BANKING ON WATSON

John Granato: Hoping Pro Football Focus is wrong about the Texans

Pro Football Focus thinks Deshaun Watson is an average quarterback. Tim Warner/Getty Images

If it wasn’t bad enough watching the Texans muddle through another dismal season after Deshaun Watson went down, Pro Football Focus doesn’t think it will be much better this year - not if you look at their NFL roster rankings.

Of the 32 NFL teams, the Texans roster came in 31st. There is no way to spin that. It’s bad. It’s why Rick Smith is no longer working for the organization. There were way too many swings and misses draft after draft.

According to PFF the Texans have one exceptional player in DeAndre Hopkins, a couple just behind him in J.J. Watt and J.D. Clowney and three above average players in D.J. Reader, Zach Cunningham and Aaron Colvin. That’s it. The rest of the roster is a bunch of guys.  

That’s where PFF and I disagree.

PFF gave Deshaun a grade of 75.1 which makes him an average NFL quarterback.

My undying love for Deshaun is well documented. I’m biased on this but by what measure can you say that Deshaun Watson was an average NFL quarterback last year? Certainly not by his play. When he got injured he was leading the league in touchdown passes and the Texans had the No. 1 scoring offense. His QB rating of 103 finished just ahead of Tom Brady, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff. How in the world is that average?

Maybe they’re penalizing Deshaun for being injured. That’s about the only explanation. That can’t be though because Aaron Rogers had an 84.4 PFF rating last year and he was injured too.  

I’m not saying he’s Aaron Rogers but these ratings shouldn’t take into account your past. They’re based solely on last year’s performance and last year Deshaun was better than Rogers.

Rogers threw more passes and completed more with a better completion percentage but Deshaun threw for more yards, more yards per pass, more touchdowns, made more big plays and had a higher qb rating.

It doesn’t make sense.

But that’s about all I can disagree with. It’s no secret that the Texans have average to below average players everywhere else. It’s why I think they have been so bad on special teams for so long. If your starters aren’t that good how good can your special teams players be any good?

But 31st in the league is a lot lower than I would have thought the Texans roster would be. The only team worse is the Browns but they’re completely overhauling that roster and will be better this year.

The Jets have a better roster than the Texans? Really? The Colts? The Giants? Man.

Objectively looking at the Texans it’s hard to think that this team will win. The offensive line collectively is one of the worst units in the league. Outside of DeAndre Hopkins the receivers are average at best. The running backs are just guys.

Defensively, Kevin Johnson was PFF’s worst corner last year. J-Jo is another year older. Kareem Jackson has to move to safety. The inside linebackers are good but struggle some in pass coverage. We’ll see if Whitney Mercilus returns to All-Pro form. Clowney, J.J. and Reader are among the best when healthy but that’s a big if especially with JJ. It can be a great front 7 but, but, but.

There is one X-factor this season. Deshaun. Number 4 made everyone better last year. He took a crappy offense to the top of the league. Took the worst line in the league and made it serviceable. Took average playmakers and made them special and took Deandre Hopkins to elite status.

He couldn’t make the defense any better though. His 3-3 record as a starter was in large part due to a defense that couldn’t stop anyone late in games. Seattle and New England both drove right down the field to beat the Texans in the final minutes. The other factor was questionably conservative play calls that put the defense back on the field. Hopefully both the defense and the play caller learned some lessons last year.

But the fact of the matter is that with no first or second round picks the Texans could only marginally improve their roster. The offensive line picked up a couple of free agents but no one that moved the needle. The defense grabbed a nice free agent in Aaron Colvin and if Tyrann Mathieu plays like he did early in his career he will be a huge plus. Third round pick Justin Reid has to grow up in a hurry because they’re going to need him with Andre Hal sidelined with lymphoma.

The biggest additions though will be Watt and Whitney Mercilus. PFF gave JJ an 89.3 rating but that was all on past performance. He only played in five games last year with no sacks and 15 total tackles. How that rates so high I can’t tell you. We all know what J.J. can be though and he has to be if the Texans are going to move up from their present status as a bottom dweller.

Everywhere I look the Texans are thought to be a 6 to 9 win team, usually closer to the 6 than the 9. Every preseason preview begins and ends with Deshaun’s health. Everyone is waiting for J.J. to get back to doing J.J. stuff.

Call me an optimist or just plain stupid (many people have), I think they’re going to be the division champ and a scary playoff team.

I’m a homer. I’ll admit it. But I’m not going to dismiss what I saw from Deshaun Watson the past three years. He’s special and when you have that under center you’ve always got a chance to do special things.   

Maybe Pro Football focus is right. Maybe their roster just isn’t good enough but the great players make everybody around them better including the head coach. Deshaun did that last year and will do it again this year.

Book it… but not with money. I don’t need that heat if they finish last.