O'Brien won't project draft pick's ceilings

HOUSTON -- Bill O'Brien doesn't believe in ceilings.

He used to. Then a doctor got furious once when the Texans head coach, just a father of a young boy with a rare neurological disorder to this doctor, kept asking him about the ceiling for his son. Now he's learned: ceilings only exist when you let them.

It's something O'Brien carries into his coaching.

"In my opinion, nobody has a ceiling," O'Brien said. "There’s no ceiling. You create your own ceiling by talking about ceilings. I don’t think you ever talk about that here. Ever. We teach the guy. We want the guy to get better every day. We try to do what’s best for the player with how we teach him, the situations that we put him in."

He shared that story in response to a question about Tom Savage's ceiling. The quarterback talked openly Saturday about the things he has to learn, having played a disjointed football career interrupted by transfers, with a brief construction gig tossed in. Savage was the Texans' fourth-round pick on the draft's final day, and one of 10 draft picks the Texans made this week.

The Texans entered the draft seeming to need a quarterback badly, then took four players before addressing the position. Taking Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick was a no-brainer. But guard Xavier Su'a-Filo and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz both came in ranges where quarterbacks could have gone. Defensive tackle Louis Nix is a special case -- a guy the Texans had rated much higher, who fell to the 83rd overall pick.

"One thing that I felt about the quarterback position is there’s three guys here right now that we enjoy working with that have played in the NFL with Ryan (Fitzpatrick), Case (Keenum) and T.J. (Yates)," O'Brien said. "We have a lot of respect for those guys. We have respect for how they've bought into what we’re doing. We have respect for how they’ve learned and how they’ve gone out there those last few days of practice and tried to get better every day. ...We have three guys we can work with that are willing to learn, and if somebody happened to fall to a place we can draft him, then that’s what we would do. That’s what we did with Tom Savage."

The Texans had a fourth-round grade on Savage, which is not typically a round in which you find starters. It's not impossible, of course, but usually teams look to Rounds 1 through 3 to find starters. Their own lack of panic about the position (and panic can be harmful in a draft room) had them stick calmly to their board, trade up only if someone fell.

Were they right?

That's impossible to tell right now. But trusting your work and the months of work by scouts and assistant coaches is a critical part of this process. Being right is also important, but that judgment has to come later.

It has to come after coaches have had the opportunity to maximize what they get out of various players. Once they hit their ceilings, actually, let's call them their peaks, that's when judging this draft class will make sense.