Houston Texans: Team should look at drafting tight end Durham Smythe

22 Sep 2001: An American flag adorns the helmuts of Notre Dame players when Notre Dame takes on Michigan State at South Bend, Indiana. DIGITAL IMAGE Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT
22 Sep 2001: An American flag adorns the helmuts of Notre Dame players when Notre Dame takes on Michigan State at South Bend, Indiana. DIGITAL IMAGE Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT /

The Houston Texans have less than a week to go before the start of the NFL Draft.  A tight end is need to groom for the future and I think Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe fits the bill.  Here’s why I think that’s the case.

The Houston Texans will be embarking on the NFL Draft next Friday as Day 1 will likely be a non-event for the franchise.  Brian Gaine has already signaled that he will not be looking to trade up in the draft but to trade down to get more picks in the press conference that he held this past Friday.  So what does that mean?

It certainly means that Gaine is testing his wits as far as being able to scour and evaluate talent in the later rounds which is certainly something that earns a pro football general manager plenty of cache, especially if they get those picks right.

This will have to be the case because the team had to rid themselves of the Brock Osweiler mistake and go with a Deshaun Watson correction, costing the team their first- and second-round picks this season.

But any way, the team now has to start looking for a tight end as C.J. Fiedorowicz, the man that was to hold the mantle for some time, has announced his retirement after suffering three concussions in the duration of last season.

Our answer at tight end will not be in this year’s draft but our future certainly could be.

Who do I think would be nice fit with the Houston Texans?

None other than Notre Dame tight end Durham Smythe.

The versatile 6’5,” 257-pound athletic and strong phenom is certainly primed for hopefully a eventual NFL career.  This draft is deep with talented tight ends and there will be plenty to go around, especially when the Houston Texans make their pick toward the middle of the third round.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Smythe earned his highest grade of his four-year career with the Fighting Irish.  He netted a solid 74.6 overall grade for 2017, which is up for 71.9 in 2016.  His run blocking grade was a 54.3, down from 80.2 in 2016.  His pass blocking grade was a 60.5, down from 77.4 in 2016.

The immense drop off in the run blocking grade is more than likely attributed to quarterback

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Brandon Wimbush consistently relying on his legs to get the first down, giving less opportunities for Smythe to block for his running backs in whatever sets they’d run.

Wimbush rushed 140 times for 804 yards which is something you’d liken to a full-time starting running back.  But in the season prior when he was lined up with DeShone Kizer, things were better for him as Kizer rushed 129 times for 472 yards.

But despite all of that, Josh Adams, their top rusher during both seasons, put up 1,430 yards in 2017 and 933 of those in 2016. This certainly indicates Smythe struggled on Notre Dame’s focus of attacking profusely from the ground, rather than in the air.

But because of his performance in 2016, I think he has that ability to transition well into this offense as this offense won’t be so focused on the run as Bill O’Brien has admitted to with his heavy usage of Lamar Miller.  But with D’Onta Foreman in the fold, it’ll be interesting to see how the game plan is brought out incorporating the tight end.

But PFF indicates that his strongest assets are first-down conversions and his strong capabilities as a receiver.  Although he wouldn’t be asked to be in games on first-downs — I expect the team to sign a quality veteran — but can be used that way later down the line.  I suspect that he can be coached to shore up his run-blocking as time goes by.

But you don’t have to take my word for it, take a look to see what the experts have to say about him.

Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com:

"“Notre Dame struggled to pass the ball with a running quarterback, but Smythe has some athleticism as a receiver. He also was solid as a blocker.”"

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com on his weaknesses:

"Straight-line mover who struggles to adjust his release when defenders are looking to lean on him"

"Initial speed into patterns is average"

"Routes are very readable for safeties and linebackers"

"Comes out of his turns without much burst"

"Separation could be a challenge against man coverage"

"Needs to gather his feet into contact more consistently as a blocker"

All of those attributes can be worked on with the proper coaching from the staff and I think he’d be worth the investment later in the draft in the 4th or 5th round.  What does concern me is that he doesn’t have a reputation for being speedy so that might be a mark on him but I don’t think it should hinder the Texans from drafting him.

Smythe posted a 4.81 40-yard dash in the NFL Combine, just 5/10ths of a second slower than Fiedorowicz (4.76) in 2014 so this is certainly a reason why the speed doesn’t necessarily matter and that he’d fit nicely with this offense.  He’s fast ENOUGH.

Zierlein also notes that his play is similar to one of an offensive lineman which is certainly a unit where we’re going to need all the help that we can get in terms of improved protection.  I also wrote about the Texans going after Alex Cappa as well and Smythe would be a nice addition along with him in the stable.

He also had an unimpressive 7.7 percent drop rate in 2017 but again, I think with Watson at the

helm, he’ll be able to get him the ball.  With all the weapons this team already has, why should he be a top target anyway?

All I need this guy to do is protect as well as chip in on offense and Smythe certainly fits the bill. Could he adjust to the pro level and in this offense?  Absolutely.  He too can be used in the slot and I think he can be an elite, capable blocker as needed to help this team succeed.

Next: House of Houston's comprehensive 2018 Mock Draft

Smythe hauled in 26 balls for 367 yards — a whopping 14.1 yards per catch — and five touchdowns in his three seasons with the Fighting Irish.  Smythe did miss 10 games in 2016, suffering from shoulder and ankle injuries so it’s prudent to inference that his numbers would’ve been right in line had participated in a full season.

I’m hoping he’s available when the team takes their spot into the draft spotlight.