Believe it or not, the Houston Texans have actually been decent when it comes to the first round of the NFL Draft.
Well, decent may be a bit too kind because the amount of boom picks (Andre Johnson, Duane Brown, J.J. Watt, et all) slightly outweigh the bust picks (David Carr, Travis Johnson, Amobi Okoye, et all), but Houston's had some great picks over the past 15 years and will look to replicate that success in 2017.
What if the Texans could go back and fix some of their previous mistakes? Instead of taking David Carr first overall in the 2002 NFL Draft, would they take Julius Peppers or Ed Reed? How about the 2009 NFL Draft, which landed them linebacker Brian Cushing - a fine player, but someone who went before players that gave their own teams much more of an impact.
As with all of our re-drafts, we go by the following rules:
- These picks are made in a chronological order and have an effect on each other, meaning that the Texans selecting a quarterback in the 2004 NFL Draft may have an impact on where they look in the 2005 NFL Draft. All the pieces matter, as one Lester Freamon would say.
- Players who are already off the board at the time a pick takes place are exempt, meaning that the 2009 Houston Texans, who drafted 15th overall, can't somehow come away with Matthew Stafford as the former Georgia quarterback is already off the board.
- Where the team picked in real life remains the same, though that's for ease and realism. You can pretend how the team finished the year before to end up with that pick (maybe they acquired it in a trade in the previous draft!).
Ready to change history? Let's do this.
15 2002: Julius Peppers, DE (1st overall)
Old Pick: David Carr, QB
As tempting as it may be for some people to have the Texans draft David Carr again with the idea that, knowing how bad the offensive line was in hindsight, they can build an o-line around him now, we're not going that route, even with the idea of building an expansion team around a quarterback certainly sounds appealing. Instead, the Houston Texans will debut their franchise with a pass-rusher, drafting Julius Peppers to be the first building block of a defense they hope will become one of the league's top units.
As for a quarterback, the Texans will shrug, draft East Carolina's David Garrard as a project, and sign former All-Pro Randall Cunningham to a one-year contract for him to...well, do whatever a replacement level, 39 year old quarterback could do. At least the Texans have something going for them on defense!
14 2003: Andre Johnson, WR (3rd overall)
Old Pick: Andre Johnson, WR
Well, the Texans certainly got their second first-round pick right and there's really no reason for them to pass up on Johnson here. Although the option of putting Johnson with a star quarterback prospect isn't really there yet - and no, Johnson isn't going to be playing with Cunningham, but instead the now-sophomore David Garrard - and drafting USC's Troy Polamalu sounds tempting, the Texans are going to need some sort of offense, especially with the loaded 2004 quarterback draft class quickly approaching.
As we saw in real life, Johnson was fine with mediocre quarterbacks under center, so him progressing and developing with David Garrard instead of David Carr isn't too much of a problem. What is a problem, however, is that Garrard isn't exactly the future at quarterback, meaning that the Texans enter 2004 with the intention of taking...
13 2004: Ben Roethlisberger, QB (10th overall)
Old Pick: Dunta Robinson, CB
Considering the Houston Texans didn't have a firm, successful franchise quarterback until they acquired Matt Schaub in 2007 (and Schaub wasn't really a top-line quarterback until 2009), they'd be crazy to pass up landing Big Ben with the tenth overall pick. Immediately, Roethlisberger gives the Texans a gunslinging option behind center, a perfect quarterback for Johnson and a receiving corps that is slowly progressing.
With the Tennessee Titans slowly entering a rebuild and Jacksonville in a slump, this could very well be the start of the Texans challenging the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South. But for Roethlisberger to really come into his own and succeed at the NFL level, he was going to need some sort of offensive line in place. Luckily, the Texans had a second pick in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft...
12 2004: Chris Snee, OT (27th overall)
Old Pick: Jason Babin, DE
On one hand, taking Chris Snee away from Tom Coughlin, his father-in-law and head coach of the New York Giants, is a bit wrong and we apologize in advance. On the other hand, insert your cliche about how football is a business and how the Texans seriously needed to protect Roethlisberger from the concussions and injuries that would plague him with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but seriously - Snee has to be the pick here.
Guys like Bob Sanders and Chris Cooley may sound appealing, especially with Roethlisberger's love of tight ends, but the one thing Big Ben loves more than them are offensive linemen. Snee excelled with the Giants and was a more-than-reliable blocker for Eli Manning during those two Super Bowl runs, so why not let the Boston College product shine in Houston? Anything to keep Ben happy, right?
11 2005: Roddy White, WR (16th overall)
Old Pick: Travis Johnson, DT
If you were getting worried that Johnson would be stuck as Roethlisberger's lone weapon for a few years, the Houston Texans would like to remind you that having faith in them is important (except when it comes to quarterbacks in real-life). Roethlisberger to Johnson would be a fine combo, but they can't do it all alone; the second-year quarterback is going to need another weapon, one that can compliment Johnson well with speed and explosiveness.
Enter Roddy White, the UAB star who was scooped up by the Atlanta Falcons with the 27th overall pick in real life. White isn't Johnson and Johnson isn't White, but that suits the Texans fine as they now have two All-Pro quality wideouts along with a quarterback who is quickly becoming one of the best in the game. Still, the Texans can afford to work on that defense...
10 2006: Haloti Ngata, DT (1st overall)
Old Pick: Mario Williams, DE
...which is exactly why, with the first overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans select defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. One can make the case for Reggie Bush, given that the Texans still don't have a franchise running back and most likely won't until Arian Foster comes around (spoilers?), and one can still make a case for Mario Williams - who, as it stands right now, is the second best defensive player in Texans history behind J.J. Watt - but I want to go a different route and put Ngata on the Texans.
Not only would there not be as a big of a need for Williams because Julius Peppers is already an All-Pro by this point, but putting Ngata and Peppers on the same defensive line is practically unfair. It'd be like taking the New York Sack Exchange and renaming them the...Houston Sack Center? Let us know in the comment section below what you'd name a pass rush of Peppers and Ngata!
9 2007: Darrelle Revis, CB (10th overall)
Old Pick: Amobi Okoye, DT
The New York Jets fan in me weeps when I even think about the idea of Revis Island never being a thing in New York, but unlike opposing quarterbacks who now have to go against the Houston Sack Center and Revis in the secondary, I'll live. When you think about how great that late 2000s, early 2010s New York Jets defense was with Revis as the leader, imagine how dangerous the Texans' defense would be with Peppers and Ngata also in the mix - and we haven't even finished the construction of this defense yet!
Why the Texans would pass on Revis in the first place confuses me even to this day, but they thankfully (for them) don't make the same mistake here. As for the Jets, they land Jon Beason in the first round and replace Revis with...Eric Wright. Well, there's always next year...
8 2008: Duane Brown, OT (26th overall)
Old Pick: Duane Brown, OT
This re-drafted pick is probably going to be the most controversial of this entire article, but hear me out. Giving Roethlisberger another weapon in the form of Jordy Nelson, Matt Forte, DeSean Jackson, Ray Rice, or Jamaal Charles did sound tempting - especially given that Charles went to the University of Texas - but everything for me comes back to the fact that keeping Roethlisberger upright would have been so important.
An All-Pro tackle and a three-time Pro Bowler in real life, Brown has quietly been an anchor for the Houston Texans over the past decade and is currently the longest tenured player for good reason. Yes, letting Roethlisberger throw deep balls to DeSean Jackson sounds fun, as does throwing screen passes to Charles, but you'd have to keep him upright for that to happen. Speaking of fun, get ready for the 2009 NFL Draft...
7 2009: Clay Matthews, LB (15th overall)
Old Pick: Brian Cushing, LB
Surprise! I'd honestly forgotten that Matthews had fallen so far in the original 2009 NFL Draft and while Brian Cushing did start out his career with a bang, taking him over a future Hall of Famer (in my very humble opinion which is very rarely wrong) doesn't make sense to me. Cushing's battled injuries and a PED suspension while Matthews, though he doesn't have the star power he had earlier in his career, has been making a case to be one of the greatest homegrown defensive players in Green Bay Packers history.
With Matthews on the defense, this allows for two things, the first being the Texans not having to worry yet about moving Peppers to the linebacker position (because unlike the Carolina Panthers, they're keeping him around long-term). The second is that it puts Houston in a position where all three aspects of the defense - the line, the linebackers, and the secondary - all have young, All-Pro players ready to make an impact. Not bad, Houston!
6 2010: Rob Gronkowski, TE (20th overall)
Old Pick: Kareem Jackson, CB
Would Rob Gronkowski party too much in Houston? Probably. Would he and Ben Roethlisberger be an interesting fit in the locker room, especially seeing as this was right about when Big Ben finally began to mature? Sure. Would this have the potential to be the greatest quarterback-tight end combination in NFL history. Yes!
That's not a knock on Tom Brady by any means, but putting Gronkowksi in the capable hands of another future Hall of Famer and not drafting him to a team where the quarterback by this time would be replacement-level makes for an interesting what-if. Oh, and the Texans now have an offense with Gronkowski, Roddy White, Andre Johnson, and Arian Foster, who breaks out in the 2010 season just as he did in real life.
5 2011: J.J. Watt, DE (11th overall)
Old Pick: J.J. Watt, DE
Like I was really going to take Watt away from the Houston Texans, right? We talk about All-Pro type guys on this list and we've mentioned a few as future Hall of Famers, but J.J. Watt is making a legitimate case to go down in history as the greatest defensive player of all time; and even if he retires tomorrow because of complications from his back surgery, he'll still be up there after only six seasons.
Having the Texans draft anyone else wouldn't be silly, nor would it be confusing. It'd be impossible and unfathomable, let's leave it at that. Watt joins the Houston Sack Party, Revis has created his own island, Clay Matthews is an All-Pro, and the Texans are in good shape. Can they get back to the offense yet? Well...
4 2012: Harrison Smith, S (26th overall)
Old Pick: Whitney Mercilius, DE
With how frightening the Texans' defense already is, now we're going to add Notre Dame product Harrison Smith to the mix as a safety? Is that even fair? Would the NFL allow these types of superteams to happen - oh, right, this is the NFL Draft. Now is almost that moment where you sit back, look at the title, and say out loud, "the Texans really could have had all of these players!"
By this point, Peppers is getting up there in age, Ngata and Revis are fine, and Watt is breaking out as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, so Smith will fit in fine as the team's new free safety. So long as the injuries that have made Smith play 16 games only once since his rookie year don't hit him here, then Houston has found another gem on defense.
3 2013: Travis Frederick, C (27th overall)
Old Pick: DeAndre Hopkins, WR
Earlier, I called the Texans taking offensive tackle Duane Brown over offensive options that included Ray Rice, DeSean Jackson, and Matt Forte as the most controversial pick in this article. I was lying because this one, with the Texans opting for an offensive lineman instead of an All-Pro wide receiver. Like with Duane Brown, I can explain and it's as simple as this: the Texans in this universe woudl not need Hopkins.
Seriously, Johnson and White would be playing at a high enough level that the Texans could afford to pass and go for a future All-Pro center. As he continued to get older, Roethlisberger would need protection and Frederick, originally projected by many as a third-round pick, would be a perfect fit here. As for Hopkins' replacement in the passing game, the Texans opt for a tight end in Cincinnati's Travis Kelce; it's not a flashy move, not like what Hopkins was, but it'll do. Roethlisberger does love his tight ends...
2 2014: Khalil Mack, LB (1st overall)
Old Pick: Jadeveon Clowney, DE
Even with what I said about White and Johsnon earlier, I was actually contemplating putting Odell Beckham Jr. at this spot. Why'd I go Mack, you ask? Ngata, Peppers, and Revis are all getting up there in age and the Texans could use another young face on the defense, so Mack - who would be partnered with J.J. Watt, mind you - seems like the right fit here. Clowney is really starting to grow into his own and should be a force to be reckoned with over the next few years, but I like Mack on this defense.
With Mack and Watt around, the Texans can afford to say goodbye to Peppers, but they choose to keep him around so that he can be a mentor for Mack. Isn't he nice? That, and the Texans will still pay him a reasonable salary, so there's that.
1 2015: David Johnson, RB (16th overall)
Old Pick: Kevin Johnson, CB
After the 2014 campaign, Arian Foster has finished another Pro Bowl season and looks rejuvenated at age 29, but the Texans know what happens to running backs with a lot of mileage under their belt. Enter David Johnson, the Northern Iowa product that would be an immediate star in an offense that already has Ben Roethlisberger, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, and a veteran Roddy White as they all attempt to make one final run at a Lombardi Trophy.
Given the success that Roethlisberger has had with Le'Veon Bell in real life, it's not unrealistic to see Johnson flourish with the former first-round quarterback. If you don't think that this offense would put up record-breaking numbers, go boot up Madden NFL 16 or 17 and add all of these guys to the Texans. Go see what happens!
As for the 2016 draft, it's a little too early to tell who you would take above Will Fuller so we'll have to re-visit that in the future.
Which players would you like to see the Houston Texans select in a re-draft? How many championships would the Texans have won with this team? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!