I’ve never been one to hand out draft grades immediately following the end of a draft, but on paper, the Houston Texans appear to have had a very strong class. Of course, you can go back to a year ago and hear fans talking about how they got a steal in Sam Montgomery, so it’s always good to remember that this is on paper only. But the way to grade a draft early, in my opinion, is to judge it off of how many starts you think the team just drafted.
The Texans holes on the roster have been pretty glaring and to say you don’t see at least three or four of the rookies in this class winning starting spots in camp, you must be seeing something I’m not. But just how many starters do you think Houston got and which do you think will have the biggest impact as a rookie? What Jadeveon Clowney brings to the team has already been beaten into the ground even before he was officially drafted, so I’m going to exclude him from the conversation. We know he’ll be a starter from the first minute and that he’s likely to have the biggest impact of this draft class for Houston. But what about the others?
Xavier Su’a-Filo certainly seems to be the one of the rest of the class that is a certain day one starter. The team passed up numerous quarterback options to bring him in to replace the spot Wade Smith leaves behind. With the multiple tight end sets used in this offense, C.J. Fiedorowicz could push second year man Ryan Griffin for his spot with his blocking ability. Fan favorite Louis Nix seems logical to anchor the middle of Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 defense and Jeoffrey Pagan will be in a camp battle with Jared Crick to take Antonio Smith‘s old spot. If all of those guys win jobs in camp, you’re looking at five possible starters in 2014. That’s a homerun of a draft, in my opinion.
But there are others that could surprise some folks in camp. Tom Savage is looked at as a project for Bill O’Brien to mold over the next year plus, but with his arm strength, he could be thrown into the fire a little earlier than expected if Ryan Fitzpatrick gets banged up or struggles. Jay Prosch is the only real fullback on this roster capable of being the lead blocker that Arian Foster has missed since Vonta Leach skipped town. Andre Hal could push Brandon Harris for the nickel corner job vacated with the release of Brice McCain and it isn’t like the safety position is on lockdown from Lonnie Ballentine.
The one thing we know about Bill O’Brien is that he’s about competition. Most Texans fans assume that veterans have their spots locked up and that’s understandable after the Kubiak era. But these aren’t O’Brien’s vets; he has no loyalty to any of them and you shouldn’t expect anyone to get any special treatment. Open competition is good for everyone and it is something that was sorely lacking with the last regime. So don’t be filling out your depth charts just yet.For the first time in probably the existence of the franchise, accountability is going to be a priority. You are going to have to earn your spot and there will be no freebies. With this in mind, I see Clowney, Su’a-Filo, Louis Nix and Jay Prosch starting the 2014 season as the starter at their respective positions. By the end of the season, Jeoffrey Pagan and C.J. Fiedorowicz will join them.
This will bring the total number of starters in 2014 from this draft class to a staggering six, making this the Texans best draft class in nearly eight seasons.
Am I being overly optimistic? Probably. But for the first time since the inception of the franchise, I feel like they’re heading in the right direction, even if they haven’t fixed the most important position on the field. Baby steps, my friends. Baby steps. This was never going to be a one year fix. But with this draft, I can see it being a two year fix rather easily in the weak AFC South.