Will the Texans Do Enough to Avoid the RG3 Experience?

Lets start with where the Texans were. In Deshaun Watson, the Texans traded two first rounders and a second rounder for a possible Steve Young-type Quarterback. He could be the kind of quarterback that turns broken plays into long gains, elevates the players around him and changes the destiny of a franchise. However, Watson has blown out both knees. That, along with his broken-play wizardry and exciting rookie season should remind you of another QB that cost his team several top picks; RG3. Whether Watson’s career trajectory more closely resembles RG3’s than it does Steve Young’s will depend on whether injuries will erode Watson’s play the way it did RG3s. One can argue that no franchise is more heavily invested in protecting their QB than the Houston Texans.
To protect Watson, the Texans had only one NFL-starter-quality lineman, in Nick Martin. That is not to say that players like Julien Davenport don’t have the physical tools to some day develop into quality linemen, but their ability to block two years from now won’t keep Watson’s knees from being blown out this coming season. By the way, Nick Martin, that ONE dependable lineman, has finished the season on injured reserve four out of the last five seasons.
This is a roundabout way of saying the Texans needed to acquire instant impact lineman more than any other team in the league, even if that meant paying above market value. Luckily, they had $69 million in cap space to aid in that task. Unluckily, they had no first or second round picks in this draft to act as a backup plan.
Plan A was to sign Nate Solder, widely considered the only sure-fire left tackle in free agency. He isn’t a perennial pro bowler (in fact he hasn’t ever been to one), but he is steady enough that he won’t require consistent help against the better rushers in the league to keep Watson upright. Even so, his lack of pro bowl appearances would make most people ask why the Giants signed Solder to a massive four-year $62 million contract. The answer is that NFL protection schemes change if you cannot man your left tackle in space against your opponent’s best rusher without requiring consistent help. Without that one-on-one left tackle, the rest of your protection scheme can be exploited by average athletes, without the defense having to use odd-man stunt/blitz schemes that could expose their coverage. I would argue that given the Watson’s knees and the Texan’s cap space, Solder was worth more to the Texans than the $15.6 million a year the Giants paid him.
Instead of Solder, the Texans signed Seantrel Henderson, Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemente. They gave Fulton, a former chief, $7.5 million per year to shore up one of the guard positions. He has played center, but it makes more sense to have Martin continue to learn the center position instead of having him flip flop around (See, the Cowboy’s treatment of Byron Jones and how that stunted his growth). Either way, Fulton will be an upgrade to one of the interior line positions. With multiple third-round picks, the Texans will probably be able to draft a plug-and-play guard to fill the other guard position. Does that mean that Henderson and Kelemente are expected to hold down the tackle positions? Is that enough to stave off the RG3 experience?
Henderson is a former 7th round pick by the Bills, who fell because his character concerns overshadowed his immense physical gift. He gave the Bills a decent right tackle option until Crohn’s disease affected his play. We don’t really know which version of Henderson the Texans are getting, but at $4 million for one year, he is a buy-low stopgap option. The problem with buy-low free agents is that they’re like going for buffet sushi instead of paying-up for Uchi. Sometimes you’ll get a real deal, but a lot of the times you’ll poop your pants.
If Henderson is your right tackle, then does that make Senio Kelemente your all-important left tackle? At 6’3, he is shorter and has less reach than you would like out of your left tackle, but he had enough athletic ability to play all-five OL positions in his stint with the Saints. At 3 years, $12 million, the Texans have some time-investment in him, but the financials of his deal are not daunting. Given Watson’s situation though, are they really comfortable betting on a jack-of-all-trades to stave off the RG3 experience?
The last option is the draft, where there are very few plug-and-play left tackles. Mike McGlinchey will be drafted too high for the Texans to trade up and get. Oklahoma product, Orlando Brown, is massive at 6’8 and 345 pounds. However, that size comes at the cost of quickness and bend. His disastrous combine performance likely knocked him into the 2nd round but he is realistically a right tackle prospect, at best.
Isaiah Wynn’s film shows good balance, athletic ability and the mean streak you want in an offensive lineman. However, at only 6’3, he doesn’t have the ideal length. Will his athletic ability be enough to overcome his shortcomings, and more importantly, are you confident enough in his athleticism to gamble a possible ride on the RG3 rollercoaster?
The last two options are Kolton Miller from UCLA and Connar Williams from the University of Texas. Miller has the ideal size (6’9, 309) and put on an absolute show at the combine. That athleticism likely turned him from a late second rounder into a late first rounder/early second rounder. If he falls to the mid second round, the Texans may be able to package one of their multiple 3rd rounders to move up and get him. The problem is that his film doesn’t live up to his combine measureables. On film, you see someone who doesn’t have the bend or leverage to get to his spot or the strength to hold it up, even against weaker competition. He could be this draft’s Nate Solder, but he will need to improve from the blocker I saw on film.
Connor Williams is the “gun-control” of draft prospects. Some people love him, others hate him, there are few in between. Mock drafts have him going as high as No. 4 to the Browns and as low as the third round. He is 6’6 and showed tremendous athleticism and technique in his All-American freshman year, and built upon that in his sophomore campaign. However, he only played two games during his junior year, which was marred by an MCL injury. His performance in his injury-plagued year was abysmal. Which Connor Williams will you be drafting? My guess is that he won’t somehow be worse as a 21 year old than he was as an 18 year old. If he drops to the middle of the 2nd, the Texans may avoid the RG3 rollercoaster and get the steal of the draft by putting together a package and moving up.
Next up – Cornerback options in the 3rd and 4th rounds.

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