By Matt Hammond, Sports Radio 610By Matt Hammond

When word broke yesterday that Houston Texans rookie nose tackle Louis Nix III would be shut down for the season, most fans reached for their pitchforks, ready to form a mob and demand GM Rick Smith’s job for what they considered to be another draft blunder.

All because of a perception that third-round rookies have to, at the very least, contribute.

Turns out, plenty won’t in 2014, and their teams probably should have seen it coming.

This season, according to draft and player participation data from Pro Football Reference, 10 of 32 third-round rookies have yet to play a game this season. Five were drafted higher than Nix, who went No. 83 overall.

RD OVR TEAM PLAYER POS COLLEGE
3 69 TAM Charles Sims RB West Virginia
3 70 SFO Marcus Martin OL USC
3 75 STL Tre Mason RB Auburn
3 78 WAS Spencer Long OL Nebraska
3 80 NYJ Dexter McDougle CB Maryland
3 83 HOU Louis Nix DT Notre Dame
3 85 GNB Khyri Thornton DT Southern Miss
3 86 PHI Josh Huff WR Oregon
3 95 DEN Michael Schofield OL Michigan
3 100 SFO Brandon Thomas OL Clemson

 

Every pick has its story.

Mason can’t get on the field because of St. Louis’ logjam at the position with Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham, and because he can’t block.

Some have similar tales to Nix.

Huff has only become a full participant in practice this week after a shoulder injury in the preseason. Sims, meanwhile, fractured his ankle in August and needed surgery, landing him on IR with designation to return. McDougle tore his ACL in camp, ending his season.

Even better: you could argue that the Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets should have known better.

Huff was hampered by injuries during his 2011 and 2012 seasons at Oregon. Sims missed three games in 2012 with hip and (you guessed it) ankle injuries and in his college career finished with 795 offensive touches, an insane amount of wear on the tires. McDougle was a mess in college, physically — season ending shoulder injury in 2013, broken collarbone in a scooter accident in 2011 — and was beat up in high school, too.

Maybe the Bucs and Jets aren’t model franchises. But the Texans could do worse than be mentioned in the same breath as the Eagles, who since Andy Reid and with head coach Chip Kelly and GM Howie Roseman have had a nearly impeccable draft record, thanks in large part to the contributions of player personnel head Tom Gamble, who basically built the San Francisco 49ers that went to two NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl in the last three seasons.

Fact is, this stuff happens, especially with defensive linemen. Take Thornton, who tore his hamstring in camp and is done for the year. This is what ESPN Insider had to say about his durability on draft day:

“[D]urability does not appear to be an issue as he has appeared in all 50 of 51 career games with 37 starts.”

As for fans who say the Texans should have known about Nix’s professionalism, something head coach Bill O’Brien has pointedly referred to as less than impressive: who doesn’t put on their best face for a job interview, what the NFL draft process is? And for an organization that’s had only 11 players arrested since 2000, far and away the fewest in the NFL over the span, I’ll give the Texans the benefit of the doubt when it comes to performing background checks and staying away from guys with spotty track records.

Or maybe I’ll just grab the pitchfork, because that seems to be more fun.

Hear Matt weekends on Sports Radio 610

Follow him on Twitter @MattHammondShow

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