HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – After Seattle slammed Denver 43-8 in Super Bowl 48, I got a slew of “hot takes” like the following:
“Hey bro, DEFENSE wins championships. If the Texans draft Jadaveon Clowney and combine him with J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing…they’ll be right up there with the ‘Hawks…IF NOT BETTER.”
“OMG Pauly, did u know that Russell Wilson was drafted in the third round? The Texans should get Clowney and do the same! #AJMcCarron4Prez.”
“Paul, your last 5 tweets made zero sense. How drunk are you chief?”
If you’ve been listening to me on regular basis (SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: 11-3 Saturdays and 11-2 Sundays) you’d know every time I hear takes like the above, I do this:
I’ve run out of ways to explain to you that drafting anything other than a quarterback with the first overall pick would be a colossal mistake. But in case you haven’t heard, here they are in
a nutshell way too many words.
First: Let’s take a look at quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 2001 (excluding E.J. Manuel because it’s still too soon to judge him). I’ve separated them into four categories: “The Good”, “The Meh”, “No Idea”, and “The Bad”.
- ’01 – Michael Vick (1st OVR)
- ’04 – Eli Manning (1st OVR), Phillip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger
- ’05 – Aaron Rodgers
- ’06 – Jay Cutler
- ’08 – Matt Ryan
- ’09 – Matt Stafford (1st OVR)
- ’11 – Cam Newton (1st OVR)
- ’12 – Andrew Luck (1st OVR), Robert Griffin III* (Injuries VERY concerning)
- ’00: Chad Pennington
- ’03: Carson Palmer (1st OVR),
- ’05: Alex Smith (1st OVR)
- ’08: Joe Flacco
- ’12: Ryan Tannehill. Like him, but the jury’s still out.
- ’02: David Carr (1st OVR), Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey
- ’03: Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller, Rex Grossman
- ’04: J.P. Losman
- ’05: Jason Campbell
- ’06: Vince Young, Matt Leinart
- ’07: Jamarcus Russell (1st OVR), Brady Quinn
- ’09: Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman
- ’10: Sam Bradford (1st OVR), Tim Tebow
- ’11: Jake Locker, Christian Ponder
- ’11: Blaine Gabbert
Since the Texans have the number one pick in May’s draft, let’s look at the past first overall picks at quarterback. I understand there’s concern for the potential of a bust. And yes, on paper…none of these guys are Andrew Luck…blah blah blah. But out of ten QBs selected first since 2000, five developed into franchise caliber quarterbacks. Two have had solid careers. And three were complete busts. Those are pretty good odds for all you “Nervous Nellies”.
Then, look at this past season in review. Three of the eight quarterbacks that made it to the Divisional Round were number one picks (Manning, Newton, Luck). And a fourth QB (Rivers) was selected fourth overall in his respective draft.
Second: Most quarterbacks drafted in the second round or later ultimately DON’T pan out. Here is a list of quarterbacks drafted from 2001 – 2011 in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. I’m leaving out players from last year’s draft because it’s still too early to judge them.
- ’01: Round 2 – Drew Brees
- ’11: Round 2 – Collin Kaepernick
- ’12: Round 3 – Russell Wilson
- ’12: Round 3 – Nick Foles
- ’02: Round 3 – Josh McCown
- ’04: Round 3 – Matt Schaub.
- ’11: Round 2 – Andy Dalton
The No Idea:
- ’11: Round 3 – Ryan Mallett
- ’12: Round 2 – Brock Osweiler
- ’00: Round 3 – Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman
- ’01: Round 2 – Quincy Carter, Marques Tuisasosopo.
- ’03: Round 3 – Dave Ragone, Chris Simms.
- ’05: Round 3 – Charlie Frye, Andrew Walter, David Greene.
- ’06: Round 2 – Kellen Clemens, Tarvaris Jackson. Round 3 – Charlie Whitehurst, Brodie Croyle.
- ’07: Round 2 – Kevin Kolb, John Beck, Drew Stanton. Round 3 – Trent Edwards
- ’08: Round 2 – Brian Brohm, Chad Henne. Round 3 – Kevin O’Connell
- ’09: Round 2 – Pat White.
- ’10: Round 2 – Jimmy Clausen. Round 3 – Colt McCoy.
We’ll start with the second rounders:
- Out of 17 QBs drafted in round 2 since 2000, just Brees and Kaepernick developed into franchise caliber quarterbacks. Keep in mind that they were BACKUPS for their first seasons.
- We’re pretty sure that Andy Dalton isn’t going to get much better than he is right now
- Brock Osweiler has tried to block field goals
- And the other 11 second rounders flamed out.
Now to round three:
- Out of 16 QBs drafted in round 3 since 2000, Russell Wilson HAS developed into a franchise caliber quarterback (shocking many by beating out Matt Flynn for the starting QB gig in Seattle his rookie year). Meanwhile, Nick Foles appears well on his way to joining that same category after a great finish to 2013.
- Matt Schaub HAD a pretty respectable career all things considered, and Josh McCown is coming off a career year at age 34
- For some reason, five NFL players voted they’d like to build a franchise around Ryan Mallett, who has yet to see any meaningful action in the NFL.
- And out of the remaining 12, Charlie Whitehurst and Colt McCoy are the only two who were on active rosters this past season.
In a nutshell? You aren’t doing yourself any favors waiting in the draft to find that franchise quarterback. And more often than not, quarterbacks who have been selected first overall actually pan out. It isn’t risk free (see Jamarcus Russell, David Carr, Sam Bradford), but you have much better odds of landing a competent STARTING quarterback earlier rather than later.
Then ask yourself this: Will the Texans be in this exact same position for next year’s draft? And will there DEFINITELY be an Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning-esque prospect available? Jameis Winston has already thrown a wrench into that possibility. Those two unknowns lead me to believe the Texans will NEVER have a better opportunity to get a franchise quarterback in the draft than this year.
Back to the Super Bowl. Sports media is a very reactionary industry. One game – especially in football – can determine whether a player like Peyton Manning is remembered as the greatest quarterback of all time…or if he’s merely among the greatest. So after Seattle’s defensive destruction of Denver, I could understand why people argued pairing J.J. Watt with JaDaveon Clowney would put the Texans D on the same level as the Seahawks.
Unfortunately, that thought process is completely wrong.
Take a good look at Seattle’s defense. It isn’t just two guys who can get after the passer (which is theoretically what you’d have with Watt and IF Clowney reaches his potential). They have waves of rushers, with guys like Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Chris Clemons, and Bruce Irvin. That combination of four can overwhelm a quarterback without any the help of blitzers.
Would Watt and Clowney be able to do that in Romeo Crennel’s read and react 3-4? Watt probably would, though likely with lesser production. Clowney isn’t a certainty – especially coming from a 4-3 defense in college. A more important question is whether Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed can consistently create pressure off the edges. Based off of what we’ve seen from the two the past two seasons, I’m guessing no.
Now on to the secondary. Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” wreaked havoc on the Bronco’s receivers in Super Bowl 48 – not to mention the rest of the NFL in 2013. More importantly? Their starters (LCB Richard Sherman, RCB Byron Maxwell, SS Kam Chancellor, and FS Earl Thomas) cost a combined $7,960,586 against the cap this past season.
All possible similarities between the Texans and Seahawks defense end here. Why? Because the Texans’ secondary was both expensive and BAD this past season. Ed Reed, Danieal Manning, Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson cost $22,323,333 against the cap this past season. Swap
Robert Horry Ed Reed for D.J. Swearinger, and the unit will cost $22,256,974 in 2014. Yikes.
Then add that figure to what the Texans would have to pay Watt and Clowney this coming season. Clowney would likely cost somewhere north of $4,034,636 against the cap if the Texans take him first (based off of last season’s first overall pick: Kansas City tackle Eric Fisher). Meanwhile, J.J. Watt will be in the last year of his rookie contract in 2014. The Texans do have a fifth year option on that deal (which would cost $8.5 million in his fifth year and allow the Texans to franchise tag him in each the next three years), but a player of Watt’s caliber likely wouldn’t be too pleased by that decision. He wants a long term extension – something SpotTrac suggested could be worth 6 year, $142,272,798.
That number is absurd…and is probably a discussion for another day.
But should the Texans extend him (and they should), what could his 2014 cap figure be? The last two $100 million mega-deals for defensive players – Julius Peppers and Mario Williams – resulted in $14.783 million and $9.8 million respective cap hits the first year of their deals. That figure will vary with Watt depending on his signing bonus, so let’s just use the average of the two hits above: $12,291,500.
Add Watt ($12.2915 million) and Clowney’s ($4.034636 million) possible cap hits to that of the secondary ($22.256974 million) and Brian Cushing coming off a broken leg and torn LCL (5.546875 million), and you’ll end up with $44,129,985 dedicated to seven defensive players in 2014. And the Texans STILL wouldn’t have a quarterback.
It’s practically impossible to build a team like the Seahawks. You need to hit the lottery MULTIPLE TIMES in the draft. Seattle’s scouting (and coaching) deserves tremendous credit for discovering and developing the following players:
- Safety Kam Chancellor – 5th Round pick in 2010
- Cornerback Richard Sherman – 5th round pick in 2011
- Cornerback Byron Maxwell – 6th round pick in 2011
- Linebacker Malcolm Smith – 7th round pick in 2011
- Quarterback Russell Wilson – 3rd round pick in 2012
The Seahawks weren’t built in a day. They were built gradually (and to an extent, luckily) with players on cheap rookie contracts (which allowed them to sign Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to bargain deals this offseason). And that’s a formula that likely can’t be replicated…whether the Texans draft a quarterback or Clowney.
So stop trying to copy Seattle. Take advantage of this rare opportunity to draft a potential franchise quarterback, and take things from there.
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