Notebook: Day 1 of the draft (for the Texans) was mostly on script

The Texans entered the second day of the draft with two picks, and left with two new front seven players and a gigantic new extension for Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil. I was somewhat struck by how overwhelmingly positive the reaction was to a day that mostly seemed fairly paint-by-numbers and, well, I guess that’s where this fanbase is at.

Just staying put and doing normal football team things is better than what we’ve seen for the last two months. And I’m sure the COVID-19 situation helped want us to steer into the normalcy, so … welcome, Texans, thank you for being a football team that does some logical things.

I haven’t done a ton of pre-tapework for the prospects this year because, if I’m being honest, it’s not very exciting to not have a first-round pick. So I am mostly going to defer to broad descriptions of people I trust to talk about the draft and discuss the alternatives that were there at the time for each pick. I’ll circle around later with more detailed watchings of Ross Blacklock and Jon Greenard, as I have a feeling we won’t have a lot more to talk about after this draft for a long time.

Laremy Tunsil’s contract is enormous — good for Laremy Tunsil, a fait accompli for Houston

Tunsil signed a three-year extension off of the fifth-year option that has the highest average value ($22M per season, besting Lane Johnson’s $18M) and gives Tunsil the highest guaranteed value ($57M) of any offensive lineman in the NFL. It is worth noting that Over The Cap appeared to reduce the guaranteed value to $50 million in their valuation, but either way, Tunsil is essentially the highest-paid lineman in the NFL from 2021-2023, and hits free agency at 29 in 2024.

This was a function of the decision to bring Tunsil over without a contract extension, which Bill O’Brien made a point to defend in his post-draft day presser:

So O’Brien’s point was basically that no matter how it happened Tunsil was going to get paid. Which, yes, he was, but there’s a big distinction in the leverage that he seems to not be fully grasping the nuances of. What he said was in no way an actual statement that the Dolphins said no, and if they did say no, well, if you’re giving up two first-round picks and a second-round pick, you kinda have some leverage to come back at them and say “we’re not doing this without an extension.”

Once that trade was done without an extension, it was so, so obvious that Tunsil would be the highest-paid lineman in the NFL. There was no way that O’Brien could afford to let him walk without becoming a laughingstock.

Ultimately this is small-time negligence as opposed to the real issues with value O’Brien has had in roughly every trade since he became the solo general manager, but I absolutely find it hilarious given how D.J. Reader and, supposedly, DeAndre Hopkins had to be let go over money. One way to find some money? Getting an extension as part of this trade! Just saying! I wrote about Tunsil one year in earlier this week and a Twitter layup line emerged of people who literally never read the piece who decided I think Tunsil sucks, so go ahead and read that if you want to join the line.

Personality and interviews ruled the roost

I’m not saying the Texans made bad picks, because I think there were talent evaluators who had both Blacklock and Greenard rated at or above the spots they were selected, but it became very clear that the meetings the Texans had with both players mattered a lot:

While I don’t presently have audio of this, Jack Easterby did a post-draft sitdown with 610 and echoed the thoughts about Blacklock’s interview:

This is really not a surprise to anyone who has been following the Texans of late. The O’Brien/Easterby duopoly has seemed to only lean further into personal evaluations over personnel evaluations, but I say it now because with the final day of the draft ahead of us, I think it’s important to understand that any kind of late-round guy you’re a fan of has to go through the O’Brien/Easterby personality exam test and pass it. So, while I personally have some guys I’m a fan of for Day 3 that are still out there, I’m not holding out a lot of hope that they’ll become Texans.

BOB got upset on national television

It sure would be nice if Bill “you suck too, motherf*cker” O’Brien could keep the mask on long enough to just present himself as normal on national television in the only sports-related event anyone in America will get for at least four months, but that apparently was too much to ask. Even with only two picks.

The furious he-said, he-said of a failed trade talk engulfed the nation as John McClain reported that they had a deal to trade down with the Lions, and Detroit reporters reported that no, they didn’t:

That seemed to mostly be corroborated by Jack Easterby in the 610 interview when he said that there wasn’t much trade talk:

But don’t worry, O’Brien addressed this with a very convincing story in his presser:

I, too, often storm off loudly after talking to my friends on Zoom while my kid meekly looks on as if he sees me yelling about things all the time.

Does Ross Blacklock offer enough as a pass rusher to be worth a premium pick?

That’s the main question I have about Houston’s first selection. Blacklock missed his 2018 season due to an Achilles tear, but came back and provided three sacks and a bushel of hurries. A lot of those hurries came off twists and stunts, so you can understand why the Texans gravitated towards that as that’s a main emphasis of their pass rush scheme. But Blacklock also showed a ton of agility at the point of attack:

It is nice to have addressed a position that has been mostly J.J. Watt and some other guys for the majority of Watt’s career, and if it does anything to free up Watt to move around, that sounds interesting. My first blush of the highlights is that he’s got the weight to hold up at the point of attack in the NFL game, and the quickness to cause some TFLs and hurries.

Still, we are talking about a guy with 5.5 sacks to his name in college, with guys like A.J. Epenesa and Zack Baun still on the board and potentially more impactful in the passing game, which is the thing I am most concerned about as I don’t believe Whitney Mercilus is an impact EDGE at this point and Watt’s health has not trended in a great direction. The Texans addressed this with their third-round pick, but with less of a sure thing in my opinion. Blacklock’s combine was fairly disappointing as well, as he failed to get above the 40th percentile among defensive linemen on anything but 40-yard dash (4.9) and weight (290 pounds). This is not a freak athlete, merely a stellar one.

The most interesting thing about Blacklock’s interview in my opinion was actually some insight into Anthony Weaver’s scheme:

Gary Patterson is one of the best in the business as far as defense goes in the NCAA, and it is kind of a “from the mouths of babes” thing to me that Blacklock called Houston’s defense easier to play. We haven’t had many peeks in at Anthony Weaver, who I believe has not done a single presser yet since being named defensive coordinator.

Despite my reservations from a grander roster theory standpoint, I’m mostly on board with this pick. The only thing that I would stand on the table about doing differently is a trade down just because this feels like a deep draft and the Texans could use some more capital after the Tunsil trade, but it’s impossible to know what the offers were like from the outside.

Was Jon Greenard a one-year wonder?

Greenard posted 10.0 sacks and 16 tackles for loss at Florida in his final season, impressing at the Senior Bowl. He played very well against the run and there are some good highlights of him showing some impressive in-game intuition:

Greenard was most commonly dinged for a lack of edge bend and for playing worse against better tackles — that’s something I’ll have to look at in a more detailed film piece. Greenard’s explosion index was not high in Football Outsiders’ SackSEER projections, which really weighed down his projection. (Epenesa suffered from the same thing, but had much more production.) I would probably have preferred Boise State’s Curtis Weaver myself at this spot purely on the outside stats and traits, though I am happy that the Texans at least made a real stab at fixing the problem.

As I said when I was talking about the Tytus Howard selection last year, I really have a bias towards prospects who are ballers from Day 1 in college. That’s why I was sort of down on the Howard pick as compared to the other options, and Greenard is a guy who falls into that category as well coming off a lost 2018 season to a wrist injury. He transferred to stick with Florida DC Todd Grantham after starting out at Lousiville. Greenard posted some sacks in 2017, but the wisdom is that he was a much more complete player in 2019.

My belief from the initial research is that I think Greenard has the traits to be a long-time NFL starter, but I would group him more in the secondary rusher tier than as a guy who is going to put up 10 sacks a season.

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