The Houston Texans went into the NFL draft without a first-round pick.
Unlike some recent trades by the team, the move that left Houston with no choices to make Thursday night was an important one: securing left tackle Laremy Tunsil to help make sure franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson stops taking such a pounding.
The Texans gave up a lot to get Tunsil and receiver Kenny Stills from Miami in August, shipping this year’s first-round pick and their picks in the first and second rounds in 2021 to the Dolphins. But getting a player of Tunsil’s stature to protect Watson’s blind side was a necessity after the young quarterback was sacked an NFL-leading 62 times in 2018; he dealt with a partially collapsed lung and broken ribs from the hits he took.
Tunsil’s presence immediately improved an offensive line that has long been one of the weakest links on the team. While the 25-year-old Tunsil struggled with false start penalties in his first year in Houston, he helped lower Watson’s sack total to 44 and was named to his first Pro Bowl.
Tunsil is the left tackle the Texans have looked for since trading Duane Brown to the Seahawks in 2017. The bad news for Houston is that he will become a free agent after next season and coach/general manager Bill O’Brien will have to work something out.
O’Brien has served his dual role since GM Brian Gaine was fired in June after less than 1 ½ years on the job. He was officially made general manager by team owner Cal McNair in January, not long after the Texans squandered a 24-0 lead in a 51-31 playoff loss to Kansas City.
While the Tunsil trade has worked out, the Texans made a far less popular trade last month when O’Brien dealt superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for running back David Johnson and a second-round pick this year. O’Brien defended the head-scratching deal giving up perhaps the NFL’s best receiver by saying that it was in the best interest of the team.
The 40th overall pick Friday night will be the first for Houston this year.
The Texans had another second-round pick this season, but sent the 57th selection to the Los Angeles Rams earlier this month for receiver Brandin Cooks. That was another trade that drew some criticism; Cooks has struggled with concussions and it was the third time he’s been traded since 2017.
With those moves hanging over O’Brien as he prepares for his first draft as a GM, he will try to find some talent in the lower rounds.
Along with the 40th pick, the Texans have six other selections. They have a pick each in the third (90), fourth (111) and fifth (171) rounds and three selections in the seventh round.
The Texans have a variety of needs, notably in the secondary and on the defensive line. But O’Brien insisted last week that they won’t focus on need, but will select the best player available when their slots come up.
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