The end of detention

If you actually read this post, and you’re going to respond to me on Twitter about it in good faith, please use the hashtag #ReadThePiece. I know this sounds silly, but it’s an easy way for me to separate responses that I want to honor with a real answer from people who just want to be mad about everything they read online.

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What the last few days felt like was a punishment. The Texans had to watch 66 picks go by before they selected on Friday night, and while everyone else had their shiny new toys lined up, the Texans were to face the wall and count off players on their division championship winners.

Friday itself? It was fine. Despite the fact that Nick Caserio is now running the show, it spiritually didn’t feel a lot different than the 2020 NFL Draft. I wasn’t over the moon about anyone they picked on either day, but they were fine, rational picks of players who were hanging around at about the spot they should be taken according to draftnik consensus. I can’t really fault the Texans for not moving around the board more given their lack of pick value to play with, and I sure as hell am not going to unload on them for not taking the players I’d prefer because I have enough self-reflection to tell you I’m not a draft scout.

What today meant for me, and what I hope it means for you if you’re suffering through this with your heart on your sleeve, is that it closed the book on the ill-fated Laremy Tunsil trade. We’re done having to watch every other team in the NFL pick before the Texans are up. The organization itself is not going to be incredibly sturdy until a seemingly inevitable parting with Deshaun Watson happens and they procure the tools and picks with which they can actually rebuild something.

No matter what happens in the 2021 season — and I’m prepared for the worst — the Texans will at least be able to actually pick someone early in the 2022 NFL Draft. That’s a small thing that I took for granted before these last two years. I wish I hadn’t had to find out that I took it for granted, but that can be water under the bridge. Something from these cursed ~18 months that can be fully left behind.

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Nick Caserio views his job mostly as he sees it through the processes and calculations of what he believes his job is. What I mean by that is that I wasn’t at all surprised by the fact that he didn’t offer much of an endorsement of Davis Mills as a franchise quarterback after selecting him with his first pick as a Texan. He has already engaged in seventh-dimension chess about the various ways the pick could and couldn’t work out, checkmated himself three times and you four times, and is going to tell you about it in very general terms to avoid giving away anything that he knows.

I don’t personally think Mills offers a lot of franchise quarterback upside. I think of him as a potential steady backup and someone who, hey, who knows, could surprise you. The guy who came to mind when looking at the traits list was former Browns third-rounder Cody Kessler. Kessler had his backers in the draftnik circuit, had some prowess and juice as a good decision-maker. Where Kessler failed was that he didn’t have the arm to actually cash the checks his brain could write. Davis has more upside as a downfield passer, but much, much less actionable experience. Asides, of course, from his work in Virtual Reality Football:

You’re not going to find clean prospects at 67th overall. This is, arguably, the highest upside roll the Texans can take. If Davis hits his ceiling, the quarterback situation is taken care of with a 10th-15th-best quarterback in the league-type, an Eli Manning or thereabouts. It’s not incredibly likely that he hits it, but given the season we’re all staring down, I think it’s a worthwhile risk to take.

If you put me in charge of the board in that moment I probably would have taken Indiana safety Jamar Johnson. I know that the position is fairly loaded for this season, but I have my doubts that Justin Reid and the Texans are going to see eye-to-eye about his value and think Johnson could break in with dime packages this year as a prelude to something bigger in 2021. Hey, Johnson’s still on the board! Plenty of time left.

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Then, after rumors that they might be looking to move back, Caserio actually traded back into the third round to bring in Michigan wideout Nico Collins. The move cost the Texans one of their fifth-rounders tomorrow, as well as a 2022 fourth-rounder from the Rams. This is actually a fairly significant trade-up in terms of pure draft chart value.

Me, I pretty much believe the draft ends right around pick 100, maybe a little later. The way teams rate players after the obvious physical fits gives ample space for guys to slide around. So if you assume that the Rams are going to be pretty good next year (they did just trade for Matt Stafford), and that the pick probably won’t be close to the top 100, I can squint enough to get over it. The Texans traded into the top 100 and gave up only one pick close to it. Not great value, but fair enough.

Speaking of obvious physical fits, that is what Nico Collins is.

Collins is a huge, physical receiver who profiles as the outside guy that the Texans didn’t really have on this roster. He’s not the same kind of burner that Will Fuller is, which kind of shows up in a subpar 20-yard split. When Collins gets going, he gets going, but it takes a few strides to get up to top-flight speed. A lot of his career prospects are going to come down to if his playing speed is average or solid-average. Because of how often he just kind of disappeared in drives (granted it’s Michigan and Shea Patterson was rough), I kind of see him more in the No. 2 wideout ceiling/No. 3 wideout floor range. A rough floor is that Collins becomes a quality underneath guy who moves some chains with tough catches. For a ceiling, I could imagine him playing like Marques Colston but in a bit different of a role because of the differences between the Saints tree and the Patriots tree. Most draftniks described Collins as something close to a tease — humongous highlights but not much consistency.

I am more excited about this pick than I am about the Mills pick because I think there’s a more reliable floor, but if you plugged me into this spot I probably would have gone with another defensive player. If not Johnson, then maybe Washington corner Elijah Molden. This team did just finish a full NFL season forcing less than 10 turnovers, right?

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I will spend time watching through games, interviews, and draftnik breakdowns of these two (and perhaps one other pick) in the future to flesh out my feelings about them — these are planned posts of the future — but these are my first blush, surface-level looks. I’ll do more of these tomorrow unless Caserio trades all the picks away for Jimmy Garoppolo. (I’m kidding, I think.)

I don’t think anything happened here tonight that should cause fans any extra grief unless they were holding out hope for Watson to change his mind about staying with the Texans. (When asked about it, Caserio filibustered the question.)

I’m just glad that this is the last NFL Draft we have to endure in detention.

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