Day two of the work for the team as their spring work is well underway

11 observations from Texans OTAs

SportsMap/Cody Stoots

Here are my 11 Observations from the second day of work for the Texans during OTAs but their first open to the media.

First round, first taste for Tytus Howard

The Texans top draft pick from this year's class doesn't look out of place with other offensive lineman. His body is there. He did have some rookie moments and a couple of welcome to the NFL moments at the hands of Whitney Mercilus.

Howard said he doesn't mind the work at various positions he is getting. The Texans have been known to throw a lot at their rookies but especially their offensive linemen. Brian Gaine and Bill O'Brien have made no secret they want to see where Howard and fellow draft pick Max Scharping fit and how they can help the team different ways.

"He learns well," Bill O'Brien said. "He's just getting acclimated to the speed of how we practice over the last two days. For every rookie, that's a big jump. But I think he's a guy that, if he continues to work the way he works, he'll get better every day."

Lookout for Lonnie

It isn't hard to find the Texans second round pick Lonnie Johnson Jr. The Texans haven't had a cornerback in his mold probably in the entire time Bill O'Brien has been the coach of this team. He towers above most his defensive back teammates. His base is a lot more solid than you would think for someone who has such good length to his body.

He diagnosed some plays pretty well today and even when the rep looks lost his makeup ability is clear. He looked like he was going to get beat on a play today and the next thing you know he knocked the ball down. It will be interesting how much the Texans trust him early in his career and his development from now through training camp will be something to watch closely.

"He's a real big kid," Justin Reid said. "He's a big kid. Almost bigger than me. You see it when he plays. You see it on the practice film. He knows how to use it as well, which is one of the good things about having good corners, is they know how to actually body receivers, especially if they're going against a big guy. He's someone that we can see as a potential matchup for those type of situations."

Coutee right where he left off

Keke Coutee was one of the most dynamic offensive weapons the Texans had last season. Unfortunately injuries plagued his rookie year limiting his time on the field and his production. If he is healthy, my goodness.

Coutee never had a defender around him very long. He looked every bit the key piece he did last season. He is going to be a fun watch and will be a great matchup for the Texans defensive backs to work against.

Warring showcasing skills

Watching a handful of reps for Kahale Warring it is clear why he is here. He played at a school that didn't throw the ball much and when they did the talent throwing the ball wasn't great. He was the best pass catcher they have and oh by the way he has only played football for a few years. You can't tell that's the case.

I will be anxious to see more of him. He looks fluid and smooth in his movements which often indicates he is picking things up fast and not thinking much. Blocking when the pads come on will be something to watch, but watching him run routes is fun. Athletes aren't usually moving as well as he does at that size. These tight ends might be pound-for-pound the most athletic group on the team.

Lots of bodies catching lots of passes

​Johnnie Dixon showed off in rookie camp but there are plenty of other players to watch in the quest to make this time as a wideout. Tyron Johnson from Oklahoma State as well as Dixon both earned kudos from quarterback Deshaun Watson.

They join names like Steven Mitchell Jr., Isaac Whitney, Floyd Allen, Jester Weah, and second-year wideout Vyncint Smith among others vying for a spot on the team. There will be plenty of reps to go around as Will Fuller continues his recovery from injury and if Deandre Hopkins has his work load managed similar to last preseason. It might come down to who can help the most on special teams as well.

Special Adviser to the Head Coach and General Manager Andre Johnson was on hand helping out with the wide receivers.

It's a long name but worth learning

Briean Boddy-Calhoun is a veteran trying to make the Texans at cornerback. His previous stint was with Cleveland where Browns fans were surprisingly a little sad to see him leave this offseason.

He was all over the place today. His experience with pass defense packages will be key in his efforts to make the team. He also has experience playing safety as well. He was talking to all the defensive backs from safeties to rookies and veterans and corners. Being a veteran sponge will help him stick.

Mercilus begins contract year

If they Texans had to play a game tomorrow without Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus lined up across from J.J. Watt as the other pass rusher it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Mercilus was all over the field in the workout. He looks to be in great shape, but of course he always is, and he wasn't winded at any moment.

He is in the final year of his second contract and most NFL players don't see a third. Certainly not with the same team. Mercilus will have to have a nice year to reach that situation after a year lost to injury and a down year statistically. He is a veteran and a leader on this team and should the team not have Clowney at any point Mercilus can pick up some of the pass rushing slack.

Do your job, make the team, stay on the team, repeat

Peter Kalambayi was a little bit of a surprise to make the Texans last year to me. He ended up on the team as a do-it-all linebacker and played pretty well in his special teams reps. He looked really good today.

His name was called out for accolades on one play and he found himself around the ball in the reps. He also showed off good basics and movement in a drill against skill players who were trying to shake defenders. There is absolutely room for him on the roster and his contributions can be even more than last year with his rookie year under his belt.

D'Onta Foreman 2.0

D'Onta Foreman looks like a totally different guy. I have been seeing the hard work on social media but until you see them in person you aren't sure if it is paying off. It paid off. His body looks different and the burst, albeit in a low-to-no contact environment, looked solid. He has more wiggle than he has previously shown.

He has to be good for the Texans and the lack of investment in the position shows the team's faith in him. He and Lamar Miller, who looks to be in great shape as he was a year ago maybe even better shape, will have to guide the ground game. There is too much uncertainty behind them and even at this point a new face would need to do some catching up.

"I think he's had a very good offseason," said Bill O'Brien. "He's worked very hard. Sometimes it takes time, especially when you're injured your rookie year with a significant injury. You have something you're dealing with like he did with the Achilles. It takes a while to come back from that. Young player, getting used to pro football, then you have that. So, I think he's had a really good time away from us, when he wasn't with us, and that has parlayed into a good spring."

If boxing classes paid off like this for D'Onta Foreman I need to get me some gloves.

Speaking of body transformations...

Martinas Rankin looks a lot different. Slimmer in the lower midsection and maybe even thicker up top. Remember, he had a foot injury that slowed his time on the field before the season got started last year. He is a potentially key offensive lineman with his versatility. It will be a fun watch when the pads come on to see what Rankin brings to the table.

Jordan Thomas is another player who looks to be in even better shape than last year as well. Watching him run still feels like a sleek bouncer chasing down an unruly patron. I say that with the most possible endearment I can. He's a crazy good athlete.

Justin Reid...more like Justin Leader...

Justin Reid has seen the field as a member of the Texans more than any other safety on the roster. Now, that's not to say the second-year player has the most experience, but he has the most experience as a member of the Texans. That seems wild for a second-year player to have that designation but it is the truth and a testament to how well Reid played last year.

"The room is a little bit different now but we have phenomenal guys like T-Gip (Tashaun Gipson Sr.), (Bradley) Roby, (Briean) Boddy(-Calhoun)," said Reid. "The guys that we've brought in, the rookies, have been doing well. I'm impressed with how they've played these last two days. So, we've been building as a unit and our chemistry has been getting better every day."

He and Tashaun Gipson have formed a close bond already. Reid said he feels like he has known his fellow safety for a long time when they haven't actually been teammates that long. Reid mentioned they almost feel interchangeable in their skills and is excited to play with the former Jaguars safety.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

A curious thing might be happening with the Texans. This year's third round pick, Kahale Warring, has barely played in camp due to injuries and is in danger of being stashed on IR for the season. One of last year's third round picks, Martinas Rankin, may be in danger of not making the roster. The 2017 third rounder D'Onta Foreman was cut earlier in camp. While historically the Texans have been terrible picking in the third round, just taking a look at the Bill O'Brien years makes for some surprising results.

Keep in mind that these numbers are very fluid. Everyone has different criteria for what makes a hit or a miss. But let's dive in and see how the Texans have done.

By the numbers

First, let's take a look at the historical success rate by position of third round picks in the NFL. "Success rate" means the player became a functional NFL starter, which you would expect from most players selected in the third round.

The numbers:

3rd Round - OL (40%) TE (39%) LB (34%) DL (27%) WR (25%) DB (24%) QB (17%) RB (16%)

(Source: Arrowheadsports.com)

Now the Texans

Bill O'Brien has been around since the 2014 draft, so that is where we will focus. Let's look at the third round picks:

2014: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Louis Nix DT. Nix was a complete bust; C.J. developed into a decent tight end before concussions prematurely ended his career. Still, you could reluctantly call him a hit. Nix is a clear miss.

2015: Jalen Strong, WR. Complete miss.

2016: Braxton Miller, WR. He at least saw some action on the field before being cut but another big miss.

2017: D'Onta Foreman, RB. Cut in camp this year, so another complete whiff.

2018: Justin Reid, S, Martinas Rankin, OL, Jordan Akins, TE.

Reid has all the ear markings of a perennial Pro Bowler. Akins has emerged as a decent threat in a crowded tight end room. Rankin, as mentioned earlier, might not make the team. So two hits and for now Rankin is a miss. We won't look at 2019 yet, but the Warring pick - questionable at the time - could easily be another clunker, but we may not know until next year. What happens to those two over the next few years will help add clarity to these numbers.

Is it as bad as it looks?

So overall, with nine third-round picks in the O'Brien era, the Texans have three hits, five misses (if you count Rankin) and an incomplete.

The positives? They are batting 1.000 on tight ends (pending Warring) and safety. They are zero percent on OL, RB and WR.

The overall hit rate is .375. In a given year, NFL starters from the second and third round combined make up roughly 30 percent of the league. Even if you count Fiedorowicz as a bust, they are still at almost 29 percent out of the third round, which would be above the league average, according to a Forbes study from the 2014 season. While that number varies year to year, it is likely no more than a few percentage points. So about average.

Throw in the second round picks, where Bernardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham and Nick Martin have all become starters with one glaring bust - Xavier Sua'Filo - and they are hitting at 75 percent in the second round, 66 percent overall in rounds 2-3. Now you could argue Martin is not a good player, but he has been a starter pretty much since Day 1. Even taking him out, that is still 55 percent. Again, the bust is glaring in Sua'Filo, which makes it look a lot worse.

The good news

The narrative is the Texans tend to nail their first round picks. According to the Riot Report, first rounders only hit at a 53 percent rate for a player to become a consistent starter over five years.

Again, looking at the O'Brien era only, the top picks have been Jadeveon Clowney, Will Fuller, Kevin Johnson, Deshaun Watson and Titus Howard. Eliminating Howard since it is too early, Clowney and Watson are clear hits; Fuller is a good player who can never stay healthy. If he does, he could be a key contributor but that remains to be seen. Still, he is an NFL starter so give him a hit, even if it is incomplete. Johnson was a disaster and is gone. If you give them Fuller, that is still 75 percent, well above the league average. If you don't count Fuller, they are right at the league average, slightly below. Again, all of this is specific to the O'Brien era.

What does it all mean?

The third round misses have been high profile, colossal mistakes, which makes it look worse. Foreman was supposed to develop into a home run threat on offense. Miller was a high profile project. The team traded up to get Strong. Nix never made it to the field. But overall, the results are about on par with the rest of the league, even above average. Those were not the results I expected when I started this article. But there is also no way to quantify players who hung around and contributed but were never really "hits" or "misses." The Texans misses were clear, as they are no longer on the roster.

Which brings us to Duke Johnson

While many have been critical of the Texans for giving up a third to get Duke Johnson, it makes a lot of sense. You are getting a proven NFL player with starting capabilities for a pick that hits less than 30 percent of the time. While building through the draft is important, it also goes to show that most teams and fans greatly overvalue draft picks. And most picks are like buying new cars - the value goes down as soon as you get them off the lot. Johnson should provide a much surer thing than a third-rounder.

The bottom line

As with most things, when it comes to drafting, the Texans are about average. The third round busts look bad relative to expectations, but overall the number of hits is about where the league is. They probably aren't as good in the first round as the perception. Obviously good teams do better than than average, bad ones do much worse, but as with most things, the Texans aren't bad at drafting high-round picks.

They are just mediocre, a staple of the organization since its inception.

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