Skip to content

PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 10: Houston Texans

AP

The Texans had a long climb to respectability.

But now that they’ve achieved it, there’s suddenly a sense of unfulfilled potential.

The Texans have looked like Super Bowl contenders the last two years, but have lost in the Divisional Round of the playoffs both years.

The year before it unraveled when their quarterback went down, but they squandered a chance at home field advantage after an 11-1 start last year. That makes this year seem a bit of a repeat of last year’s expectations.

But teams are now pecking away at their base of talent, and some key losses in free agency mean they’re relying on young or new players in several spots.

The Texans are fully capable of winning 12 games again, but they’ve created the questions about their mental ability to win the ones that matter most.

Strengths.

The Texans have star power at some key positions, with players such as defensive end J.J. Watt, left tackle Duane Brown, running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson among the very best in the game.

Watt’s season last year was remarkable in many ways, primarily because he dominated games from a position usually tailored to tying up blocks so other guys can make plays. His ability to change the passing game both as a sack guy (20.5) and by batting down passes is something few can match.

And the offensive stars got a lift with the addition of first-round wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who should be able to take some pressure off Johnson (and by extension, Foster) with his deep ball ability.

Weaknesses.

Quarterback Matt Schaub has been pretty good, and maybe a top 10-in-the-league caliber guy, so it’s hard to call him a true weakness. But it is getting close to the time where he either has to move up or they have to start wondering when to move him out.

He’s accurate, he’s productive, he puts up huge numbers.

But he’s not pushing into the top tier of quarterbacks until he plays better in December and January, and more and more people are starting to realize that he hasn’t done that yet. He had one touchdown pass in the last four games last season, making it no surprise the Texans only won one of them.

He’s had the benefit of excellent talent around him — with a strong running game and offensive line making play-action easier — and now’s the time for him to prove he belongs in the conversation with the very top quarterbacks.

If he doesn’t, people are going to zoom in on him as the reason the Texans are falling short, rather than one of the reasons they’re so close.

Changes.

No position sums up where the Texans are at the moment more than safety, where they lost emerging free agent Glover Quin to the Lions and replaced him with veteran Ed Reed.

On the surface, it’s a downgrade, as Reed’s been showing the wear on his tires and Quin’s an emerging playmaker.

But the Texans weren’t buying the physical presence. They’re hoping Reed’s championship experience from Baltimore, and dare we say, swagger, rubs off on his young teammates.

While mentors can be overrated (somebody still has to block and tackle), the Texans were pushing against the ceiling, and needed some kind of change to take the next step.

They’re also thinning out in a few spots on defense, as the departure of Connor Barwin puts pressure on players such as Whitney Mercilus (and to a lesser degree, Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams) to produce now.

Likewise, veteran nose tackle Shaun Cody’s gone, leaving Earl Mitchell to make the move from solid backup to someone they’re counting on.

Camp Battles.

The Titans used a third-round pick on Brennan Williams hoping he’d be able to push Derek Newton for the starting right tackle job.

Problem is, both have been on the sidelines for parts of the offseason with knee problems, which has kept the staff from getting a full look. Newton was unspectacular last year, and it’s reasonable to think Williams can push him right out of a job.

They’re also waiting to see which of the young wideouts can progress into more than just a training camp tease.

Hopkins, rightly so, has leapfrogged the group of players such as Lestar Jean, DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin. But they need one of those guys to become more of a threat, just in case.

Prospects.

The Texans are approaching the point the Falcons had prior to last year.

Yeah, those numbers sure look pretty, and you won a lot of games. Call us in January.

Last year’s collapse did nothing but create questions. After putting on the letter jackets and getting destroyed at New England, they lost two of the next three, and exited quietly after making a lot of noise the first three months of the season.

That’s why bringing in Reed was an obvious signal this is an all-in year.

It might work, they might be fantastic, as their roster is among the most talented in the league, and their coaches seem to know how to use it efficiently.

But until they can prove they can beat the Patriots, it won’t matter, and the moves are going to start running deeper than filling in with veteran talkers.

Permalink 30 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Features, Houston Texans, Top Stories
yo

Report: Broncos looking to trade up

AP

At a time when plenty of teams in the first round would like to trade down, there’s not an overabundance looking to trade up. One franchise exploring it, according to Adam “Stella Liebeck” Schefter of ESPN is the Broncos.

Denver currently sits at No. 20. If they’re looking to move up, it’s not because they generally want a higher position; it’s because they have a specific player or two in mind.

One could be local product Christian McCaffrey, the son of former Broncos receiver Ed. Earlier this week, Broncos G.M. John Elway laughed off the team’s pre-draft meeting with McCaffrey.

“He was close and it was free,” Elway said, laughing. “And we wanted to meet with him. He’s a great kid. We like Christian a lot and we wanted to bring him in. It was one of those [where] he was in the area, so we wanted to take advantage of that to get to see him again. He’s a great kid.”

With McCaffrey expected to go between No. 5 and No. 15, the Broncos could possibly get him without having to go up very far.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Carson Wentz had laser eye surgery

Getty Images

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz should be able to see downfield better this season.

Wentz revealed that he had laser eye surgery this offseason after playing with contact lenses during his rookie year.

“I had PRK done, so it was very helpful,” Wentz said on WIP. “It’s pretty cool to wake up in the morning and not have to throw contacts in. It’s been very beneficial.”

Wentz isn’t the only NFC East quarterback who’s had laser eye surgery. Washington’s Kirk Cousins said the surgery left him with vision that was better than 20/20.

Permalink 4 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Morgan Moses signs five-year contract extension

Getty Images

Morgan Moses had to wait until the third round of the 2014 draft before he heard his name called, but he won’t have to wait for the expiration of his rookie contract before he signs another one.

According to multiple reports, Moses has signed a five-year extension with the Redskins. Full financial details haven’t been reported, but Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the deal will leave Moses as the second highest-paid right tackle in the league. Lane Johnson of the Eagles is currently at the top of that list with a deal that averages $11.25 million a year.

Moses, who wound up as the 66th pick of that draft, has started every game for Washington over the last two seasons. He has shown steady improvement over that span and it’s a good bet that the Redskins see more of that in his future to lock him up at this point.

Left tackle Trent Williams is signed through the 2020 season, so the team has their tackles under contract for a good long time as a result of Moses’ agreement.

Permalink 7 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Why does the Commissioner keep calling out player names at the draft?

Getty Images

Here’s a question that usually emerges during or after the first night of the draft: Why does Commissioner Roger Goodell continue to subject himself to this?

He’ll be booed tonight. Relentlessly. And not just because the draft is being held in Philadelphia. (He’d get booed in Fargo, too. Albeit politely.)

It’s become a given for Goodell. Loud boos. Long boos. Boos that last well beyond the first day of the draft. So why do it? From Goodell’s perspective, he can view it as a cost of doing business. And the business includes getting paid a lot of money to be a gigantic pin cushion for the owners.

But the owners surely don’t like having the scene undermined by open displays of derision. At what point do they intervene and say, “Look, we need to hire Morgan Freeman or Sam Elliott or someone else with a distinctive voice, a commanding presence, and no other connection to the league to call out these names”?

It doesn’t have to be the Commissioner. And, really, it shouldn’t be the Commissioner. Unless the goal is to keep as much reality as possible in the ultimate reality show, the NFL should realize that the event has grown to the point where the guy in charge doesn’t have to be the guy who saunters to the microphone and calls out the pick.

Of course, change could be viewed as capitulation to the masses. Goodell likely isn’t interested in doing that. Which means he’ll continue to bite his lip, fill his ears with cotton (if he isn’t doing that he should), and get through it.

Permalink 50 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

McCaffrey’s likely window: No. 5 to No. 15

Getty Images

As the draft has approached, a popular theory has emerged linking running back Christian McCaffrey to the Panthers at No. 8. (Indeed, that’s where he resides in the 2017 PFT Worst Mock Draft Ever.)

A source with knowledge of the dynamics believes the McCaffrey chatter is likely a smokescreen, one of the many that are wafting through the air like whatever Phil Simms pushed in the direction of Jim Nantz. Regardless of whether Carolina pulls the trigger, the expected range for McCaffrey currently is No. 5 through No. 15.

This means that if a team picking between No. 9 and No. 15 believes the Panthers chatter, that team could trade up to jump the Panthers.

If McCaffrey indeed goes in the top 15, the team that takes him needs to be ready to embrace him, fully and completely and not as a member of a three-man rotation. Picks that high should be reserved only to players who will be on the field all the time; if the team that takes him isn’t prepared to do that, the team shouldn’t take him.

McCaffrey’s ability to play tailback and slot receiver makes him conducive to a team that will use the no-huddle offense from time to time, allowing McCaffrey to be deployed in various ways in the hopes of creating mismatches. If McCaffrey plays at the next level like he played in college, he could instantly be a difference-maker. The current indications are that at least one team picking in the first half of round one will feel that way.

Permalink 13 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Scot McCloughan has advised teams on draft since being fired

Getty Images

Earlier this offseason, Scot McCloughan was relieved of his duties as the General Manager of the Redskins in a move that came after the team had already started work on this year’s draft board.

Director of college scouting Scott Campbell confirmed this week that McCloughan’s influence could be seen on that draft board although he added that there have been adjustments made to any work that McCloughan was familiar with before his departure. They might not be the only team to have McCloughan’s influence on their pre-draft work.

Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports that McCloughan has returned to run the scouting service he operated between jobs with the 49ers and Redskins and has worked as an advisor with other teams on this year’s draft since being fired. Per Garafolo, McCloughan is “not giving up” Washington’s information although it seems likely that some of the thoughts he shared with other teams will be similar to what he did before being let go.

There’s no reason to think that his former team has stuck with what McCloughan gave them before he was ousted, but if they remain high on any players McCloughan was pushing they should likely be prepared for other teams to have strong recommendations about some of the same names.

Permalink 16 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

How many quarterbacks will go in round one?

Every year, it’s one of the biggest questions entering the first night of the draft. And every year we seem to be surprised in some way by the outcome.

This year, it’s still unclear how many quarterbacks will go in round one. Three is the safest guess. Four accounts for a team like the Chiefs or Steelers taking Davis Webb, or some other team trading back in to the first round to get him. Five is even possible, if someone decides to grab DeShone Kizer before teams at the top of round two get a crack at him.

And then there’s Nathan Peterman, who most likely won’t have a shot at going in round one, but who could end up being a second-day bargain — a guy who develops more quietly and without the expectations that come from being a first-round pick.

This year, I’ve interviewed each of the top six quarterbacks, some more than once: Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Webb, Kizer, and Peterman. They each came off as smart and engaging, as guys who could capably lead an NFL offense.

Trubisky has a demeanor that seems confident, humble, and even-keeled. Watson has a quiet fire that he seems to know how to harness — and how to unleash on the biggest stages. Mahomes exudes a more youthful vibe, and he seems to be unfazed by the prospect of taking his game to the next level.

Webb comes off as earnest but sincere, a kid who loves football and can’t get enough of it, with a clear plan to coach once his playing career ends. Kizer seems like anything but a diva; he’s fully self-aware and eager to embrace the challenge of playing pro football. And Peterman has a relaxed demeanor that will allow a player to get the most out of his skills.

Of course, the biggest factors that will allow these quarterbacks to get the most out of their skills relate not to them but to their situations — coaches, systems, teammates, front offices, owners, etc. Also, the higher a guy goes, the greater the weight on his shoulders. (Conversely, the lower he goes the bigger the chip.)

Any of them could be successful, if they land in the right spot. The nature of the draft takes that completely out of their hands, putting each at the mercy of which teams pick them and whether those teams can make them successful. It’s one more reason why the players should be picking the teams and not vice-versa, but that unpopular, player-friendly view is never less popular than it will be today.

Permalink 44 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Marshon Lattimore on inexperience concerns: I’m only going to get better

Getty Images

Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore has been a staple in the top end of mock drafts over the last few months and he will be in Philadelphia on Thursday night with the expectation that his name will be among the first called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

If Lattimore does go any later than expected, two of the possible reasons why will likely be his injury history from college and resulting inexperience. Lattimore played in just 16 games, 13 of them last year, during his time in Columbus because of hamstring injuries.

Lattimore said Wednesday that his hamstrings are “fine” and that teams will regret passing on him for either reason over the long run.

“I’m only going to get better,” Lattimore said, via NJ.com. “I’m not even in my prime yet. I showed [last season] that I can play, and people saw that. But with the body of work, man, I feel like I did a lot to contribute to my team. If people want to drop me because of that, too, it’s fine with me.”

It doesn’t seem like too many teams have dropped Lattimore too far down their boards, but we’ll find out for sure sooner rather than later.

Permalink 5 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

18 players are sure-thing first-round picks, if mock drafts are right

AP

As we wade through the final mock drafts in the hours before the real draft allows us to throw the mocks away, there are 18 players who appear to be sure-thing first-round draft picks.

That’s based on this compilation of mock drafts from Tom Gower of Football Outsiders, which has 18 players who make every mock draft.

At the top is Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, who is either the first overall pick or the second overall pick in all 14 of the mock drafts included by Gower. In all the mock drafts where Garrett doesn’t go first overall, North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky goes first.

Other than Garrett, no one is a Top 5 pick in every mock draft. Only three other players are in the Top 10 in every mock: LSU safety Jamal Adams, who ranges from No. 2 to No. 6, Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, who ranges from No. 2 to No. 9, and LSU running back Leonard Fournette, who ranges from No. 4 to No. 9.

Here’s the list of 18 players who appear in every first round mock draft, with the range of picks in which they go off the board.

Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett 1-2
North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky 1-12
LSU S Jamal Adams 2-6
Stanford DE Solomon Thomas 2-9
Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore 3-12
LSU RB Leonard Fournette 4-9
Alabama DE Jonathan Allen 4-17
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson 4-32
Alabama TE O.J. Howard 5-12
Clemson WR Mike Williams 5-30
Ohio State S Malik Hooker 6-19
Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey 7-14
Temple LB Haason Reddick 9-16
Alabama LB Reuben Foster 9-32
Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey 11-28
Missouri DE Charles Harris 11-28
Western Kentucky G Forrest Lamp 16-29
Alabama OT Cam Robinson 16-31

Permalink 10 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Forrest Lamp is lighting it up with endorsements already

Forrest Lamp might be a pretty good NFL guard. He’s definitely a marketing genius.

The Western Kentucky offensive lineman, who could be a first-round pick tonight, has signed an endorsement deal with Los Angeles-based lighting retailer Lamps Plus.

“The opportunity to partner with Lamps Plus before my rookie NFL season, especially with my last name, is the perfect scenario,” Lamp said in a press release. “I’m confident that my girlfriend Natosha and I will have the best-decorated and most well-lit rookie home in our new team city!”

But wait, there’s more.

“While his name is perfect to endorse our company, we really like Forrest’s work ethic and enthusiasm,” Lamps Plus CEO Dennis Swanson added. “He will shine at the professional level.”

Of course, he’s still waiting to see how long he has to wait to walk into the spotlight, and if he goes too soon, there will be the inevitable shade.

But it’s a good deal for him, and it got us to mention Lamps Plus when we ordinarily wouldn’t have.

More than anything, however, it makes us wonder what Michigan tight end Jake Butt has up his, ummm, . . . sleeve.

Permalink 22 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Deshaun Watson is getting a late boost up the board

AP

Many have pegged quarterback Deshaun Watson as the second quarterback off the board on Thursday night, behind Mitchell Trubisky and likely just beyond the top 10. (This year’s PFT Worst Mock Draft Ever has Watson going to the Cardinals at No. 13.) But something is happening as the draft approaches. Unless it isn’t.

Chatter has emerged in recent days that could push Watson as high as No. 3 to the Bears. More recently, talk has emerged that the Jaguars could take Watson at No. 4.

While it’s possible that some are speculating accurately, it’s difficult to envision either team leaking their true intentions. The Bears have become notoriously secretive in recent years, and the Jaguars managed without Tom Coughlin running the show to keep quiet their interest three years ago in Blake Bortles.

Could Watson go that high? Sure. Some would say he should, given his dominance of the Alabama defense in back-to-back national championship games.

For the bad teams at the top of the draft, there’s a greater chance than ever that one or more of the good teams toward the bottom of the draft will squat on quarterbacks who otherwise would squirt through to round two, Derek Carr style. So if a team without a franchise quarterback hopes to find one in the draft, they’ll either have to jump at the top of round one or swoop back in at the bottom.

Permalink 36 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Brian Hoyer won’t worry about 49ers drafting a quarterback

Getty Images

The 49ers have the second pick in the draft and the team has done its best to convince the football world that they could use that pick on a quarterback.

That may turn out to be a smokescreen when they are on the clock Thursday night, but no one would be too surprised if the 49ers add a quarterback even though they signed Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley as free agents. Hoyer was the first of those players to sign and said Wednesday that he views himself as the starter without worries about who else might be joining the team.

“Yeah for sure. I think that’s what I was brought in to do at this point,” Hoyer said on KNBR 680, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “And the thing that I’ve learned in this profession, and really in life, is not worry about things you can’t control. I can’t control who they draft with the second pick tomorrow and I’m not gonna live my life worrying about it.”

Hoyer has been around the league for almost a decade and he’s been in enough different situations to know that situations can change in a heartbeat in the NFL. That might not do much for job security, but it does teach you that there’s little reason to focus on things beyond your own play because those outside concerns aren’t going to do much to keep you in the lineup.

Permalink 11 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Myles Garrett still the “likely” No. 1 pick

AP

The clock is ticking toward the time for the Browns to go on the clock, and the three options for the first overall pick seem to be as follows: (1) take Myles Garrett; (2) take Mitchell Trubisky; or (3) trade down.

Amid increasing chatter that the Browns could go with Trubisky, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Garrett remains the “likely” No. 1 pick in Cleveland.

The Browns claim that they settled on the top pick two weeks ago. But Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel raises the one dynamic that could upset the (road) apple cart. Owner Jimmy Haslam could intervene at the last minute and insist (either directly or behalf of the homeless guy) on Trubisky.

But here’s the thing about taking Trubisky or any other unproven quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick. The smarter move would be to offer that pick to Washington for Kirk Cousins, a proven commodity who would be running a similar offense. And it would be stupid for Washington, which is looking at one more year with Cousins, to say no to the ability to pay Garrett over four years only a few million more than what they’ll pay Cousins in 2017.

Permalink 29 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

DeShone Kizer explains his Tom Brady/Cam Newton comments

Getty Images

Former Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer created a stir with recent comments that created the impression he views himself as a combination of Tom Brady’s mind and Cam Newton’s body. Kizer has owned the comments, but on PFT Live he shed a little more light on what he was trying to say.

Kizer said he doesn’t view himself currently as a Brady/Newton combination. Kizer aspires to become that, at some point. He knows he’s not there yet, and he realizes he may never be. But that’s the goal.

That message didn’t come through clearly enough in the USA Today interview that generated the quotes. Regardless of how that happened, Kizer said that he said what he said, and he has moved on. To his credit, he hasn’t pushed back as hard as perhaps he could have to demonstrate that he didn’t mean he’s currently a Brady/Newton hybrid.

One thing that became clear in talking to Kizer: He gets it. And given his physical talents and intelligence, he could indeed end up becoming the best quarterback in the class.

Possibly adding to his motivation is the prospect of spending all of Thursday night backstage at the draft without being picked. Most think that, indeed, he won’t hear his name called in round one. But all it takes is one team to conclude that he could eventually become a true franchise quarterback; if that happens, don’t be shocked if he ends up exiting the green room before the time comes to go home for the night.

Permalink 23 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Eric Reid says awareness has been raised, anthem protests are over

AP

Colin Kaepernick has said he’d stand for future national anthems, and as soon as someone gives him a job he probably will.

But his former 49ers teammates say their days of kneeling for the anthem are over.

According to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area, 49ers safety Eric Reid said he and linebacker Eli Harold achieved their goal by raising awareness of the racial inequality which Kaepernick began protesting last year.

“When we started doing that, our goal was to open up the floor to conversation. I believe we’ve achieved that goal,” Reid said. “So now we just want to move forward and just partner with people that’s trying to make a change.

“We accomplished that goal. People talked about it. I think we raised a lot of awareness about issues in this country. And now it’s time to move on to just affecting change.”

Kaepernick has continued his charitable efforts while looking for work, though it’s hard to imagine his high-profile stance last year is helping in that regard. Reid said he’s stayed in touch with Kaepernick, and is surprised his former teammate is still without a team, and he sees a direct correlation.

“It’s surprising. You see some of the other quarterbacks that have been signed around the league and why he hasn’t been, it’s just unfortunate, . . .” Reid said. “It’s unfortunate, it’s sad. People want to shy away from him because of media, PR reasons.

“You’re doing something to better the world. I mean, the guy got a plane sent to Somalia to help with the famine there. He’s been doing things that if it were anybody else in a different situation without the anthem [protest], they’d be praising him and giving him awards for it.”

So far that hasn’t happened for Kaepernick, though tonight’s quarterback land rush will clear up a few jobs and trigger the market for the remaining free agents.

Permalink 42 Comments Feed for comments Back to top