In the 2017 NFL Draft the Houston Texans found their franchise quarterback, selecting Deshaun Watson with the 12th pick. That is what makes this past weeks news so curious. The Texans worked out Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. Ian Rapoport reported the story earlier this week.
Houston does not own a draft pick until round three, this is due to a pair of trades with the Cleveland Browns. One to get rid of Brock Osweiler and another to trade up for the aforementioned Watson. With Houston already having a quarterback there is a question that must be asked.
What is going on in Houston?
Having too many quarterbacks is not a thing in the NFL. As much as some people want to perpetuate that myth, it is false. If there is any proof needed to support needing a plethora of quarterbacks, it is the Cleveland Browns since 1999. Cleveland has had a never ending parade of quarterbacks line up under center and if Houston can avoid a similar situation it is a good idea. However this brings forth another question.
But Why Lamar Jackson?
Jackson possess a skill set that is not all that different from Watson. Both possess the ability to make plays with their arms and their feet. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien utilized Watson in a manner that allowed Watson’s mobility to make plays. Two factors played an equal part in this development. First off Watson is an incredible athlete. Secondly the Houston offensive line was atrocious last season. Essentially O’Brien had to use Watson in this manner to make the offense move down the field.
Texans draft pick situation
As it was mentioned before the Texans do not own a pick in the first two rounds. This also adds to the surprise that they are interested in Jackson. Jackson could be selected in the first round which pretty much eliminates Houston from any chance of picking him. However there is not a consensus opinion in regards to Jackson. Some view him as a top level talent. Others view him as someone who will not be anything special. If the latter opinion is more accepted on draft day it becomes more likely he can fall in the draft.
For Houston to actually come away with Jackson a few things will have to happen. The primary factor in this scenario is that Jackson free falls on draft day. This means completely out of round one and possibly into the late stages of round two. If there is a sense he will not be selected in the second round or at the top of round three Houston can wait and take him with their pick. If not they could possibly trade up back into round two and take him there. However if this were to happen it still brings questions to the forefront.
Are the Texans really that comfortable with their roster?
If Houston were to make Jackson their pick with their first selection in the draft that means they are relatively comfortable with their roster and do not feel the pick could be used better elsewhere. Houston’s offensive line still needs help. Their secondary does as well. The reality of the situation is that selecting Jackson does not seem like it should be a priority at this moment in time as they still need help elsewhere.
Are there longterm concerns with Deshaun Watson?
Watson has suffered two ACL tears in his career. This may be a cause for concern for the Texans coaching staff and front office. Many quarterbacks in the NFL have suffered ACL tears and not been the same player upon their return. Most notably Robert Griffin III during his time with the Washington Redskins. If the Texans feel that Watson could end up on the same path that Griffin did it is wise to find a replacement sooner rather than later.
Is it more about the backup quarterback situation?
There were two distinct periods of time for the 2017 Houston Texans.
With Watson and without Watson
With Watson the offensive was dynamic and nearly lethal. Houston could keep up with any team in the NFL and put up points in an instant. Without Watson the offense was brutal and struggled to do anything productive.
This is where Jackson comes in
The struggles of the Houston offense have been well detailed but the role the offensive line played can not be downplayed. O’Brien was smart enough to work around this with Watson. However he could not do this with Tom Savage and T.J. Yates. Since Jackson posseses a similar skill set, if Watson were to get injured again or is not the same player they have an insurance policy with Jackson. If Jackson were to see playing time due to an issue with Watson it would not be the end of the world. As long as Jackson can provide a performance reminiscent of Watson everything would be fine and the Texans could at least keep the ship afloat until Watson was determined to be fit for play.
The other aspect is the Griffin factor. If Watson is truly not the same the Texans need a replacement, it could be Jackson. Being prepared for the worst case scenario would allow Houston to continue to grow as a team and compete.
Will the Texans actually select Lamar Jackson?
That is hard to say. A lot of things will have to go the Texans way for that to happen. It is not all that likely but certainly not impossible. Houston could have serious interest in Jackson or they could be just ensuring their scouting skills are up to par. By scouting top prospects the scouts and decision makers for the team will continue to identify top talent and differentiate it from players who are not quite worthy of a selection.
Just because the Texans do not own a pick in the first two rounds does not mean they are not allowed to scout top players. It happens all the time and Houston is just doing their due diligence in regards to a quarterback prospect who they could be facing in the near future. If Jackson is selected by a different team it is not a bad idea to have an in depth scouting report on him allowing the defense to attack his weaknesses.
The answer in regards to whether the Texans actually decide to draft Jackson will have to wait until draft day. Until then let the speculation continue.