Ranking the former Texans

John Granato: An in-depth look at the players that got away from the Texans

Tramon Williams was a big loss for the Texans Packers.com

It’s not exactly like the Falcons trading Brett Favre to the Packers, but with Case Keenum heading to the NFC Championship game a lot of Texans fans have been wondering why the team ever let him go. The addition of Deshaun Watson will ease that pain even if Case goes on to win it all. Trust me, there have been more egregious personnel decisions made by the Texans organization. Let’s rank former Texans and how they’ve done since they left the team:

The Mount Rushmore of former Texans

Tramon Williams: Biggest mistake they have ever made. Everyone passed on him in the draft but the Texans were able to sign him to a free agent deal only to cut him before the season started. The Packers had their eye on him in college and signed him. He played in all but one game in eight years with the Packers, starting all but one in his last five years. He made the Pro Bowl and had three  playoff interceptions in their Super Bowl championship run in 2010.  He played 11 years in all, intercepting 32 passes, defending 140 and during his prime averaged 50-some tackles a year. He would have been the Texans best corner ever.

AJ Bouye: He has the talent to take that title from Tramon Williams. He’s only been gone a year but boy do they miss him. He was an A.P. second teamer despite the fact that he plays opposite Jalen Ramsey. Normally the “other” corner gets the brunt of the action but picking on Bouye is a mistake too. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 89.1, which is top ten in the NFL, making this the best corner duo in the league. With the Texans getting older and slower at the position, not giving him the franchise tag last year will haunt the Texans twice a season for years to come.

Glover Quin: This one was a killer. Not only did they lose a guy who would have been their best safety ever for less than $5 million a year, they gave Ed Reed a three-year $15 million deal that lasted seven games. He ended up collecting $5.5 million of it but the damage of that decision is being felt to this day. The Lions extended Quin last offseason, solidifying their secondary for two more years while Texans safeties have come and gone on a never ending roller coaster ride of mediocrity.

Brandon Brooks: Yes Brandon Brooks. Granted, he’s no Xavier Su’a filo. He’s actually a good guard, one that the Texans let go. He’s in a better place now - the NFC Championship game. If there’s one thing the Texans could use right now it’s a guard who can actually block. With the state the Texans offensive line is in now, letting him go is a top five worst move ever.

They may not be great but they help(ed) their teams win

Case Keenum: Case’s 0-8 run as a starter for the Texans in 2013 was not exactly stuff legends are made of. He’s overcome that start. He now has a winning record as a starter and is one win away from a Super Bowl appearance. It’s not easy overcoming all he has. When you’re not drafted, you’re not a blue blood. No matter what you do you always have that stigma yet sitting behind him on the Vikings bench is a No. 1 overall pick and another first rounder. By every standard Case was one of the best quarterbacks in the league this year but he will have to do it again next year to validate it. The Case contingent here is crowing and will get even louder should he go on to win the big game this year.

Owen Daniels: OD only played a couple more seasons after he left the Texans. He owes it all to Gary Kubiak. After playing for Kubes here he joined him in Baltimore then Denver where he helped the Broncos win the Super Bowl. He’s the best tight end in Texans history but there wasn’t much football left in that body so it wasn’t a tough call for the team.

Connor Barwin: Connor is still contributing nine years into his career. After four productive years here the Texans let him walk and he showed them they made a mistake with a pro bowl 14.5 sack season in 2014. He helped the Rams turn things around this year but he’s on the back end of a nice career.

Jason Babin: Hard to say if Babin or Barwin was more productive after he left the Texans. Babin had back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons in 2010 and ‘11 with 12.5 and 18 sacks, respectively. He had 51 ½ sacks over the next eight seasons he played, numbers the Texans could have certainly used.

Jacoby Jones: Jacoby was responsible for two of the biggest plays in Ravens postseason history. Unfortunately one of them was while he was a Texan. His fumbled punt early in the playoff game was something the Texans never recovered from. Then he caught what was later known as the Mile HIgh Miracle, a 70-yard TD with just 44 seconds left in the game to force overtime and send the Ravens toward their second Super Bowl title. Jacoby was named to the Pro Bowl and first team as a kick returner. You can see him these days at Rockets games every now and then.

Demeco Ryans: Arguably the Texans best ever middle linebacker Demeco still had something left in the tank when he moved on to Philadelphia. He had a 102-tackle season in 2013 but his achilles heel was his achilles heel and he limped out of the league two years later. While he was popular with the fans the team made the right call in letting him go after six years with the club. It’s the kind of tough decision that good teams make all the time but the Texans have struggled with - see Brian Cushing.

Brooks Reed: Has he been great? Nah. He’s been just OK as an edge rusher for the Falcons but he did help them get to the Super Bowl last year and back to the playoffs this year. With JD Clowney and Whitney Mercilus the Texans haven’t missed him. He’ll best be known as another second round failure for the Texans.

Ben Jones: Since he left Ben has started all 32 games for the Titans plus a couple playoff games this year. Drafting Nick Martin has made his exit easier to swallow but Martin has not been able to stay on the field while Jones has been extremely reliable in his career. Martin has to stay healthy or this will be another mistake by the team.

Brian Braman: One of the Texans best ever special teamers, he is still doing his thing in Philadelphia blocking a punt this week for the Eagles on their way to a playoff win over the Falcons. A team that’s been historically bad on special teams could still use a guy who takes pride in his work and that’s what Braman does every year.

Not missing you

Earl Mitchell: Since leaving Houston after the 2013 season Earl has amassed just 2 sacks and 66 tackles in the next four years. He’s always been a little undersized for an inside guy but he’s lasted this long and will probably be around a few more years.

Mario WIlliams: You may be wondering why I have Mario this low on the list. He finished his career with 97.5 sacks which should place him higher.  After signing with the Bills he did make two Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team but they paid him $100 million dollars for it. A No. 1 overall pick and hundreds of millions of dollars in earnings should have led to more winning for his teams. He did accumulate sacks but he never really affected winning and that’s what owners pay for.

DJ Swearinger: Another second round bust for the Texans. They had had enough after just two seasons of DJ. The most famous things he did here was have his dog bite JD Clowney and then have his truck tricked out and run off without paying for it. Both were too much for a tackle-missing safety that got burned time and again. He is on his third team in three years but he does have seven picks the past two seasons so there’s hope that someday Swagger will grow up.

Duane Brown: The team’s best ever lineman could not have left on worse terms. After sitting out most of this year in a contract dispute he went to Seattle where he looked like he hadn’t played all season. He just wasn’t the Pro Bowl tackle from years past. Maybe there’s something left in the tank but he wasn’t worth all the drama he created here. Even though the team is desperate for a tackle he scorched this bridge on the way out and will not be missed.

Ben Tate: After rushing for nearly 2000 yards in three years here Ben went on to Cleveland and declared himself the best running back on the team. Apparently no one agreed with him after he rushed for just 333 yards in eight games and he was shipped to Minnesota where he finished up his brief career in just six more games. Another second round miss for a team that rarely gets it right there.

David Carr: Never mind. I think you know how this ended.

So it’s not like the team has made a huge blunder that defines the organization. There are no Hall of Famers on this list but there may be another reason for that. They’ve made so many mistakes after the first round that they didn’t have anyone worth losing.

Take the 2008 draft. Just five years after the draft, Duane Brown was not only the only guy still on the Texans, he was the only guy in the league. He was really the only guy contributing three years after the draft. That’s terrible. That’s the Texans and that is what needs to change the most for this organization to reach another level.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome