The city of Houston is undoubtedly and rightfully excited about the trade its team made for future franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson last week. We should be excited! After all, the team hasn't used a first-round pick on a quarterback since its first selection ever as a franchise, David Carr in 2002.
However, lost in the euphoria of the Watson selection is the daunting fact that the Texans actually used TWO first-round picks to acquire Watson, one to select him and their 2018 pick as capital to move up enough spots to nab him at pick number 12. As a result, when you add in the 2018 second rounder that they also gave to the Browns to cajole them into taking Brock Osweiler's abortion of a contract, the Texans have essentially gutted their 2018 draft. As of right now, they won't pick until the third round.
The team's margin for error in finding at least a couple of key players from next year's draft has been reduced to almost zero. They'll be forced to find contributors in rounds where teams that are actually GOOD at drafting struggle to do so, let alone a team like the Texans that has struggled mightily to find the productive cheap labor in the back end of the draft that the great teams often do.
How clunky have the Texans been in Day 3 of the draft? Well, let's examine it, and figure out who the best ten players are that the Texans have acquired on Day 3. For our purposes here, this means we will go back as far as 2010, the first year the draft had a Day 3. (Previously, it was a two-day affair.) So, sorry, Arian Foster...you're not eligible for this list. (Foster was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009.)
Also, the rounds taking place on Day 3 have been the fourth through seventh rounds, but we will also include undrafted free agents, who are, of course, also acquired on Day 3, albeit in a different fashion. Let's start with a few honorable mentions...
EDDIE PLEASANT, S (2012, undrafted)
Finally came into his own a little bit in 2016 as a safety in dime packages, oftentimes as a blitzer. Also, he cut down on the special teams penalties as compared to 2015.
JARED CRICK, DE (2012, 4th round, 126th pick)
Started 31 of 32 games his final two seasons in Houston. Only had 5.5 sacks in those two seasons, but the coaching staff saw something in him, I suppose.
CHRISTIAN COVINGTON (2015, 6th round, 216th pick)
Started five games last season as regular rotation member of the defensive line, opposite Jadeveon Clowney.
GARRETT GRAHAM, TE (4th round, 118th pick)
Had 49 catches in a contract year (2013), and then actually re-signed on a multi-year deal for around $4 million per year. Released prior to 2016 season.
Now onto the best Day 3 acquisitions dating back to 2010...
10. JONATHAN GRIMES, RB (2012, undrafted)
Grimes was a training camp body who was eventually released, went and played for two other teams in 2012, and then was brought back. So while his lineage as a Texan is interrupted by five games as a Jet and a Jag, I am counting him for purposes of this list. Grimes would grow into a crucial role player and special teams stalwart, and last season, he always seemed to be good for one or two key plays a game. As of now, he has yet to sign a new deal for 2017 with anybody.
9. BRYAN BRAMAN, OLB (2011, undrafted)
Braman burst onto the scene in a preseason game against the Jets in 2011 with a couple of sacks and then became a crowd favorite as a special teams kamikaze, including in the above all-timer of a play, in which he goes skull-to-helmet on the Titans' Marc Mariani.
8. ALFRED BLUE, RB (2014, 6th round, 181st pick)
I have been trying for two years to lobby the team into upgrading the backup running back spot manned by Blue. They may have finally done it this offseason with D'Onta Foreman. For whatever reason, this coaching staff seems to love Blue, who does nothing at a really exceptional level. In three seasons, he's rushed for 1,646 yards on 3.6 yards per carry.
7. D.J. READER, DT (2016, 5th round, 166th pick)
Reader finds his way onto this list in part because of a rookie season in which he flashed signs of being a future impact player, and in part because of my optimism over said future. He will likely be the starting nose tackle for the Texans in 2017, with Vince Wilfork most likely calling it a career.
6. BEN JONES, C/G (2012, 4th round, 99th pick)
A fourth-round pick in 2012, Jones quickly became a valuable, versatile (but somewhat inconsistent) piece in 2012, starting ten games at right guard. In 2014, he started 16 games at left guard, and then took over at center in 2015 after Chris Myers was released, starting all 16 games that season. He left for Tennessee in 2016 on a four-year, $17 million deal.
5. DEREK NEWTON, OT (2011, 7th round, 214th pick)
Newton's career has been marked by inconsistency and some struggles in pass protection, but he's still been good enough to start 62 games from 2012 through 2015. He signed a second contract following the 2014 season, with $10 million guaranteed. Perhaps Newton's value was most profoundly felt in his ABSENCE after he ruptured both patellar tendons in 2016 against the Broncos in Week 7, leaving Texans fans to watch Chris Clark become the worst starting right tackle in the NFL.
4. ANDRE HAL, CB/S (2014, 7th round, 216th pick)
Drafted as a cornerback out of Vanderbilt, Hal made the move over to safety for the 2015 season and never looked back. He nabbed four interceptions in 2015 and two more in 2016, and returns as Houston's top safety for 2017.
3. RYAN GRIFFIN, TE (2013, 6th round, 201st pick)
Griffin had a breakout season in 2016, securing 50 catches, which exceeded his combined career total before 2016 (49 catches total in 2013 through 2015). The coaching staff and front office liked him enough to bring him back on a three-year, $9 million contract this offseason.
2. T.J. YATES, QB (2011, 5th round, 152nd pick)
Including the postseason, Yates has only started nine games as a Houston Texan, but that word "postseason" is the key. As a rookie in 2011, Yates went from third string to emergency starter with five games remaining in the season because of injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart. He would go on to lead the team to their first division title and first ever playoff win. Yates would return in 2015, this time after the release of Ryan Mallett, and start two more games. Yates is on the short list of former Texans who will never have to buy a drink within the Houston city limits.
1. A.J. BOUYE, CB (2013, undrafted)
Bouye had the single best season (48 tackles, 1 interception, 16 passes defended, one of the top CBs on Pro Football Focus) of anybody on this list, and in turn signed the single biggest second contract of anybody on this list, five years and $67.5 million with Jacksonville. This is good enough to put him at the top of this list.
In summary, as you can see, this is not exactly a star-studded group. A perennial backup quarterback and a tight end who's started 19 games in four seasons are in the top three, and this is a list that encompasses seven drafts. In short, Rick Smith is going to have to step up his Day 3 game big time come 2018.
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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