Rick Smith’s “Projects”

To no one’s surprise, “wide receiver” Braxton Miller was a healthy scratch this weekend against the Titans.  This is par for the Rick Smith course — the man loves him some “projects,” and they never ever ever work out.  Step with me into the wayback machine….

Definitions first.  A “project” is a player that comes from a small school, and/or is a “tweener” who doesn’t naturally fit in a given position in the NFL, and/or is being “converted” from his college position, all of which add up to a general consensus that this guy is in no way ready for the big time upon being drafted.  Obviously some of these guys were unlikely  to work out — you barely expect a 7th round pick to make the team.  But just look at these turds:

Here’s that list of Texans’ draft picks.  Starting with 2007, we have:

Amobi Okoye (Louisville, 1st round): Remember the 19 year old wonderboy?  Youngest  player in the NCAA, youngest player drafted in the first round…. youngest Rick Smith busted draft pick.  About the best you can say for Okoye is that he wasn’t JaMarcus Russell, that year’s #1 overall pick.  However, he also wasn’t Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Joe Staley, or Greg Olson, who were just some of the players taken after Okoye “fell” to us at #10.  Here’s a free tip, Rick: When the Buccaneers, Redskins, and Dolphins all pass on a super-hyped defensive line prospect, he’s a dud.

Jacoby Jones (Lane College, 3rd round): Hey, look!  It’s the first of Rick Smith’s wasted 3rd round draft picks, and whaddaya know, it’s a “wide receiver.”  You know, Rick, there’s a reason guys with fairly good combine stats play at small colleges, and it’s not because they want to tear it up against inferior competition.  To be fair, Jones did have some success as a kick returner…. but alas, it was against us.  In five seasons with the Texans, Jones caught 127 passes for 1,741 yards and 11 TDs.  So, you know, an off year for Andre Johnson.

In 2008, we have Antwaun Molden (3nd round), out of Ohio Valley Conference powerhouse Eastern Kentucky.  Actually, I have no idea if EKY is a powerhouse or not; I can barely find Kentucky on a map, and the state as a whole is best known for opioid addiction and fried chicken.  Molden suited up 32 games for us in 3 years, recording one — count ’em, ONE — tackle and five assists.  He went on to more success in New England — surprise surprise!!! — but even Darth Belichick couldn’t get more than a season out of him.  I believe I’m starting to spot a pattern here with the 3rd round picks.

2009 brings us the immortal James Casey, out of Rice (5th rd.).  Is he a fullback?  Is he a tight end?  A quarterback, perhaps?  He didn’t know, Gary Kubiak didn’t know, and we fans sure as hell didn’t know.  He played 61 games for us over 4 years (starting 20), catching 72 passes and toting the rock twice (for 17 yards).  As a proud University of Houston alum, I can say that Rice football sucks — always has, always will.

2009 was also the year we drafted Connor Barwin (2nd round), a “project” who showcases both ends of Rick Smith’s decision-making dumbassery.  A tight end and basketball player for most of his collegiate career, Barwin only played one season at DE in Cincinnati, so when he got to the pros he was totally lost.  It didn’t help, of course, that Smith and Co. couldn’t figure out if he was a 4-3 end or a 3-4 linebacker…. and when they did figure it out and he started to play well, Rick Smith let him walk.  He signed with Philadelphia, where — to the surprise of no one who has ever paid attention to the Texans — he basically doubled his output.

2010 saw us draft LSU’s Trindon Holliday (6th round).  We were told at the time that he was a fearsome RB/WR hybrid that was a nightmare matchup for any defensive scheme…. or, at least, that’s how they used him at LSU, where he was a changeup from all the other guys they had who were nightmares for any defensive scheme.  In reality, he was a 5’5″ track guy who didn’t play much college ball but could kinda sorta return kicks.  In the pros, he worked out as well as every other college track guy who didn’t play much football but could kinda sorta return kicks.  He also worked out like a typical Rick Smith draft pick, since Holliday did have a few truly electric kick returns… for other teams.

The pace picks up again in 2011, a draft that featured Derek Newton (Arkansas St., 7th rd.), Cheta Ozougwu (Rice, 7th rd.), and everyone’s favorite toasted marshmallow, Shiloh Keo (Idaho, 5th rd.).  That draft also gave us renowned Bengal-killer T.J. Yates, so we’ve got to love it a bit, but again: Shiloh Keo.  Not to mention that dude from Rice — they suck, always have, always will — and poor Derek Newton, who spent several years as Battle Red Blog’s infamous “Hologram Man” before starting to kinda sorta play well… right before getting both knees turned to linguine.

Shockingly, no “projects” were drafted in 2012, which was a solid year overall… but it wouldn’t be a Rick Smith draft without two mid-round busts, DeVier “Who?” Posey and Keshawn “Why the Hell is This #$%$# Guy Still on the Team?!” Martin.

2013 brought a return to form, with Trevardo Williams (Connecticut, 4th rd.), Alan Bonner (Jacksonville St., 6th rd.), and Chris Jones (Bowling Green, 6th rd.).  None of them ever played a meaningful snap.

In 2014, Rick stayed with big-name players from big-name schools.  They still mostly busted, of course, because this is a Rick Smith draft we’re talking about, but the smallest-school guy drafted that year was Lonnie “The Urban Legend” Ballentine (Memphis, 7th rd.), who has never been seen in a Texans uniform and whose only accomplishment is winning the Keshawn Martin Memorial “How the @#$#@ is This Guy Still on the Team?!?” Award the last few years running.

2016 brought us Tyler Ervin (San Jose St., 4th rd.) another guy whose skillset is both highly varied and almost completely theoretical.  He still hasn’t learned, for instance, that you shouldn’t try to field kicks with your facemask.  Also Braxton “Healthy Scratch” Miller (Ohio St., 3rd rd.), about whom the less said, the better.

So, too, with 2017 — only one “project,” but he’s a biggie: Julien Davenport, out of Bucknell (4th rd.).  After the draft, all the recaps raved about his “measurables.”  Except, you know, the biggest one of all: He was measured playing college ball at Bucknell, the jewel of the Patriot League, where he held in check the fearsome pass rushes of Sacred Heart, Marist, and Lehigh.  Just for giggles, here’s Marist’s football roster this year.  They’ve got a D-lineman listed at 5’11”, 235 lbs.  For comparison, Lonnie “the Urban Legend” Ballentine is 6’3″, 219.  So, you know, there’s that.

Maybe, just maybe, you should start looking at guys who played a real position at a real college for more than one season, eh Rick?

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