2019 NFL Draft Awards: Worst Draft Class

By Charlie Campbell.
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With the 2019 NFL Draft in the books, it is only fair to dish out some awards for a job well done by a number of teams across the NFL. It also doesn’t hurt to look at which teams may have made regrettable picks.

Pass along your thoughts on these awards and the 2019 NFL Draft. I may put together a mail bag that answers questions/comments sent via email [email protected] or on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Worst Draft Class: Houston Texans
Clearly, I blew it with the 2012 award for Seattle, and to a lesser extent with the Cowboys in 2013, so Texans fans should rejoice that I’m back to picking them this year. However, the Chiefs’ 2014 class, the Panthers’ 2015 class, and the Patriots’ 2016 class have been underwhelming. Three years ago in this space, I ripped New England for the Cyrus Jones pick, which was proven valid. I thought the Cardinals’ 2017 draft class was terrible, and that has been the case thus far with those players disappointing to that point that the Cardinals had the worst record in the NFL in 2018. It’s too early to pass judgement on the Cowboys’ draft class from last year.

In my opinion, the Texans had the worst draft in the NFL, with no other team even being close. In the first round, they selected Alabama State offensive tackle Tytus Howard, which was a huge reach. Many teams had Howard graded as a third-round pick and thought he would go in the second round because of the need for tackles. After Philadelphia jumped Houston for Washington State left tackle Andre Dillard, the Texans reached for Howard and took him over better offensive tackle prospects like Florida’s Jawaan Taylor, Oklahoma’s Cody Ford and Ole Miss’ Greg Little. Howard has a good skill set with a lot of upside, but he needs development for the NFL. That could be seen at the Senior Bowl where he showed improvement, but still had some issues with the better competition. The Texans are in win-now mode because Jadeveon Clowney is probably in his final year with the team, J.J. Watt is showing signs of age, and Whitney Mercilus and Johnathan Joseph are declining. Taking a project at left tackle in the first round doesn’t make sense for a team that is trying to win now.

The Texans had a bad first night of the draft and followed it up with an ugly second night. They led it off with Kentucky cornerback Lonnie Johnson, who has a good skill set with size and speed, but he never played up to it with the Wildcats. Johnson has a serious lack of instincts, and that caused teams to target him last year rather than Derrick Baity or Chris Westry, who don’t have even close to the skill set that Johnson does. Other teams had Johnson graded a round or two later than where Houston took him. SEC teams illustrated that Johnson can be picked on, and the Texans took an athlete over a football player with that pick.

The next selection was another reach in Northern Illinois tackle Max Scharping. Scharping was an okay college player, but he illustrated that he needs development for the NFL. During Bill O’Brien’s 6-year tenure with the Texans, they have failed to develop offensive linemen. In O’Brien’s fifth season, they fielded a terrible blocking front that led to Deshaun Watson having to be bused to games to protect a lung injury. Coming from South Alabama, Howard is going to need time to develop and good coaching. Considering the track record in Houston, he won’t get the coaching development that you see with other teams like New England or Carolina, where linemen have been consistently groomed into solid pros. If general manager Brian Gaine had been a little more aggressive, Houston could have moved up in Round 2 for better offensive line prospects like Florida’s Jawaan Taylor, Oklahoma’s Cody Ford, Ole Miss’ Greg Little and Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy. All four of those players went to teams who traded up for them, and their general managers saw the potential steals that each of them could be after the first round.

The third round was another reach by the Texans with San Diego State tight end Kahale Warring. Warring is a bit of a project, and he seemed a questionable choice because Gaine drafted two tight ends last year in third-round pick Jordan Akins and late-rounder Jordan Thomas. Akins was a big disappointment in 2018, while Thomas played better than expected. Additionally, Houston has veteran tight ends Ryan Griffin and Darren Fells returning. What makes the Warring pick even more painful is Houston passing on Alabama running back Damien Harris. Harris could have been a threedown starter of the future for the Texans and was a steal to be had in the third round. With Lamar Miller on his last legs and O’Brien potentially running D’Onta Foreman out of town, another running back would have made sense, especially a three-down starting-caliber player like Harris. Instead, the Texans will have to deal with Harris as part of a one-two punch with Sony Michel next time they take on New England, who O’Brien has really struggled against.

On Day 3, Houston didn’t have a fourth-round pick after Gaine squandered it away in the Demaryius Thomas trade, which produced next to nothing for the team. The organization’s picks of defensive end Charles Omenihu – Round 5 -, cornerback Xavier Crawford – Round 6 – and Cullen Gillaspia – Round 7 – are all backup depth players at best.

Under former general manager Rick Smith, Houston had one of the best scouting departments in the NFL. The Texans were the only team not to have a first-round pick go bust over a 10-year span. In that time, they landed a Hall of Famer in J.J. Watt, a franchise left tackle in Duane Brown, perhaps the best receiver in the NFL in DeAndre Hopkins, a potential star in franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson; were wise enough to take Jadeveon Clowney instead of Blake Bortles; and drafted a lot of quality players like Whitney Mercilus and Kareem Jackson. That scouting department also produced some of the best undrafted free agents in the NFL with Arian Foster and A.J. Bouye. Unfortunately for the Texans, O’Brien purged the organization of their scouting talent in favor of yes men like Gaine. The results are an ugly draft class for Houston three picks in the top 55. I think this draft class is bad sign of things to come for the Texans’ roster under Gaine and O’Brien.

2018 Winner: Dallas Cowboys
2017 Winner: Arizona Cardinals
2016 Winner: New England Patriots
2015 Winner: Carolina Panthers
2014 Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
2013 Winner: Dallas Cowboys
2012 Winner: Seattle Seahawks

Once again, pass along your thoughts on these awards and the 2019 NFL Draft. I may together a mail bag that answers questions/comments sent via email [email protected] or on Twitter @draftcampbell.

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