Here's how a bit of Oilers history could be key to Texans draft strategy
It coulda-shoulda been so simple. A done deal. All the Houston Texans had to do was lose Week 17 last season to the Indianapolis Colts and they would locked up the worst record in the NFL and clinched the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. But nooooo, Texans coach Lovie Smith, who apparently knew he was getting canned anyway, decided to play balls out and the Texans scored an improbable, last-minute, beyond belief stupid victory. By winning this must-lose game, they lost the No. 1 pick in next week’s NFL draft. Leave it to the Texans to do something so incredibly boneheaded.
Bye-bye chance to draft Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who would have lit a fire under the Texans’ vanishing fan base. Young, in addition to possessing exquisite playing skills, has a brilliant smile and charming personality – exactly what this team and city needs. Young, who has a starring role in Dr. Pepper commercials, instantly would be the brightest celebrity athlete in Houston.
Instead the No. 1 pick fell to the Chicago Bears, who turned around and traded the pick to the Carolina Panthers who have made it clear that they’re taking Young.
Now the Texans are “stuck” with the No. 2 pick and it sure looks like the Texans are undecided what to do. The Texans need a quarterback desperately, so do they take C.J. Stroud of Ohio State? Or use the pick on elite defensive player like Will Anderson of Alabama or trade down a couple of spots where they’ll get to pick edge rusher Tyree Wilson of Texas Tech, and hope there’s still a quarterback, perhaps Will Levis of Kentucky, available when the Texans are on the board again at No. 12. Or they could trade down from No. 2 to No. 4 and trade up from No. 12 to No. 7 and lock in a quarterback. Or they could forget drafting a quarterback altogether and go after ‘49ers’ suddenly available backup Trey Lance? Or run the 2023 season with Case Keenum at quarterback and roll the draft dice in 2024.
What to do? What to do? Give the Texans a break. They’ve had only four months to make a decision.
Here’s what the NFL should do – make a rule that teams are not allowed to trade their first-round draft picks. In some cities, where the team is a chronic loser, it keeps fans interested and supportive to the bitter end. Yeah, we’re losing each week, but this’ll pay off when we draft a superstar come next season. And then the team trades their top pick for a bunch of lower draft picks or a couple of veteran role players. Bor-ing. And the Washington Commanders suck another season.
In exchange for the No. 1 pick (most likely Bryce Young), the Bears got wide receiver DJ Moore, the No. 9 and No. 61 picks this year, a first-round pick in 2024 and a second-rounder in 2025. There is no more important position player in any sport than the quarterback of a football team. If Young turns out to be the real deal, the Panthers stole a franchise superstar right from under the Texans’ noses.
Fans want to cheer for big stars not future considerations. The Houston Texans used to have NFL superstars, like J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson. Now … not so much.
A team trading away the coveted No. 1 overall draft pick really isn’t unusual, though. It’s happened 12 other times since the NFL-AFL merger in 1967. Two times, Houston was involved in the draft swap.
In 1974, the Houston Oilers traded their No. 1 overall selection to the Dallas Cowboys, who used the pick on defensive end and future undefeated heavyweight boxer (6-0 with five knockouts) Ed “Too Tall” Jones. The Cowboys also received the Oilers’ third-round pick that year, who turned out to be quarterback Danny White. In exchange, the Oilers received defensive end Tody Smith and wide out Billy Parks. Not such a smart deal by the Oilers.
But in 1978 the Oilers made a much better swap. The Oilers sent tight end Jimmie Giles and four lower draft picks to Tampa Bay for the Buccaneers’ overall No. 1 selection. The Oilers used the pick on a running back out of the University of Texas named Earl Campbell.
The Tyler Rose played seven years with the Oilers and became a local treasure, a Hall of Famer, and one of the most popular athletes ever to wear a jersey with the word “Houston” on the front.
In fact, here’s a terrific trivia question: by declaration of the state legislature in Austin, only four people have been honored as “Official State Heroes of Texas.” Can you name them?
The easy ones are Davy Crockett, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston.
The fourth? Ready?
Houston Oilers former No. 1 draft pick Earl Campbell.