Rick Smith’s second first round draft bust.
Every season the hard working professional football writers at Football Outsiders take a look back at the NFL Draft that occurred six years before. At this point, rookie contracts are up, free agency has come and gone, and the players pretty much are what they are. The value has been established. We know what the classes are. We know who the players are.
If you forgot, in 2015, the Houston Texans selected Kevin Johnson (Round 1 #16), Benardrick McKinney (Round 2 #43), Jaelen Strong (Round 3 #70), Keith Mumphrey (Round 5 #175), Reshard Cliett (Round 6 #211), Christian Covington (Round 6 #216), and Kenny Hillard (Round 7 #235). The Texans no longer have anyone left on the roster from this class. Johnson didn’t receive his fifth year option, McKinney was traded to Miami last offseason, Strong was released, so was Mumphrey, Covington started for a while but signed with Dallas once his rookie contract was up, and Cliett and Hillard did nothing at all.
Of this class, McKinney was far and away the best player. A pure run stopper. Gruesome and macabre. He was a defensive tackle playing linebacker, sticking guards, turning the hole into mass graves, his hands looking like this so Zach Cunningham’s would look like that. He was integral to Houston’s sturdy front seven, and was one of the main reasons why they turned out great run defense after great run defense. As mentioned, he was traded to Miami for Shaq Lawson, trading run defense for pass rush, was a fine trade for both teams. I love him and I’ll miss him.
Johnson looked the part. He could break on the ball in a flash. Off-man coverage was easy for him to play. Then concussions derailed his career in Houston. His poor tackling was exacerbated and he became unplayable. Since then, he’s accidentally found places to play in Buffalo, Cleveland, and now Tennessee. He’s a what if player though. What if he was never injured? Could he have become a Pro Bowl caliber player? He showed the talent and skill his rookie season, but could never pick it back up and put it back together.
Some think of him as Rick Smith’s second first round bust. Bryan Knowles of Football Outsiders had the following to say:
Biggest Bust: Kevin Johnson. The Texans took Johnson 16th overall, the other corner taken before Peters. Injuries have cost Johnson a pair of seasons since then, but even when healthy, he has wobbled somewhere between useful rotational piece and overmatched starter. While Johnson has occasionally flashed some of the speed and footwork that made him a desired prospect, he has never been able to put it all together for an extended stretch of time. At least Johnson still has a career, however; plenty of those Day 2 flyers are long gone. A list of the lowlights includes Jalen Collins (42nd overall to Atlanta), Mississippi’s Senquez Golson (56th to Pittsburgh, never played a game), Florida Atlantic’s D’Joun Smith (65th to Indianapolis), and Stanford’s Alex Carter (80th to Detroit).
Strong could never beat press man coverage despite his size, and was a long runner who never put together great routes. He at least caught a Hail Mary once. I’m sure his CBD sales are picking up. Don’t forget, Rick Smith traded up for this. The other receiver Houston selected, Keith Mumphrey, played a lot more than he should have ever played. The perfect complement for Tom Savage. No one has a Keith Mumphrey memory.
Covington was fine, a rotational player who played more than he ever should have played. His time in Dallas was empty, so was his time in Cincinatti. He’s a free agent and will catch on somewhere this summer.
All in all, the Texans 2015 Draft was kind of crappy. They found one consistent Pro Bowl caliber player in McKinney. Johnson’s performance and career drags it down, and the ripple effects from it hurt the rest of the Texans secondary for years to come. The decision to trade up for Strong was fatal, and the late round picks didn’t amount to much. Six years later it’s all fairly underwhelming.