The Houston Texans have spent the big money they are going to spend in the free agency, without picking up a WR. This means all signs point to the draft. In a draft that is a little light, talent-wise on WR talent outside of 1st round projections, what’s a team to do? The position is the top priority in the draft currently, and the Texans are expected to draft a WR in the first round? Trade up or sit still and see what’s available at 22?
Fortunately, there aren’t many teams in front of the Texans in the draft that have a top priority for a WR, so there will be some talent left on the board when the Texans draft at 22. To trade up, the Texans would have to take a nice leap to get the jump on other teams (probably in the top 10 -12), but there wouldn’t be a huge risk in sitting still and drafting a WR who is still available at 22.
One thing to keep in mind here is, even though drafting a quality WR is likely to be the top priority in the draft, the Texans will be looking for a solid, reliable slot receiver to compliment DeAndre Hopkins. That’s something to consider, both for the upcoming season and down-the-line potential. The premiere will still be Hopkins, so the Texans need to complete the package with a complimentary WR on the other side.
That’s not to say the Texans shouldn’t look for the best, but the Texans should look for the best compliment to Hopkins who will raise a duel threat with the Texans’ WR corps. I’m not cautioning picking the best available WR in the class, but that draft pick won’t be coming in to take over for Hopkins – he’ll be splitting and, more than likely, enhancing Hopkins’ game.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the top 5 prospects to see why the Texans don’t really need to trade up to pick up a WR in the 1st round.
Laquon Treadwell: Treadwell is a WR from University of Mississippi who is seen as the top overall WR prospect in the draft. Critics expected his less-than-stellar 40 run to drop him out of that spot, but that hasn’t made much of an impact. Treadwell has the size and decent vertical game to beat the catch down the field, but his breakaway speed doesn’t impress, and he shows some struggles breaking free for runs.
Will Fuller: Fuller is a WR coming out of Notre Dame who made the biggest impact in the NFL combine. His speed can’t be matched with any other prospect in the draft at WR, and he’s got a vertical game to give him some leverage over taller WRs. However, he is a bit undersized and underweight, which drops him down in the blocking and middle field plays, and he has a slight issue with dropped passes. 2015, anyone?
Michael Thomas: Thomas is a WR – from Ohio, not the Ole Miss variety – coming out of a strong program with a lot of talent around him, including QB-turned-WR Braxton Miller. He’s got great physical size which gives him an upper hand in the vertical game, and can separate quickly down the field. He’s got some trouble with footwork and stuck to simpler routes, so it’s questionable if he’d adapt to the Texans complicated offense.
Corey Coleman: Coleman is a WR from Baylor who had the speed and vertical game to be a real threat against opposing teams. Coleman was coming off a hernia surgery, which slowed him down at the end of his season, but impressed with speed at his pro day.. He’s undersized, which limits his mid-field and blocking stock, has some issues dropping passes, and was limited to simpler routes at Baylor.
Josh Doctson: Doctson is a WR coming out of TCU with a good height and vertical game, as well as consistent speed on the field. He’s got good footwork and body control when going up in the air, and good hand strength to keep and control the ball. He’s a little leaner for his height and needs to bulk up, which limits his ability to break out of pressed plays and to be utilized in the run block.
One note: I didn’t evaluate Braxton Miller, even though he’s one of the higher prospects as a WR in the draft. Simple reason is I feel he’s too much of a project, after switching from QB to WR in his final year in college. He needs more than one good season to levy a chance at one of the Texans’ top draft picks, in my opinion. He’d need to turn around and be an NFL caliber player within the next season, and I feel it will take longer than this.
While I don’t believe there is a single, stellar got-to-have pick in this batch of WRs in the draft, there is some pretty equal talent and potential with the above-mentioned prospects. Again, the Texans are seeking a #2 WR who can play in the slot and compliment Hopkins. I’d caution against players like Coleman and Fuller who are both undersized and have trouble holding onto the ball mid-field when pressed.
As far as Treadwell, he’s most likely going to be picked up before 22, and his value doesn’t override the need to hold onto later picks, which would have to be traded to move up to nab him. Doctson seems like a decent fit for the Texans, but not in the 1st round. I’d put him at late 2nd/early 3rd, but as a reliable #2. He’d still need to add a few pounds to be reliable in the slot.
In my opinion, Michael Thomas is the most well-rounded WR in this group. He’s got the size and vertical game, can break away when under coverage, and can shuffle around to get 1st down yardage. He’s not afraid to step up for the run block, either. He had an impressive pro-day, improving on his footwork and 40 time (unofficially clocked at 4.40), but it’s still yet to be seen how well he can pick up a complicated offense.
I’m not sure what direction the Texans are going on this, and don’t honestly expect them to go for Thomas. If rumors are correct, they’ve got some great interest in either Will Fuller or Braxton Miller. My hope is that neither are true, as Fuller has some real issues mid-field, and Miller seems like an extensive project. My preference would be Miller over the two, however. Like I said, though, #2/slot receiver is what the Texans are searching for, not a Hopkins replacement.
Competition is good, and it’s been a staple of the O’Brien offense (for better or worse), but I feel there is a certain ceiling on this year’s WR pick in the draft, and reliable is the key trait this year.