The Z Report

Lance Zierlein: Even with no early picks, the Texans hit in the draft

The Texans added Keke Coutee in Round 4. Houstontexans.com

All in all, I was very pleased with the Houston Texans draft. They stole a future starting safety in the third round while adding to obvious positions of need. Brian Gaine said they wanted to get faster and they did just that and they also added players at the end of the draft who should help improve their special teams unit. Here are my thoughts on the players drafted by the Texans.

Round 3, (68th) Jordan Reid, S, Stanford: To be honest, I had a first round grade on Reid, but expected him to go sometime in the early second round. Reid is what teams are looking for at the safety position. He's a plus size/speed prospect who has the athletic ability to help with man coverage and the instincts and ball skills for ball-hawking duties on the back end. Reid can get himself into some trouble when he's overly aggressive, but his positive plays far outweigh the negative. He has the talent to become an early starter and a good one. Tyrann Mathieu is at his best when he’s free-styling in space so even though Reid can play a combo safety role, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Texans used him as a safety on the back-end. Make no mistake, Reid has the talent to become an instant starter in this secondary.

Round 3 (80th) Martinas Rankin, OL, Mississippi State: In my personal opinion, the further Rankin kicks inside the better he will be. I’m sure the Texans will give Rankin the first look at tackle, but  Rankin may have issues as a run blocker handling the power he will face. He’s played at a relatively high level in a good football conference and offers position flexibility which is key. He has heavy hands and good instincts in pass protection. He could become a good NFL starter but I’m not sure it will be at tackle. The Texans are bamking on the fact that he can make it work at that position.

Round 3 (98) Jordan Akins, TE, Central Florida: Akins has decent size, but flashes with his speed and ability to challenge man coverage down the field. Akins saw 43.7 percent of his catches go for 20-plus yards this season, but he also has the necessary talent with the ball in his hands to take a short throw and turn it into a first down. Akins is a move tight end with the ability to separate and create throwing windows, but he won't offer much as a blocker. Many teams were turned off by the fact that Akins is going to be a 26-year old rookie.

Round 4 (103) Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech: Lanky speed merchant with an ability to take the top off of a defense as well as handle the nickel and dime catches underneath. Coutee's lack of route experience and play strength could lead to a bumpy initial season, but his ability to separate both vertically and out of his breaks should make him a coveted slot target capable of adding chunk plays to an offense or return game in need of some juice. Coutee can handle kick return dutie and he can also handle the duties that were supposed to go to Braxton Miller in the slot. There isn’t going to be much need for Bruce Ellington, Braxton Miller, and Coutee on one roster.

Round 6 (177) Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest: The only reason Duke Ejiofor fell to this spot was because there were concerns about his medicals. He’s not a naturally gifted athlete, but he’s a very advanced pass rusher in terms of his skill level. Ejiofor's game revolves around his heavy hands and his ability to finish as a rusher if a blocker gives him an opening. Ejiofor needs to play faster as an edge rusher, but don’t sleep on his ability to rush from the interior in sub-packages. He consistently harassed the quarterback as an interior rusher and might be able to do the same with the Texans if he’s healthy. Great value pick.

Round 6 (211) Jordan Thomas, TE, Mississippi State: Thomas has rare size, speed and athletic traits as a converted receiver-to-tight end that is intriguing. He'll need simpler routes as a tight end and has to be coached up on how best to utilize his frame to wall off defenders. I wasn’t sure I saw enough toughness to envision him as an in-line blocker, but the Texans said after the draft that they believed he had the “want to” in order to make it happen when they worked him out.

Round 6 (214) Peter Kalambayi, EDGE, Stanford: Kalambayi is a well-built athlete with adequate strength, above average wingspan and sudden feet who hasn't been able to match the production to his traits. Kalambayi is an explosive athlete who never seemed to get much better after his freshman season, but he does have some talent. I see him as a backup 3-4 linebacker who will used as a core member of the special teams.

Round 7 (222) Jermaine Kelly, CB, San Jose State: Kelly fits the mold of height-weight-speed cornerbacks that Brian Gaine and Bill O’Brien wanted to start adding to the roster. He can really run and could land a roster spot with his special teams abilities alone. As a cornerback, it will take some time and it may never happen for him. He had just one career interception.

 

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It's all about Deshaun. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The Texans moved to 3-7 following their 27-20 win over the Patriots. They are still without a permanent head coach and general manager. There lies the problem, and those problems will be settled this upcoming offseason. The new general manager and head coach will steer this franchise in the direction it needs to go in. Undoubtedly, Deshaun Watson will be at the forefront of what they do. How can he not be? You don't take a job like this with a quarterback like him and not consider him the centerpiece. What else would make one take either of those jobs? The salary cap hell the team is facing? The lack of draft picks coming off a terrible year? The faith ownership has placed in the NFL's version of Littlefinger?

Watson is the lone attraction to the flaming dumpster fire Cal McNair allowed to occur on his watch. If he's not careful, it could get worse and he'll find it hard to recover from. Watson signed an extension that'll keep him in Houston for another four years. He'll still be in his prime (barring any serious, career-threatening injury), and be eligible to hit the market as a free agent before he turns 30. So who do the Texans hire as head coach that can get the most out of Watson? Who can convince him to stay and re-sign after his extension is up?

The main cast of characters will most likely take better jobs. The Jets job is more attractive because of the cap space and draft picks. If the Falcons job opens up, so is it because of Matt Ryan and that offense. What coach/coaches would be interested in taking on this job that would be viable candidates given that the best of the best would take other jobs? Jayson Braddock and I tackled this topic not too long ago on Late Hits. Here are a few guys off the beaten path we felt were contenders:

Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator: Daboll is a guy who, according to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, is openly campaigning for this job. The work he's done with Josh Allen has been remarkable. Allen has gone from a raw prospect with all the physical tools to an MVP candidate. Who wouldn't want a guy like that in Watson's ear guiding him over the foreseeable future?

Greg Roman, Ravens offensive coordinator: Roman has done wonders for Colin Kaepernick and Lamar Jackson. He helped Kaepernick reach a Super Bowl with the 49ers and turned Jackson into last season's league MVP. Given his history with athletic quarterbacks, he should be a natural fit and given full consideration.

Tony Elliott, Clemson offensive coordinator: Here's where it gets interesting. Elliott has been the OC (or co-OC) at Clemson since 2015. He has an established relationship with Watson and a proven track record as a coordinator of high-powered offenses in college. He's the type of hire that won't cost as much as some big names will, but might be able to provide the same spark.

Note that all three of these guys are offensive coaches. I fully understand that the defense is an issue and needs help desperately. I also understand that the previous two coaches were offensive guys as well. But Watson is your franchise quarterback and the most attractive piece in a pile of flaming dung that resides on Kirby. If anyone is going to take this job, it'll be because of number four. I know these aren't the sexy names most folks would want to hear, but these names are more realistic as candidates. None of them has head coaching experience. That fact cheapens their price tag and lends itself to them being long shots. A lot of this depends on the general manager hire. We'll get into that in another articel. For right now, dwell on this and let me know what you think.

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