The Houston Texans are having a good NFL Draft. They're filling needs (not that they ever set out to do that of course). They're adding ready-now talent to what's already a second round playoff team.
DeAndre Hopkins is almost as impressive in person wearing a sports coat and holding up a No. 10 Texans jersey as he in on film against LSU's NFL-talent-packed defense. Second round pick D.J. Swearinger, a safety out of South Carolina, was once supposed to be the object of a tug of war draft positioning battle between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens.
The two third rounders — massive right tackle Brennan Williams and outside linebacker Sam Montgomery — are more projects, but Williams could challenge for a starting job depending on what happens with Derek Newton and the talkative Montgomery earns mega points for dropping not one, but two Ninja references to refer to Antonio Smith. Montgomery also uses the Sonic the Hedgehog video game character as motivation when he's tired (no, seriously).
It's hard to argue the Texans aren't doing well. But could they be doing great? Could they have changed the franchise for many future years by going bolder, by daring to think a little more unconventional?
You don't draft Smith or Barkley to put pressure on Schaub. You draft Smith or Barkley to set up an Aaron Rodgers situation.
For Geno Smith, the West Virginia quarterback who was once thought of a Top 5 pick, was sitting there waiting for Texans general manager Rick Smith to shock the world and take him at No. 27. And Matt Barkley, the USC Golden Boy who would have been a Top 5 pick last April if he had come out, was still there when the Texans came up again late in the second round and twice late in the third round.
This isn't about doubting Matt Schaub. I've been one of his biggest defenders in the city. Schaub definitely has the ability and the nerve to lead this Texans team to a Super Bowl.
You don't draft Smith or Barkley to replace Schaub or even put pressure on Schaub in the short term. You draft Smith or Barkley to set up an Aaron Rodgers situation, to set up your future.
Maybe there really are enough questions about Smith and especially Barkley to doubt if they could play at a high level immediately. But they wouldn't have to in Houston. The Texans could still make their Super Bowl pushes with Schaub in this current window while developing a new quarterback star for their next window.
DeAndre Hopkins should immediately help the Texans. But unless he turns into the next Andre Johnson — an elite Top 5 level receiver for a decade plus —there is no way he is more valuable than a future franchise quarterback. And Geno Smith clearly can become that type of quarterback with the right coaching.
Swearinger boasted that he was the best safety in the draft at the NFL Combine. And he just might turn out to be that after he goes to Ed Reed School in Houston. Swearinger loves to hit and Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is already talking of using him in the run support role that free agent departee Glover Quin played so well (just ask Adrian Peterson how well).
"You always try to take a football player and this guy is a football player," Phillips says of Swearinger. That's almost a holy blessing from the Yoda of defense.
But again, unless D.J. Swearinger turns into the next Ed Reed, he'll never be as valuable as The Next Quarterback.
NFL Draft Drama
Maybe Rick Smith is convinced that T.J. Yates is a budding star, that his cool-headed play with Schaub injured in 2011 is just the tip of what's to come. If not, you have to wonder why Smith didn't gamble on a quarterback.
He had four chances in the first two days of this NFL Draft. There hasn't been an NFL Draft in recent memory where this many top level quarterback prospects plummeted so far. There probably won't be another one in the next decade. Easy. And it's not like the Texans figure to have a high first round pick any time soon.
Sometimes you can have a good draft and still miss on the bigger opportunity.
This screams out as Smith and the Texans chance. This was that one year when everything went crazy and the quarterbacks were still there.
You have to wonder if Houston just watched its opportunity at an Aaron Rodgers evaporate into Mel Kiper's hair. Sure, plenty of other teams obviously doubted Smith, with questions surfacing about his work ethic and his tendency to miss some open receivers. And many more teams are clearly wary of Barkley.
But plenty of teams jumped on the doubt Aaron Rodgers bandwagon in 2005. Randy Moss slid to the 21st pick. Once enough teams start passing, everyone tends to get jittery.
This was a draft where the Texans clearly could have got daring. You'd hate to think they didn't make a bold move on a quarterback because they worried that a Schaub doubting fan base would call for the new guy at the first opportunity. That's not how championship organizations think.
Rick Smith is a better GM than I. His track record is hard to argue with. Maybe, he and Gary Kubiak don't believe in Smith or Barkley at all.
And again, the Texans are doing well in this draft. Getting your pick of the second receiver in the draft at No. 27 is no small coup. They've already filled a number of needs . . . while squandering the best chance they'll have to grab a future franchise quarterback for years.
Sometimes you can have a good draft and still miss on the bigger opportunity. There was a home run chance in this draft and the Texans didn't even take a swing at it.
They'd better hope they don't end up regretting that for years.