How did Bill O'Brien do in his first Draft?
Evaluating the Texans 2020 Draft
Bill O'Brien's first draft in Houston as the general manager has come and gone. Houston didn't have a pick on day one, but were superstars on day two. When day three came around the Texans looked like a blind kid with one arm and vertigo, swinging at a pinata. Needless to say, no treats fell at the feet of the Texans on the last day of the draft.
Houston did respond well with a couple interesting finds on the undrafted free agent market. In this article I'll give my breakdown on the selections Houston made and on some of the rumored undrafted kids that could be calling Houston home.
Ross Blacklock - 6'3 - 290 (32' 3/8" arms)
Going into the draft, Houston had the 40th pick overall and the 90th pick overall as their first two selections. A successful draft would have been one that saw the Texans select a player with a top 50 grade and a player with a top 100 grade. Houston aced the first two picks as they nabbed Blacklock, who I had a top 20 grade on and Jonathan Greenard, who to me was a top 50 prospect. It was an added bonus for the Texans that both were also position of needs in their front seven. These were extremely important picks and O'Brien nailed both of them.
Blacklock is a disruptor to opposing offenses. He fires off the ball and has a lateral step that offensive linemen can't keep up with. When he runs a stunt, he's able to jump gaps at break-neck speeds and flattens off the hip of his partner that he stunts off of. While he's an explosive one-gap attacker, he shows the ability to hold the point vs doubles when asked. He can also destroy the design of double teams by exploding into them like an ultimate red rover challenge, that keeps any opposing players from keeping their grasp to the lineman next to them.
In short, the Texans found a weapon with the 40th pick that shouldn't have been available to them. JJ Watt, Blacklock, Angelo Blackson, Charles Omenihu, Brandon Dunn, Carlos Watkins and Eddie Vanderdoes give the Texans a versatile defensive line. I wonder if the Texans will reach back out to Damon "Snacks" Harrison to see if he'd lower his asking price for a one-year run.
Jonathan Greenard - 6'3 - 263 (34' 7/8" arms)
After the Blackson pick, Houston still needed to select a pass rusher to add to Whitney Mercilus, Jacob Martin, Brennan Scarlett and Duke Ejiofor. Whitney disappeared after Watt went down last year. Brennan Scarlett is just depth at the position. Jacob Martin is a talented pass rush specialist that the Texans could look to try and mold into a bigger role as he develops. Ejiofor tore his achilles almost a year ago and anything he provides for Houston at this point is found money. Ejiofor and Greenard are almost identical builds. Ejiofor came in on his pre-draft measurements at 6'3 - 264 with 34' 7/8" arms. Yes, the Texans have a type and Greenard fits the mold perfectly.
Greenard is a Shaq Lawson type. He's able to help against the run and provide a pass rush. Much like with Lawson, Greenard isn't going to just win by blowing by offensive tackles. He has solid balance and can still stay upright and pursue the quarterback while big-body tackles are leaning on him. His production may have to ramp up in the pros, similar to Lawson. Lawson got out of the gate slow in Buffalo before putting up solid numbers last year with 18 quarterback hits, 13 TFLs and 6.5 sacks.
Charlie Heck - 6'8 - 311 (34' 1/8" arms)
Lets start off with the good. He's not Julien Davenport raw. Houston drafted Davenport in the 4th round with pick 130 overall a few years ago. Houston traded up for Heck, to draft in the 4th round, pick 126 overall this past weekend. Davenport was an undrafted prospect, in my opinion, at the time. At least Heck looks to have some moldable traits, but he wasn't worthy of the 4th round, and especially not worthy of trading up.
I get what Houston was thinking. Offensive tackles have become the toughest position to find in the NFL. Yes, even moreso than quarterbacks, now. The Texans used a first round pick on Tytus Howard and traded two first round picks, a second round pick and more for Laremy Tunsil. So, if there is an offensive tackle that you love, you make sure to select him. If you miss in the fourth round, it's not the end of the road. Plus, Heck has surprising movement skills for 6'8 - 311. He's athletic enough to cut block, he's good on pulls and at the 2nd level and he's at his best when you just want him to wall off.
Heck, unlike with Davenport, at least has an opportunity to develop into a possible swing tackle. O'Brien seemed to want to go a different direction than Roderick Johnson before bringing him back on a one-year deal for $1.75 million. The Texans could move on from the deal for only $375,000 in dead money and a cap savings of $1.375 million. I believe that move would be foolish. Johnson is the better option for swing tackle in 2020. Allow Johnson to play out 2020, while developing Heck this year with the plan for him to be the swing tackle of the future.
The problem with planning for the future with Heck is that he needs to show a lot of growth in one year. He oversets and gets beat inside too easy. He uses his arms as guides instead of punching. You don't see the nastiness that you want from offensive linemen. He allows space for the pass rusher to separate and either make a tackle or get his hands into the passing lane with no fear of retribution. Heck lacks the agility to prevent agile rushers from setting him up with a delay and explode step. Lastly, he's not a finisher. He doesn't look to take opponents out of the play.
Houston would be best to allow Heck to use all of 2020 to develop into a pro and reassess his positional value after 2020. In 2020, he would be best utilized as a run blocker when the situation calls for a sixth offensive linemen on the field.
John Reid - 5'10 -187 (30' 1/8" arms)
Houston typically looks for 6'0+ height, 32"+ arms for their outside corners, in the draft. Reid fits the slot corner position on the team with his athleticism. The 4.49 speed, 36.5 inch vertical, 129 inch broad jump, combined with the only sub 4.00 twenty yard shuttle (3.97) at the combine, obviously caught the eye of the Texans.
How does a guy with all of that athleticism last until the 141st pick? Easy, he's not a good football player. If it wasn't for the combine drills and the impressive numbers he put up, he probably would have gone undrafted. Reid is one of the most handsy cornerbacks that I've ever watched. He doesn't trust his coverage skills and routinely reaches out to grab the receiver to stay within a reasonable distance. His style of play would lead to him being the most flagged corner in the NFL if he was a starter. His awareness is slow and lacking. Reid struggles to get off blocks when attempting to make tackles in the run game and even when he gets free, him making the tackle isn't a foregone conclusion.
Some NFL teams just want the proper clay to mold. Reid has the agility and speed for the Texans to mold, but I don't trust them or him to develop the prospect into anything more than a Texans' draft history answer. What corner did the Texans draft in 2020? John Reid.
Isaiah Coulter - 6'2 -198 (9" hands)
Houston finally dipped into what has been called the deepest receiver draft of all-time. They came out with a 6'2 receiver with 4.45 speed and a 36" vertical. The 4.45 forty time was tied for 10th among wide receivers at the combine. Houston's top four receivers, Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills and Randall Cobb are all 6'0 or shorter. Coulter brings some height to go along with the speed of Houston's Nascar offense.
Out of their trio of day three picks, this was easily my favorite. That's not to say that I didn't take issue with the pick. There were other receivers that I would have picked over Coulter, here. I'm not sure that Coulter was even the best receiver on Rhode Island's team. Aaron Parker is also a receiver from RIU that was in this draft. He went undrafted, due to his horrific combine in which he had a 4.57 forty and a 26.5" (?) vertical. Reportedly, the Dallas Cowboys signed him as an undrafted free agent.
That being said, Coulter is intriguing. He doesn't play to his 4.45 speed, in my opinion and he has so much wasted movement off the line. Yet, if Houston can polish him up, he could be a solid find. Coulter runs sharp routes, highpoints well and plucks the ball with his hands. If Houston does go with an offense similar to what we saw from LSU last year, Coulter could contribute early as his best routes are the skinny post, slants and stops. Deshaun Watson has been deadly on skinny posts since his Clemson days. His height and efficency on underneath routes are his best attributes that could allow him to see the field at some point in 2020.
Undrafted Free Agent Class (Reportedly)
Scottie Phillips - RB - Ole Miss
5'8 - 209 (8' 1/2" hands - 4.56 40)
Despite his size or lack thereof, Phillips is a willing blocker, albeit, far from great at it and he also makes his living attacking the interior of the defense. He's not one of these short backs that bounce everything. He does most of his eating on the inside zone run. His vision, combined with his ability to get skinny can best be utilized with Deshaun Watson running zone reads and RPOs with the 5'8 back. Phillips is deadly with his jump cut and if he sees a crease, he's one cut and go.
Jamir Jones - LB - Notre Dame
6'3 - 248 (32' 1/4" arms)
While he's not the biggest, strongest, fastest or longest, he does everything well. He can definitely contribute. I'd like to see Houston experiment with him at outside and inside linebacker. When he lined up over the A-gap in college, he gave guards fits. While he doesn't have top notch speed, when he does get the edge, he displays a great ability to flatten and get to the quarterback. The arrow is pointing up on Jones.
Auzoyah Alufohai - DT - West Georgia
6'5 - 313 (34' 1/8" arms)
A massive young man that also has 34"+ arms? That's a nightmare for interior offensive linemen. Alufohai is a moving mass that makes it difficult to anchor against. Houston will get a chance to see if they can develop the small school product into an NFL-caliber defensive linemen. Small school products are suppose to stick out on tape, Auzoyah did that.