Texans Draft: Need vs best player available
The NFL Draft starts up on Thursday at 7 p.m. with the first round kicking things off. It'll take place in Nashville this year as the league continues to move it around and make a fan experience out of what can be an otherwise boring event.
Fans will also be full of hope and watching in anticipation as their teams draft what they may deem as the players who may turn the team's fortunes around. The likelihood of that actually happening is rare. First rounders pan out and realize their potential as stars less than 50% of the time. As you go deeper into the draft, the success rate drops dramatically. Which is why making sure teams hit on picks, especially early on in the draft, is so critical to team success.
When a team hits on draft picks, they get quality cheap labor compared to what a comparable veteran may cost them. If Deshaun Watson was an unrestricted free agent right now, he's command a salary north of $25 million a year. Since his rookie deal is paying him an average of $3.5 million a year, in essence, the Texans have an extra $21.5 million in cap space to spend. They came into free agency with the third most cap space to spend in the league and acted as if the money they were throwing around weighed as much as manhole covers.
The team desperately needed to bolster the offensive line; they lost two key defensive backs that needed replacing in Kareem Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu; the running back, wide receiver, and linebacker positions could all use an infusion of talent. However, the team continued to put Band Aids on gaping wounds praying it would stop the bleeding. Maybe this is a smart move in the long run, but I'm skeptical considering the franchise's past. Don't forget about Jadeveon Clowney being franchise tagged. Failing to agree to a long term deal with Clowney under the terms he's looking for foreshadows a separation in the near future. If that's the case, why not trade him and get something for him instead of going the Mario Williams route?
All of this leads up to the draft. Now they're in a position to draft because they have needs. Being in a position to draft the best player available gives a team the flexibility to add quality depth and not rely on guys to come in and be immediate impact players. Drafting for need will often leave your team disappointed when the players can't come in and contribute from day one.
We've seen this happen time and time again. Good team building components are equal parts spending wisely in free agency and drafting well. But when you have a franchise quarterback on his rookie deal, you must go for the gusto and take some chances spending in free agency. If the Texans don't come away with at least two offensive lineman and two corners that can contribute within the mid first two years in the team, I'll consider this offseason another waste. Had they gone out and spent on these positions of need and gotten better than a broken offensive lineman and a corner who's on a prove it deal, they could've been in position to select the highest ranking player on their draft board. Now, they may have to reach to fill a need.
I'm not suggesting they can't still salvage this offseason. Perhaps Brian Gaine will hit homeruns with every pick. Maybe there will be some cap cuts of quality vets before or after training camp the team can add. What I am saying is beware of the position the team is in heading into the draft.