Houston Texans Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Nick Martin, C, Notre Dame – Round 2
The Texans entered the 2016 NFL Draft with a big hole at center after starter Ben Jones left in free agency. Jones wasn’t very good in 2015 for Houston, and really should just be a backup, but still had a need for a starting center. Landing Martin in the second round was an excellent value as he should be able to start quickly in his NFL career. He was a rock in the middle of Notre Dame’s offensive line for the past few seasons and has played well while dealing with injuries.

In the NFL, Martin looks like he could be a quick contributor. Martin enters the NFL with developed technique. He has good hand placement, balance, knee bend, and can anchor. Martin is quick to the second level in the ground game and effective on screens. He has the mobility and athleticism for a zone scheme or man blocking scheme. Notre Dame ran some plays of both with a favor towards zone over the years.

The 6-foot-4, 301-pounder has the strength to be a contributor in the ground game with size and athleticism to hold up in pass protection. He is a tough blocker who could be a quick upgrade over Jones. I think Martin will end up being a very productive 10-year starter for Houston.

Most Likely To Bust

Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State – Round 3
I don’t think that Braxton Miller will be a bust, but I have to pick someone for this. Miller stood out because he is raw entering the NFL. Having only played wide receiver for one season, Miller needs a lot of development at the position. He is a great natural athlete, but in the NFL, he won’t be able to get by on just his athletic ability. Miller is going to have to improve quickly in order to be effective against pro cornerbacks.

As a senior, Miller had 26 catches for 341 yards and three scores in 2015. As a runner, the former quarterback recorded 260 yards on 42 carries and a score. The Texans have a creative and astute play-caller in George Godsey, who uses a wild cat and finds mismatches with backs in the passing game. I think Miller will be a versatile weapon with the Texans, and that will help him to get playing time, but strictly as a wideout, Miller needs work for the NFL.

In the pre-draft interviews, sources said they were disappointed in Miller’s lack of football I.Q. considering he was a starting quarterback. Thus, Miller has to develop his football I.Q., learn the Texans’ playbook, and develop a lot of technique at wide receiver. Of Houston’s early round selections, Miller seems to have the most bust potential.

Potential Boom Pick

Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame – Round 1
The Texans landed a home-run hitter when they selected Fuller in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Despite playing with a lot of quarterbacks, he totaled 29 touchdowns over the past two seasons because he has rare speed. To say that Fuller (6-0, 186) is extremely fast is an understatement. He is a lethal deep-threat receiver who can score from anywhere on the field.

The one issue with Fuller is dropped passes, but I think he will improve on that in the NFL. His hands looked improved at that combine and in pre-draft workouts according to sources. Even though his hands are a work in progress, Fuller is just too fast for defensive backs to run with as he constantly generates separation. With NFL teams sending their No. 1 cornerbacks to cover DeAndre Hopkins, I think Fuller is going to eat up a lot of No. 2 corners.

For Houston, I think Fuller is going to be a difference-maker. He is extremely fast to separate from defensive backs over the top and stretches the field vertically. That is an element the Texans badly needed in their offense. Plus, Fuller is a good route-runner with high marks off the field. I think he is going to be a devastating No. 2 receiver across from Hopkins, and Fuller could be one of the top speed receivers in the NFL.

Future Depth Player

Tyler Ervin, RB, San Jose State – Round 4
The Texans found their lead back in free agency with Lamar Miller, but they also wanted to improve their depth, so they weren’t an injury away from being in the same boat they were last year when Arian Foster went down. Ervin was too good to pass on in the fourth round, and he should be a very good backup to Miller. Ervin (5-9, 192) is a fast runner who also is dangerous on kick and punt returns. With Miller being the feature back, Ervin should be a quality backup contributor on offense and special teams.

Walt’s 2016 NFL Draft Grades:

21. William Fuller, WR, Notre Dame B+ Grade
The Texans wanted William Fuller this entire time, and they made sure to move up one spot to acquire him. They surrendered just a 2017 sixth-round pick to do so; thus I won’t penalize them at all for moving up.

Some may wonder why Fuller over Robert Nkemdiche or Josh Doctson. Fuller is exactly what Houston was looking for in terms of a complement for DeAndre Hopkins. He’s a good fit, and he definitely fits the range. This is a decent pick.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

50. Nick Martin, C, Notre Dame B+ Grade
The Texans apparently love the Fighting Irish! I’m sure they saw much of Nick Martin when they were scouting William Fuller, and it’s not a surprise that they fell in love with the Notre Dame center. Martin is a very skilled offensive lineman, and he figures to be an instant upgrade over departed center Ben Jones, who wasn’t as good as the money he obtained from the Titans this spring. This probably would’ve been an A- had Houston not moved up, but I can understand why it did so.

85. Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State B+ Grade
Another receiver? It’s not a surprise, considering the huge need the Texans had at the position. It’s also not a shock to see them select a speed option at the position. Braxton Miller could’ve been chosen a bit earlier than this, so I’m definitely a fan of this pick.

119. Tyler Ervin, RB, San Jose State B+ Grade
Houston’s incredible draft continues. There’s also a developing trend. The Texans have added a couple of home-run hitters thus far, and Tyler Ervin fits that theme. Ervin can go the distance any time he touches the ball, and he fills a need as a solid backup behind Lamar Miller. Ervin, who is very athletic, can be used as a gadget weapon on offense, giving the Texans a new dimension.

159. K.J. Dillon, S, West Virginia B Grade
The Texans wanted to add a safety at some point during the third day of the draft, so here we are. K.J. Dillon makes sense at this juncture as a projected fifth-round prospect. Dillon is an average athlete, but he was pretty productive at West Virginia and could eventually make some starts.

166. D.J. Reader, NT, Clemson A- Grade
It’s cool to see D.J. Reader be selected here, as we’ve mocked him to the Texans in the fifth round for months now. Houston wants Reader to become Vince Wilfork’s replacement after this upcoming season. Reader could’ve been chosen about a round earlier, so I like the value.

2016 NFL Draft Team Grade: A- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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