As the 2016 NFL Draft approached, Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien and GM Rick Smith knew they needed to retool the offense. The Texans exited the playoffs in embarrassing fashion against the Chiefs and stumbled to 24th in offensive efficiency in 2015 according to Football Outsiders. This was in large part due to inconsistent offensive line play, lack of playmakers, and a quarterback carousel that rivaled the fiasco known as the Cleveland Browns. In other words, it didn’t take an NFL scout to realize there were holes the size of Vince Wilfork in the Texans offense. O’Brien and Smith addressed several needs by signing Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller to big deals and adding Chiefs veteran Jeff Allen to the offensive line, but still went into the NFL Draft with the mindset that the offense was a priority. In the first three rounds, the Texans drafted three offensive players consecutively who will surely make a difference for the team in 2016. We take a look at each three.
1st Round: Will Fuller (Notre Dame)
Fuller left for the NFL draft early after a superb junior season at Notre Dame. Named the MVP of the Irish, Fuller caught 62 passes for 1,258 yards and 14 touchdowns in his junior year and consistently displayed big play ability. Speaking of big play ability, over 27 percent of Fuller’s catches went for over 25 yards his junior year according to NFL.com. Fuller’s biggest strength is his elite quickness. At the NFL Combine, Fuller ran a 4.32 40-yard dash, the fastest of any receiver. A first round pick and the second receiver drafted overall, the Texans will look for Fuller to immediately fill in the second wide receiver position across from DeAndre Hopkins. In fact, the Texans jumped up one pick to ensure Fuller would be their man. While Fuller may lack typical outside receiver size (6’0”), the Texans drafted him in an attempt to extend the field in a way that they didn’t do in 2015. The Texans had their pick of possession receivers like Laquon Treadwell and Josh Doctson, but they wanted someone with elite speed like Fuller to mach Hopkins’s possession receiver skills. More importantly, Fuller will draw safety help because of his play making ability downfield, allowing DeAndre Hopkins to not face as many double teams in 2016. In a dream scenario, Fuller becomes a Desean Jackson clone and revitalizes the Texans offense with a 1,000-yard season across from Hopkins. A more realistic prediction for Fuller would be Ted Ginn, Jr., another playmaker who aptly fills in the role as a number two receiver with big play ability. Bottom line, Fuller may have been a reach at pick 22, but fills a big need for the Texans.
2nd Round: Nick Martin (Notre Dame)
Going back to the Notre Dame Irish draft class, the Texans selected Center Nick Martin with their second round pick. Following the departures of center Ben Jones and guard Brandon Brooks, the Texans severely needed help on the interior of their offensive line. Hence, the pick of Martin makes sense. The younger brother of Cowboys All-Pro Zach Martin, Nick has a strong pedigree upon his entrance to the NFL. A three-year starter and team captain at Notre Dame, analyst Mike Mayock named Martin one of the top centers available in this year’s draft. Martin is a tough player and shows excellent physicality at the point of attack, meanwhile retaining good quickness on pulls and screenplays. His senior season, Martin was part of an offensive line that helped the Irish run for 2,699 yards. The biggest concern with Martin is not necessarily his play, but rather a knee injury he sustained in 2013 that has had lingering effects on his agility. However, Martin has not sustained a significant knee injury since, and excelled in his final two collegiate seasons. With Jeff Allen locked in at guard, the Texans expect Martin to start at center immediately. A tall task for a rookie on a playoff team, Martin seems equipped as anybody in this draft class to do that for the Texans. Overall, Martin is a great second round pickup for the Texans.
3rd Round: Braxton Miller (Ohio State)
In the third round, the Texans reloaded with more offensive talent on the outside by picking Ohio State wide receiver Braxton Miller. While at Ohio State, Miller earned Big Ten MVP two times at quarterback and rushed for over two thousand yards, but switched to receiver his senior season because of an injury in 2014. While his stats may not have won him many awards his senior season (563 total yards, 4 touchdowns), Miller dazzled in his one season at receiver with his outstanding athleticism and natural playmaking skills. Miller probably had the play of the year in college football with his infamous spin move against Virginia Tech in the season opener (video below). Some pundits even believe Miller may be the most athletic player in the entire draft. At the NFL Combine, Miller was the top performer among wide receivers in the three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle. Projected as a slot receiver, Miller will challenge NFL defenders over the top with his speed and can make difficult catches on the inside with his athleticism and strong size (6’1”, 201 lbs.). However, Miller only has one year at the position and needs time to refine his route running and receiver skills. Miller will not start day one and will need considerable time learning the position. The good news is the Texans won’t be forced to start Miller day one, and they will be able to groom him into a legitimate NFL player. Miller’s elite athleticism makes him an intriguing pick, and he’ll have a chance to grow. It may not be right away, but Miller could turn into an excellent receiver who can stretch the field and be an excellent run and catch specialist.
With these three picks and Brock Osweiler at the helm, the Texans hope their offense can rank among the elite in the NFL. If the offense steps up, the Texans are capable of making a Super Bowl push.
Follow @ACAllAmericans for quality, up-to-date sports reporting.
Sources: NFL.com, Football Outsiders, Main Photo Courtesy of Today’s U