Once a team falls out of contention for the playoffs, winning becomes losing. Specifically, losing ground in the draft order for the following year.
It continues to be one of the great disconnects for the NFL, the idea that every time tries to win every game in every week and the reality that the team that loses the most secures dibs on the best of the incoming players. Every year, trades that happen at the top of the draft illustrate the value of finishing higher rather than lower.
But even beyond the first round, the higher placement makes a difference, whether it’s round two or three or four or any of the rest of them. It’s a basic truth for teams that no longer have a chance to get to the postseason. The deeper they sink in the standings, the higher they rise in the draft order. Who cares about whether the final record is 5-12 or 4-13 or 3-14 or 2-15? For the franchise, the best interests are served by securing better placement in the upcoming draft.
First-year Texans G.M. Nick Caserio doesn’t see it that way. Or, perhaps more accurately, he knows not to say it out loud.
Appearing earlier this week on SportsRadio 610 in Houston, Caserio downplayed a higher draft spot and focused on winning more games.
“The goal on Sundays is to win,” Caserio said. “People get too caught up in draft stock. It’s not about where we pick and where we draft. It’s about who we get in the building and what they do when they’re here.”
He’s right, but they have a better chance to get better players in the building if they select higher in the draft. While there will always be busts, teams always prefer picking higher than lower. Besides, given the dramatic changes that happen on a roster from one year to the next, how much will a late-season surge in one year carry over to the next?
The simple truth for the Texans is that these late-season wins, like the Week 16 victory over the Chargers, won’t help the team find better players in 2022. It will cause them to slip in the draft order, allowing others to pick higher — and requiring the Texans to offer up other things in the event they would like to climb higher in order to ensure that they will get the guy they want.
Regardless of whether it does or doesn’t make sense for the Texans to win meaningless games, as the draft approaches and the various possibilities and permutations are pondered, remember that but for a few wins that they really didn’t need, the Texans would be drafting earlier than they will be. It may not matter now. It definitely will matter then.