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Sunday NFL Thoughts: Roster changes since week 3 vs Texans; Patriots 2017 NFL Draft pick summary

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Remember when TE Clay Harbor was on the Patriots?

1. The Houston Texans defeated the Oakland Raiders 27-14 on Saturday. The Texans defense smothered the Raiders, who were down to their third string quarterback and were missing their starting left tackle. The Texans pass rush took advantage of the weakened Raiders line, with Whitney Mercilus racing up two sacks and a tackle for loss; Jadeveon Clowney added an interception.

But while the Texans defense flustered rookie QB Connor Cook- 18 of 45 (40.0%), 161 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs, 10 passes defended- and the Raiders fell behind and abandoned the run, the Texans offense wasn’t very good, either.

RB Lamar Miller had 31 carries, but only 73 yards to show for it (2.4 yards per carry). QB Brock Osweiler only completed 56.0% of his passes and threw for 168 passing yards. WR DeAndre Hopkins had 67 yards in the first half and zero in the second half (Osweiler only had 7 second half pass attempts).

Houston’s scoring drives went 8 yards (field goal), 4 yards (touchdown), 75 yards (field goal), 60 yards (2 minute drill touchdown), and 53 yards (touchdown). If the Raiders didn’t give away 10 free points at the start of the game, perhaps the script would have been different.

The Raiders defense ranked 20th in points allowed, 26th in yards allowed, and 21st in Football Outsider’s weighted DVOA ranking. We might get to see the Texans come to New England next week, where Houston will face a much better defense.

2. The Patriots defeated the Texans 27-0 back in week 3. Here are the major changes for New England:

  • QB Tom Brady will play instead of rookie third string QB Jacoby Brissett.
  • TE Clay Harbor is no longer on the roster (3 snaps in week 3).
  • RB Dion Lewis is now active for the Patriots.
  • LB Jamie Collins (all 71 defensive snaps) and DT Anthony Johnson (23 snaps) are no longer on the team.
  • LB Jonathan Freeny (41 snaps) is on the injured reserve.
  • LB Dont’a Hightower will be active.
  • ED Trey Flowers, CB Eric Rowe, and LB Kyle Van Noy have become starters.
  • ED Rob Ninkovich is no longer suspended.
  • K Stephen Gostkowski is out of his funk.

Remember that TE Rob Gronkowski only played 14 snaps in week 3; he wasn’t a part of the offense. The Patriots have improved across the board.

3. The Texans are different, too:

  • QB Brock Osweiler has been benched and reinserted into the lineup.
  • WR Jaelen Strong (53 snaps in week 3), then-third receiver, is on the injured reserve. The Texans prefer three-receiver sets, so this is important. WR Keith Mumphery is now the #3 receiver and has 69 receiving yards this season.
  • TE C.J. Fiedorowicz has surpassed TE Ryan Griffin on the depth chart.
  • OT Duane Brown is back from injury and starting at left tackle.
  • DL J.J. Watt is on the injured reserve.
  • LB Brian Cushing is back from his knee injury.
  • CB A.J. Bouye is now a starting cornerback since CB Kevin Johnson is on the injured reserve. Bouye started the year at the bottom of the depth chart, but is a fantastic player.

The Texans are better on the offensive line with Brown on the roster, and they are stronger on their defensive side of the ball, despite losing Watt. Watt was incredibly ineffective in week 3 after rushing to return from a back injury.

4. Who has the edge? Clearly the Patriots; the improvement from Brissett to Brady is greater than the sum of all the Houston changes- and when you add in the Patriots incremental weekly improvements on the offensive line and on defense, well, it’s not even close.

The Raiders dropped a quarter of their targets on Saturday, a luxury the Patriots cannot and will not afford the Texans. So long as the Patriots offensive line remains healthy- in addition to losing their left tackle, the Raiders lost their center for a portion of the game- the Patriots skill players should be able to get open and New England will be able to move the ball.

And if the Patriots can contain Lamar Miller as effectively as the Raiders were able (the Patriots run defense is much better than the Raiders run defense), and if the Patriots safeties can limit the Texans tight ends, then the Houston offense will come down to whether or not CB Logan Ryan can lock down WR DeAndre Hopkins for a third-consecutive time (7 catches, 108 yards, 0 touchdowns over past two games).

5. The Patriots are projected to receive a 3rd round compensatory draft pick from the Cleveland Browns (103rd overall) from the Jamie Collins trade, along with a 5th round compensatory pick for losing DL Akiem Hicks to the Chicago Bears according to OverTheCap.com.

New England now projects to have the following draft picks:

  • 1st: own pick
  • 2nd: own pick
  • two 3rds: own pick; Browns compensatory from Collins trade
  • 4th: lesser of Seahawks and Patriots draft pick due to DeflateGate penalty
  • two 5ths: Broncos from TE AJ Derby trade; compensatory for Hicks; own pick traded to Browns for LB Barkevious Mingo
  • no 6th: Traded to Lions for LB Kyle Van Noy + 7th rounder
  • 7th: Lions from Van Noy trade; own pick traded to the Lions for TE Michael Williams in 2015; there is a chance the Lions traded the Patriots their own pick back.

So the Patriots have added a third round pick and effectively flipped a 6th round pick into a 5th round pick. The Patriots are projected to have seven picks in the first five rounds. Draft season is going to be fun.

6. Patriots QB Tom Brady is a consistent winner on Facebook. He has now joined Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook.

This shouldn’t create a big change in your social media consumption. Just look for Brady to post directly to Instagram, and for those images to be subsequently linked to on Facebook.