We’ve caught up!
A non-expansion NFL team would typically draft 12 players (the “Terrific 12” if you will) in the first 3 rounds over the last 4 years. These 12 players are particularly valuable to a franchise in a salary cap regime, subject to the quality of the selection, because they typically have much lower cap values than players signed through free agency. For example, Chester Pitts has a 2004 cap value of $705,000, but Steve McKinney has a 2004 cap value of $3,050,000.
Typically, an impact player becomes a free agent after his fourth year and receives his first big free agency contract. Each year, a franchise typically looses 3 first day drafted players to free agency (unless they re-sign the players) and get three replacements through the draft, thereby maintaining their Terrific 12 ( in some cases, of course, a player drafted to be a terrific twelve player won’t work out and a team may end up with less than 12, or a second day drafted player will excel, like Domanick Davis, thereby creating more than 12). McKinney, Bradford, Wong, Smith and Wade are all examples of four year players who got big raises to come to the Texans for their 5th year.
In the 2002 season, the Texans first year, they only had 5 Terrific 12 (1 first, 2 second and 2 third), while all the other teams had 12. Hard to compete.
The good news is the Texans have now caught up, thanks to expansion picks and CC’s astute trades. They now have 4 first round picks (Carr, Johnson, Robinson and Babin), 4 second round picks (Gaffney, Pitts, Hollings and Joppru) and 4 third round picks (Weary, Peek, Wand and Ragone (plus Hill, who was released)), who they drafted. The Texans now have a Terrific 12 like other NFL teams. Good. And the news gets better.
Next year, the Texans should keep all of their Terrific 12 and add 4 new members through the draft (1 first, 1 second and 2 thirds), giving them a total of 16 Terrific 12.
It might be interesting to compare other teams Terrific 12 with those of the Texans. If you have another team you follow (Jags, Titans, Colts, or Cowboys, for example) how do their first day picks the last four years compare to the Texans?