Up until Thursday evening, it had been practically two years to the day since the Houston Texans had the opportunity to use a first round pick in the NFL Draft. The last time they had a pick in the first round, it was their former GM Rick Smith moving up in the draft to select Deshaun Watson. This time, it was Brian Gaine making the pick, knowing full well that a priority was to find someone to help protect Watson, who was battered for 65 sacks last season.
Just as the most preferred form of help (Andre Dillard, left tackle from Washington State) seemed to be falling into their laps at the 23rd overall pick last night, in swooped the Philadelphia Eagles, trading a fourth and sixth round pick to move up and nab the 22nd pick in the draft and select Dillard. From there, frustration turned into confusion, as the Texans used the 23rd overall pick on a tackle, Tytus Howard, a project out of FCS school Alabama State.
To say the crowd at the Texans' draft party was stunned would be an understatement. In 2011, they booed the selection of J.J. Watt. in 2017, they cheered Deshaun Watson like he was conquering hero. In 2019, they stood quietly, and said "Who?" Fair question. Let's try to answer it. Or, better yet, let's let Texans sideline reporter John Harris answer it with this scouting report:
Tytus Howard...here you go. pic.twitter.com/vmmlsXM79P— John Harris (@jharrisfootball) April 26, 2019
Look, in the short term, there's not much you can say to Texan fans that will make them feel better about this pick, especially considering they came one pick away from getting everyone's preferred solution at tackle in Dillard. The only thing that can make this pick feel right is Howard developing and turning into a foundational player for this team.
The concern here is that Howard is clearly a developmental project who will be coached by an offensive line coach, Mike Devlin, who hasn't really developed any offensive linemen. I mean, sure, undrafted free agents Greg Mancz and Kendall Lamm turned themselves into good enough players to get low level backup money from the Texans and Browns, respectively, but have any of the Texans young drafted linemen improved on Devlin's watch?
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Xavier Su'a-Filo was a washout. Julien Davenport is a mess. Nick Martin has not lived up to second round pick billing. We'll see about Martinas Rankin, but that's off to a slow start. In short, why should I feel like Devlin is going to smooth off the rough edges on Howard, and turn him into the next Duane Brown? Or turn him into even a fraction of Duane Brown?
With this pick, Brian Gaine is throwing a massive heat check. The opportunity to snag Dillard, presumably for a couple mid to late round picks was there, but he obviously had a comparable grade on Howard, so they hung tight at 23rd. The bigger questions are twofold — first, would Howard have been there in the second round for the Texans at the 54th or 55th selections, and second, what does Gaine do tonight to round out the other three picks the Texans own inside the top 86?
There are some good names on the board — tackle Jawaan Taylor, cornerback Greedy Williams, offensive lineman Cody Ford, cornerback Byron Murphy, and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, to name a few. The Texans will be on the clock sometime around 7:30 p.m. here in Houston, but in some ways, for many Texan fans, the clock began ticking on Brian Gaine last night.