Have Bill O'Brien's Wild Texans Trades Made Houston Better or Worse?

Cameron Smith

Nothing comes for free, particularly in the NFL. Still, the Houston Texans have paid a steep price for contracts that other teams seemed awfully desperate to get rid of.


In case you've been trapped under a rock, here's a very succinct analysis of the Texans' offseason from the good people at Spotrac:

As you'd expect, everyone has thoughts about this move. Here are the obvious ones:

— Yes, the Texans surrendered the single best player in these trades in the form of Deandre Hopkins. Still, they did that with the knowledge that they either had to hand Hopkins a rich new contract or risk a full season holdout. In return, they landed Johnson (a questionable acquisition) and a second round pick, which they then spun to the Rams for Brandin Cooks. So, Deandre Hopkins and a fourth round pick for David Johnson and Brandin Cooks? Hard to view the Texans as winners there.

— The addition of Randall Cobb could be a sneaky high impact move. Cobb is a blazing receiver who slots as WR3 or WR4 in Houston with Kenny Stills also on the roster. That's wild, and has to be a promising thing for Deshaun Watson to lean back on.

And that, in turn, is the true takeaway. The Texans added Cooks and Cobb via trade and free agency, respectively, which gives them as deep a quartet of receivers as anyone in the NFL. And there is the distinct chance that the Texans may also have a plan for reinvigorating Johnson to a degree that he becomes a significant lift to their rushing attack. Given that Houston was already a top-10 squad in Offensive Rusher Rating (slightly higher than their ranking in Offensive Passer Rating, believer it or not), that could be the difference between moving farther forward in the AFC South or trading shots with the Titans and Colts all the way to the playoffs.

There's a second potential agenda baked in to the Cooks and Cobb acquisitions, too: speed. Pure, blazing unadulterated speed. That was laid out in this tweet from Texans Savant:

By comparison, Hopkins ran a 4.57 40, a fast sprint, but not as fast as the four men now slated to play for his former team. While Watson was only middle of the pack in deep ball accuracy in 2018, that changed dramatically in 2019, when Watson ranked third in the league in deep ball accuracy. Now he'll be throwing to a group of receivers uniquely suited to catch those passes and make gamebreaking plays with the ball deep down the field.

Naturally, all of this assumes a shift in offensive design that will further emphasize deep passes to maximize the skillset of the roster. Who knows if offensive coordinator Tim Kelly will produce that when he takes over play calling in 2020. If he does, and if Fuller, Stills and newcomers Cooks and Cobb produce, there's still a path where O'Brien somehow makes it out of these trades smelling like roses. We aren't inclined to think it'll happen, but anything is possible, and with the personnel that came back, this even seems to lie somewhere between plausible and likely despite the loss of Hopkins in the process.