Ranking the former Texans

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

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The Texans drafted in the first round FOUR times in the past two years. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Houston Texans won last year’s NFL draft by taking quarterback and AP Offensive Rookie of the Year C.J. Stroud with the No. 2 pick before trading up to draft defensive end and AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Will Anderson Jr. third overall.

There will be a lot less excitement in Houston in this year’s draft as the Texans don’t have a first-round pick and won’t select until the 10th pick of the second round with the 42nd overall selection.

However, coach DeMeco Ryans has said that he considers the second and third rounds the “sweet spot” of the draft and is looking forward to adding more guys who can contribute to his team.

“We continue to add guys who fit the Texans’ culture,” Ryans said. “And that’s guys who are made of the right mindset, guys who have that relentless mindset, guys who are true competitors, guys who love football, guys who love pushing their teammates to be their best, guys who want to be the best at what they do. We add those type of players to our locker room, that’s how we follow up a great draft last year.”

The 42nd pick is one of nine selections the Texans have in this draft as they try to add pieces to help them take another step this year after going from worst to first in the AFC South last season.

Houston already boosted its offense this offseason with the blockbuster trade for star receiver Stefon Diggs and the deal that brought running back Joe Mixon to Houston. But Ryans said those moves won’t change the way they approach the draft.

“Just because we’ve added guys at a lot of different positions, that doesn’t stop us from evaluating every position and looking at every avenue to continue to upgrade our team and continue to get our team better,” he said. “So, for the draft process, our process will be exactly the same. Who can we add to our team that adds value to our locker room and adds value to us on the field?”

PICK ’EM

The Texans don’t have a first-round pick this season because of two trades. They shipped their own selection in the opening round at No. 27 to Arizona last year as part of the deal to trade up to nab Anderson. They also had the 23rd pick in the first round, which they received as part of the Deshaun Watson trade. They sent that pick to Minnesota last month for No. 42, a sixth-round pick this year and the Vikings’ second-round pick next year.

NEEDS

Last month the most glaring need for this team would be to add another receiver to join Nico Collins and Tank Dell. Acquiring Diggs changed that, but it still couldn’t hurt to add more talent at the position for the future.

A big need for this team is defensive tackle after both of their starters at the position from last season are no longer with the team. Sheldon Rankins signed with the Bengals this offseason and Maliek Collins was traded to San Francisco for a seventh-round draft pick.

The Texans signed former Titan Denico Autry, who had 11½ sacks last season, but could still use some depth at the position.

DON’T NEED

The Texans should be set for years at quarterback after drafting Stroud last season. Their offensive line is also solid with left tackle Laremy Tunsil and right tackle Tytus Howard leading the group.

WHEELING AND DEALING

Houston general manager Nick Caserio has shown a propensity for trading draft picks since being hired by the Texans in 2021. Of course, his biggest trade was the one that allowed them to vault up from the 12th pick to No. 3 to get Anderson, but it’s far from his only one.

Only three of the Texans’ picks in this draft were originally theirs, with the other six coming via trades. They got a sixth-round pick this year in the deal for Diggs and a seventh-round selection in the Mixon trade.

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