HOUSTON -- Draft classes haven't been very fruitful for the Houston Texans lately.
Only two members of their 2013 draft class contributed at all last season. The 2014 class hasn't offered the production expected with early picks in every round, though first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney played well and offered reasons for optimism.
Last season, though, there were plenty of positives surrounding the Texans' draft class. Here are four reasons to be optimistic about the Texans' 2015 draft class.
Their first-round pick made sense: Kevin Johnson's selection seemed odd at the time, but the fact is teams these days need three starting-caliber cornerbacks. Johnson joined Johnathan Joseph, who had a tremendous season in 2015, and Kareem Jackson, who signed a multi-year contract last offseason. Johnson showed promise, even more so when you consider he played with a broken left foot for eight games last season. I asked Johnson if the injury could have gotten worse from playing on it, and he simply answered it wasn't anything he couldn't handle.
Benardrick McKinney gained Brian Cushing's trust: Inside linebacker has been a need for the Texans since they traded away DeMeco Ryans before the 2012 season. McKinney didn't begin the season as the Texans' starter, but grew into that position and earned Cushing's trust. "Go back and watch the Kansas City (in Week 1 of the regular season) film; he really didn't play that much compared to where he is now, and he's just developed, he's done a really good job," Cushing said. "You can just see him slowly becoming a better pro every single game." Cushing said his trust in McKinney grew right around the time the Texans won 10-6 against the Cincinnati Bengals. That's when a lot clicked for the Texans' defense.
Jaelen Strong worked hard to regain his coach's favor: As the season started, Strong elicited concern. He came in out of shape to rookie minicamp and it wasn't clear whether he would fix that. By the time training camp started, Strong had cut about 20 pounds and continued losing some as the season got closer. It took time for Strong to become a factor in the offense, but by the end of the season he was getting more reps. He finished the season with 14 catches for 161 yards with three touchdowns and nine first downs.
There isn't any clear bust in the group: I hate to use the word "bust" because it's often prematurely assigned to a player who doesn't deserve it. You couldn't use that word for anyone in this group. Johnson and McKinney are starters. Strong showed a lot of growth. Fifth-round pick Keith Mumphery could be instrumental on special teams. When you get to the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds, you aren't looking for stars or even starters. The Texans might have gained some solid role players in those rounds. Sixth-round pick Reshard Cliett was well liked by the staff before he suffered a torn ACL and fellow sixth-round pick Christian Covington can be a solid sub rusher.