills in 1988. The Willowridge and Oklahoma State product would go on to play in four Super Bowls and amass over 16,500 yards from scrimmage in a 13-year career. The other Hall of Famers is Michael Strahan, the 40th overall pick in 1993. The Westbury High and TSU product was a four time first team All Pro, and won the Super Bowl with the Giants in 2007, knocking off the undefeated Patriots.
The 40th overall pick, over the last 40 drafts, has accounted for 18 Pro Bowls.
OK, so that's the cream of the crop for the 40th selection, what about the next layer down — the Pro Bowl. Well, funny you should ask! Since 1980, 40th overall selections have made a total of 18 Pro Bowls, with 12 of those coming from Strahan and Thomas. The other six combined Pro Bowls come from CB Eric Wright (2 Pro Bowls, drafted 1981 by San Francisco), WR Courtland Sutton (2018, Broncos), LB E.J. Henderson (2003, MIN), LB Ian Gold (2000, Denver), and C Tim Grunhard (1990, Kansas City. For a bit of perspective, DeAndre Hopkins has been named to four Pro Bowls, or two fewer than all of the non-Hall of Fame 40th overall selections since 1980 combined.
There are five active players remaining in the league taken 40th overall.
Here is where the rubber really meets the road — what have teams done recently with the 40th overall selection? Right now, there are five players taken 40th overall who are still active in the NFL. They are as follows:
TRAYVON MULLEN, CB, RAIDERS (2019)
Mullen started 10 games last season and played in all 16 for the Raiders. It's obviously still way too early to judge his body of work, but his development did make it easier for the Raiders to deal Gareon Conley to the Texans for a third round pick.
COURTLAND SUTTON, WR, BRONCOS (2018)
We just mentioned Sutton above in the mix of Pro Bowlers, so he probably represents the best case scenario for the Texans picking at 40th overall next month — a play making wide receiver, who is making a big impact in Year 2. Sutton's yardage wasn't far off from Hopkins' in 2019, with the second year wideout getting 1,112 yards receiving on 72 catches.
CURTIS SAMUEL, WR, PANTHERS (2017)
Samuel took a nice jump in Year 3 of his career, playing in all 16 games for the first time in his three seasons in the league, and flashing as a weapon in both the passing game (627 yards receiving, 6 touchdowns) and in the run game (130 yards rushing on 19 carries). With Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback (as opposed to Kyle Allen), expect Samuel's numbers to rise again in 2020.
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STERLING SHEPARD, WR, GIANTS (2016)
I loved Sterling Shepard coming out of Oklahoma in 2016, and in his first three seasons, he was a solid complement to Odell Beckham, Jr. His best season was 2018, where he played all 16 games, and put up 872 yards receiving and four touchdowns. Last April, the Giants signed Shepard to a four year, $41 million contract extension.
KYLE VAN NOY, LB, LIONS (2014)
Van Noy started his career as a Detroit Lion, but in October 2016, the Lions traded him to the Patriots (along with a seventh round pick) for a sixth round pick. This became one of Bill Belichick's great under-the-radar moves, as Van Noy became a fixture on a Patriot defense that would win two Super Bowls in his three-plus seasons there. This past week, he signed a four year, $51 million deal with the Dolphins.
OK, so there were a few good players picked 40th over the last 40 seasons. I guess maybe I feel slightly better, only because it's impossible to feel any worse about the Hopkins trade.