The Texans finally draft a Johnathan Joseph replacement

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.


I don’t really do draft preview posts at this point, which is a shame for #thebrand and #engagement because you guys love to talk about the draft. I will be upfront: I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in my ability to pick these guys out to be winners. I don’t watch college games live very often, and while I watch enough video of these players to call it a passing interest, I’m not going to grind down to the bone to figure out if I think this mid-round tight end is a third-rounder or a fourth-rounder. Jordan Pun is your guy for that.

Frankly, when I do that stuff more competitively, what I realize is that we’re blessed publicly with maybe about 25-30% of the total picture. Medicals, interviews, tracking data (Caserio referenced this recently in an interview) — it’s just wildly easy to have a take based on some combine numbers and some highlight clips. But it’s classic Dunning-Kruger effect. And if I don’t have all that much conviction about something, what I tend to do is quiet down and do a lot of listening to the people I actually respect about the process. (Matt Waldman, Dane Brugler, Lance Zierlein, Josh Norris, Nate Tice, etc. etc. etc.)

I think this is a drop in the bucket of a Texans rebuild. But at least there’s water in the bucket. I don’t agree with both picks in so much as I, with my limited information, might have done something else. But where I’m at is: I’ll try to understand where they’re coming from, and I’ll be upfront with you and tell you that nobody really knows how these guys are going to turn out. I try to keep a very probability-focused mindset on the draft.


1 / 3: Derek Stingley Jr., LSU, CB

Name the last great Texans cornerback season. The answer is probably Kareem Jackson in 2018, and I would argue that he was really still a safety playing cornerback even then. The Texans haven’t had a true No. 1 cornerback since Johnathan Joseph aged out of it. Bradley Roby was a stable CB1, but I don’t think anyone would argue that his play here was top-notch. It’s been a hole for a long time. Even people who literally work for the Texans would say this:

The major reasons to draft Stingley over Sauce Gardner are that a) Stingley has more play against better competition and b) Stingley’s 2019 season was the highest high for any cornerback in the class. Nick Caserio cited seeing him play against Ja’Marr Chase and players of that ilk when asked about Stingley at his post-round-1 presser:

Stingley, of course, played just three games last year for LSU as he fought a Lisfranc injury. That was a major reason why he kind of rode the downslope for most of the draft process after being bandied about as a potential top-five guy for most of the college football regular season. It turns out that this didn’t matter to the Texans. I watched his post-selection conference call with local media and you’re not going to get a lot of words out of him. I found that kind of interesting because Dane Brugler’s draft guide listed one of his weaknesses for Stingley (in some eyes around the league, of course) as “scouts say he doesn’t have an Alpha personality.”

If it were up to me, I would have taken Kayvon Thibodeaux with this pick. I think he’s the most talented player in this draft. But knowing how the Texans operate, and knowing the questions about Thibodeaux’s commitment to football, I really didn’t come into this with any expectations about Thibodeaux ever donning deep steel blue. I was expecting this to come down to either Stingley, Sauce Gardner, or Ikem Ekwonu. I think of those three players, the Texans probably made the right pick. I can see the arguments for either of the other two players. I think Stingley is the swing-for-the-fences pick of the two cornerbacks and, while I understand Ekwonu’s appeal, I was a little lost on the value proposition of a guy who might start at guard at third overall.

It’s hard to say how quickly the rookies will get run on a team that is ostensibly full of veterans that deserve a chance, but Stingley will be in competition with Desmond King, Tavierre Thomas, and Steven Nelson. One thing I am earnestly curious about is how quickly he’ll get a chance to play. Rookie cornerbacks only rarely look great right away.

1 /15 Kenyon Green, Texas A&M, G

Caserio’s post-draft presser gave us the nugget that he could have traded down again with this pick, as he initially did from 13 to 15 for picks 124, 162, and 166. He ultimately deemed the idea “too cute” and instead settled on something that has very obviously been a point of contention within the building due to the back-to-back 32nd place finishes in run DVOA: people who can move people.

Green tended to be regarded from what I read as the more raw of the two big guard prospects in this draft between himself and Zion Johnson, who went to the Chargers two picks later. Brandon Thorn, who I would trust on offensive line play more than most, appeared on a few podcasts (I’ll dig these later, sorry, I do like to sleep) and the basic gist of what I got from him is he thought Round 1 was rich for Green, but that he could understand what the scouts were seeing.

Green’s major dings are about technique, not the body that made him a high-level high school recruit. Brugler’s draft guide cites him as a “penalty magnet.” I’m a little worried about giving George Warhop this high of a pick to build with because it’s not like his recent track record with young linemen is great. Jawaan Taylor and Cam Robinson barely developed at all. His Bucs days with Lovie had Ali Marpet, but also Donovan Smith.

In short, I’m not a huge fan of this pick because I a) understand the burden it’s going to put on one guard to turn a run game around and b) I just think there were better values up and down the board. I would have picked Zion of the two guards, I just think he seems more likely to be a steady contributor. But more to the point — and I have to note that depending on which draft models you believe in, the Texans did well on this trade — I simply would have stayed put and drafted Kyle Hamilton or Jordan Davis at 13 if these were my options. Frankly, I would have been happy with Hamilton at 3, so to have that scenario just fall into Houston’s lap and watch it slide away was a little disappointing.

I’m less in love with that return than Seth is simply because the top three rounds are the draft bread-and-butter to me and the Texans received no picks that happen in those rounds. The real question here is what happens with the picks. It gives Caserio ample ammo to move around and target other fallers that he likes, which in theory can be a very good thing. He could also simply take many shots, which could also be a good thing. My read of Caserio is that there will be some trade-ups over the next two days to target players, as he did with Nico Collins in 2021, that he values higher than consensus. Given the volume of culture veterans already on the roster, I would be surprised if Houston made all the picks they have left.

It was also of note that Caserio quickly dialed in on Green as an inside guy. He again parroted the idea that the best five linemen will play. I think at this point I’d expect Laremy Tunsil at left tackle, Tytus Howard at left guard, Justin Britt at center, Green at right guard, and Charlie Heck at right tackle. Based on how things have played out publicly, that seems like the five they believe in most at the positions they believe they’ll tolerate best.


Day 2 and a few random thoughts

37th overall has fallen in a manner that invites some intrigue. Malik Willis is still on the board, as are Breece Hall, Logan Hall, Nakobe Dean, David Ojabo, Arnold Ebiketie, Jaquan Brisker, Christian Watson, Skyy Moore, and Jalen Pitre. Both of the Halls have come in for top-30 visits with the Texans — as both Green and Stingley did. Caserio noted that there was some consideration about trading back up into Round 1:

I do wonder who they might be targeting here if they were considering moving up. I think you can argue any of the above players — plus a few more — would be good fits for the Texans. I personally would favor Dean and the Halls as my favorite picks left for them at 37.

-Wanted to point this out because it came up again as I was reading things and I realized that Jair brought this up earlier:

Green? You guessed it, a top-15 overall recruit. Caserio really seems to value the idea that someone who shows great talent at a young age counts for something over the long term.

Nakobe Dean was the 19th overall recruit in the 2019 class…


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The Texans backed up their words and paid Brandin Cooks like a core player

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.


After an offseason of mostly dull signings, the Texans did exactly what you could have predicted they’d do by their words: They re-signed Brandin Cooks to a two-year extension that is commensurate value for his performance.

We don’t quite have full details of the deal, but at the very least, this will likely tie Cooks to the Texans for the next two seasons. It’s possible that the third year is also onerous enough to latch Cooks on to the roster because that’s a large amount of guarantees, but we’d need the full contract structure to know for sure. (And there’s also the question of if the deal is guaranteed for injury or fully guaranteed … agents tend to promote whatever part of it looks best. We’ll see where this comes in.)

Cooks is the Texans player that everyone always calls underrated. But underrated is a buzz word used by people who don’t actually watch players and just see some line score stat compilations and don’t hear anyone else talking about the player. He’s in a perfect situation to be underrated. In his first year without The Quarterback Who Used To Play Here, Cooks morphed into a volume receiver. He finished sixth among qualified receivers in Targeted Air Yards at 36.7%. That was up almost 6 percent from 2020. He performed better with Davis Mills in the lineup and I don’t think that was a mistake — Mills started the year extremely focused on Cooks and often had problems getting to his second read. It also made some sense to focus on Cooks because, well, nobody else in the lineup was producing or winning often.

I think in an ideal world, Cooks would lose a little of his volume. His rate stats declined slightly under extra target duress this year — he gained just 3.8 yards after the catch, his lowest since 2017, and a career-low 50% of his catches went for first downs against a career average of 60.8%. That probably relies on the Texans getting more established weapons around him, something that they’re going to have to dream into existence via a Nico Collins breakout or a highly-drafted wideout.

I don’t have to admit it often over the past few years, but the Texans made a better evaluation of Cooks than I did when they traded for him. My major concern was about the concussions, and while I believe he has been evaluated once or twice for one in his Texans career, he’s been able to stay healthy for the most part. Now whether Cooks is more valuable than the player he was ultimately traded for, Van Jefferson on a rookie contract, is probably an open question depending on how you feel about tanking. Lance Zierlein pegged Cooks’ value at about a fourth-round pick now. That’s not what Texans fans want to hear, but it could also help explain why there was not a trade. Jeremy Fowler noted that teams were still worried about Cooks’ concussions in the past.


Of course, if you actually listened to the way the Texans talked about Cooks, you’d realize that there was no way he was getting traded. It’s been a constant barrage of positivity about his leadership, to the point where Houston media began parroting what they’d heard and started asking other players about it often.

I will be honest, from the outside, I don’t get it. Cooks complained loudly about Mark Ingram getting traded, calling it “bullshit.” He pouted that he would retire if he was traded before the Nick Caserio hiring. He quipped “at least someone’s doing great things this year” about the Astros playoff run. I’m not saying he doesn’t work hard, and I’m not saying he doesn’t do other great things inside the building. But the leadership that we can see doesn’t quite mesh with what we hear about it.

Regardless of my own feelings about his leadership, it’s clear that everyone on the personnel side values who he is as a person. He was an Easterby guy in New England. He is, as far as I know, the only player on the team to directly be asked about Easterby and provide a fully positive response.

And thus, this extension felt like something that was always going to happen — it was just a matter of when.


Where I ultimately come down on the issue of keeping him versus trading him is that I don’t think it actually matters. I know that’s kind of odd to hear about the Texans actually taking a stand on someone, but it feels like they took a stand on him so long ago that this didn’t change much. Would I have traded Brandin Cooks for a second-round pick if I were general manager? Probably. But I don’t think the team is going anywhere, and I would just be trying to accumulate long-term value. If all they could get was a three or a four, well, it makes sense to keep him.

I don’t think it’s a bad contract — it’s a contract that has some shock value, even to me, but when you compare it to other extensions signed this offseason there’s some sense in it. The other part of it is that the Texans still have a ton of cap space in 2023 and 2024, no matter what. This doesn’t lock them out of doing anything. And anyone who has had to be the face of this miserable last two years deserves to be well-compensated for it.

I don’t think there’s a reason to believe that Cooks is going to fall apart in the near future. His speed looked normal last year. There’s nothing in watching his sample of passes that gives me cause for concern. It’s just that they need many, many more players as good or better than him to create any momentum as a franchise.


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