The Houston Texans front office, consisting of Bill O’Brien, Jack Easterby, and their scouting staff, had their work cut out for them if they were going to improve the roster in the draft. They came into the draft with a single pick in rounds 2-5 and 2 picks in 7th. Missing both a 1st and 6th round pick. However, with some trades and shrewd picks it seems the Texans got out of there with a good haul. Despite having 7 picks total to enter the draft, the Texans made only 5 selections. This strategy seemed to pay off as they regularly moved up and down on day 3 to pick good players at their needs at the right time. There was only 1 reach for the Texans across the whole board and that was when they picked Charlie Heck. It is rumored, however, that a trade with Detroit to move down fell apart and Bill was pissed on TV. Seems like a case of him taking the guy he wanted a little earlier than he wanted to. However, while the draft looks great in a vacuum, you have to compare it to other teams’ hauls and it just does not match up with the teams that had multiple first round picks. Overall I commend the front office for making the best of the picks they had, they just did not have that many unfortunately. Overall Grade: B+
Round 2, 40th Overall: Ross Blacklock, TCU, IDL
Ross Blacklock is an athlete, he played Basketball, Baseball, and Football as a kid. He was dunking by the 5th grade and was even a top 100 Baseball player in Texas, but gave up both in highschool. Blacklock grew up just 15 minutes away from NRG stadium, so is returning to his hometown after college to play for the Texans. At TCU, he won a starting job as a redshirt freshman and exploded onto the Big 12 scene. After a huge first season during which he won Big 12 defensive player of the year (yes, as a redshirt freshman) and was named a freshman all-American, he missed his entire sophomore season due to injury. In his junior season, he came back roaring with 40 tackles, 9 being for loss, and 3.5 sacks, winning a first team all-conference spot as well. He did not return for his senior season, entering the draft instead.
On the field, it does not take long to see why Blacklock was able to be so successful at so many sports. His acceleration for a lineman is frankly nothing short of elite. Blacklock did a great job of using his first step to help in both the Pass and Run Stuff. Blacklock also excels in his pass rush due to his tenacity. He never gives up on a play and makes a lot of his solo sacks late into plays when the QB is out of the pocket since he has enough speed to chase down even some mobile QBs, which is becoming a bigger concern for defenses as the position shifts. He has a lot of power in his arms as well. A very strong individual, he often uses pure willpower and muscle to beat offensive in the run game just shoving them back into their running back or forcing the running back to cut due to just being immovable. These little things often go unnoticed in stat sheets but show up on film.
Blacklock’s weaknesses come from a technical standpoint. Due to his first step and power he almost never had to actually develop from a technique standpoint as a rusher during college. He will need to add that to make the next jump at the pro level. Technique from a pass rusher standpoint means committing pass rushing moves to memory and using them at will during a game. On film you rarely saw Blacklock actually perform a spin or other pass rushing move to get past the blocker. He simply would either beat them off the line or shove them off the line. When he would struggle it would often be because once the lineman engaged him he was unable to get off the block despite having more strength due to his inability to position his hands correctly. This will be magnified in the pros where the top end of talent will be able to keep up with him and overpower him. He will need to have at least some understanding of technique in order to beat top end tackles consistently. This will be the key to his development and a priority for the Texans coaching staff. Grade: A-
Round 3, 90th Overall: Johnathan Greenard, Florida, Edge Rusher
Johnathan Greenard started his college career at Louisville where he redshirted for two years basically since he only really played special teams as a redshirt freshman. As a sophomore he was used at linebacker and did well, but was not spectacular. He missed his entire junior year due to injury. However, due to the injury he worked twice as hard in the classroom and was able to graduate a year early. Thus, he became a graduate transfer to Florida and was eligible to play immediately. He was used as an edge rusher at Florida and in his lone season was named to the All-SEC team.
Greenard is almost the opposite of Blacklock. He is one of the most polished technical pass rushers in this draft. I lost count of how many different moves he uses in his season with Florida. One thing they do have in common, however, is that Greenard also has a very quick first step. However, Greenard does not possess the speed Blacklock has. Greenard’s explosiveness has one gear and generated through the power in his legs rather than his natural quickness. This makes him somewhat liable against the run game as he can often be shoved inside, giving up the edge in the run game. He does not possess superb power either so he may struggle against some of the bigger tackles in the NFL. Also, with only one season of tape some teams did not feel comfortable drafting a player without sustained success on day two of the draft. However, he was not used correctly at Louisville so it would be unfair to judge those performances against him. Grade: A
Round 4, 126th Overall: Charlie Heck, UNC, OT
This is the one reach for the Texans in the draft. Heck was going to be available at the top of the 5th round and the Texans traded both their 7th rounders along with pick 136 for this pick. The Texans could have stayed at 136 and still gotten Heck, but of course I am not aware of the calls happening on draft night so I can say nothing for sure. Regardless, there were better players such as Amik Robertson or Curtis Weaver who they should have taken here, but they filled both requirements in the draft elsewhere with different players. In a vacuum, this pick is not bad at all. The Texans finally have their two tackles for the future in Tunsil and Tytus Howard, but Howard got hurt last year and Chris Clark had to step in. Chris Clark was the starter before Tunsil came in and was nothing but awful. When Howard went down, he amazingly did even worse than before. Thus, getting him off the roster in a backup role is a great move.
Heck also has the potential to play guard in the NFL, but at 6’ 7”, he is too large to completely make the switch and will be a swing tackle who can sub in on some running downs here and there, but not often. His strengths do lie in the running game which also helps his guard potential and he will need to improve in the pass blocking game in order to be a consistent tackle in the pros. In the short term, he can provide as a run blocking specialist that can rotate in for Tunsil and Howard when they need a rest. Grade: B-
Round 4, 141st Overall: John Reid, Penn State, CB
This pick belonged to Bill O’Brien. He recruited Reid as a sophmore in highschool when he was the head coach at Penn State. Even as the Texans head coach, O’Brien has been keeping tabs on his development all throughout his college career and played a big role in his recruitment.
John Reid translates into the NFL as the perfect slot corner. He is a little undersized to play on the outside at 5’ 11”, but do not count him out down the line if he develops well. He will start in the slot, however, and should excel immediately. He has excellent ball skills, sticks close to receivers and is even formidable in zone coverage which is a hard combination to find. His speed was a concern for scouts despite not being a problem at the college level, due to the new age of receivers in the NFL. However, he ran a 4.49 40 yard dash at the combine which confirmed what the tape showed when he was closing down speedy receivers and played for the ball in the air. He also stood out on tape for his fluid hips which is one of the best things a slot corner can have, this was further confirmed by the combine in which he led all players in the 20 yard shuttle at 3.97 seconds. No one else finished under 4 seconds. He also finished tied for 6th in the 3 cone drill.
The film does not lie on this player at all. He has great movement and has the speed and acceleration to keep up with slot receivers, but one thing that persisted in college was his use of hands. In college, referees will allow backs to get more handsy with receivers than they do in the pros. On tape, there are times where Reid can easily close the gap between him and receiver, but it is almost like he does not trust himself and grabs the receiver instead and gets called for PI. This is a coachable thing, but will be a habit he needs to break. The rules are twisted to the offenses’ favor in the NFL and Reid will have to adjust. Grade: B
Round 5, 171st Overall: Isiah Coulter, Rhode Island, WR
Isiah Coulter is a small school prospect with big school talent. The film is hard to evaluate on these types of players because they are often the only NFL prospect on their team. This is the case with Coulter. Coulter was actually on my radar pre-draft unlike any of the other picks other than Blacklock. The truth is going into the combine, I had never seen the guy play. But one of my favorite drills in the gauntlet and he really blew me away with how easily he performed that drill. After watching the tape it was clear he was NFL ready.
Coulter has a huge ceiling in the NFL, but what he can do now is line up and outside the numbers and take the top off of a defense. The Texans already have a lot of receivers on their roster, but there is an overload of slot players and not enough outside players. Keke Coutee and DeAndre Carter need to watch their backs in training camp. Coulter not only possesses elite speed but also he can catch the ball out of breaks extremely well. This makes him even more of a threat on the outside.
One of the biggest knocks on Coulter is that he is not a fully developed route runner and while his instincts when turning are great, he lacks the sharp cutting ability needed to run elite routes in the NFL. The Texans have Cobb and Cooks who are both great NFL route runners that can help with that if he can bring a willingness to learn to the table. Coulter will need to improve as a route runner to be successful in the NFL because he is only 6’ 3” and will never have the ability to contest for high balls in the air and must find a way to get open through route running. He has great agility with the ball, which means he has the potential to be a great route runner, but the offense at Rhode Island was not sophisticated enough. He did not run a diverse amount of routes in because it was so easy for him to just catch the ball and run past everybody. Grade: B
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