HOUSTON -- As the Houston Texans prepare for the new season, expectations are low. A few wins and growth of young talent might be enough to soothe the flames in what could be a long year.
Houston's overall roster is mixed with veterans and up and comers, but almost every roster has at least one top 50 player in the league, right?
Not if you ask Pro Football Focus,
PFF released its PFF50 regrading the top 50 players entering the 2021 season. Naturally, names like Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Donald and Aaron Rodgers were at the forefront, but other names such as Dak Prescott and Bryce Callahan come as a surprise.
Houston' Laremy Tunsil is considered by many a consensus top-10 tackle in the sport. PFF left him off. In their recent just missed the cut column, he was left off too.
Since arriving in Houston, Tunsil has graded out on PFF's scale as one of the best pass protectors in the game. Finishing with an 85 pass blocking grade or higher, those numbers are considered elite.
The run protection has been hampered the past two season, but 2020 was a down year altogether. Houston finished 31st in rushing, with only David Johnson recording more than 500 rushing yards in 14 games.
Compare Tunsil's pass blocking skills, one could argue his name should roughly hover around that of New Orleans' Terron Armstead or Baltimore's Ronnie Stanley. PFF placed six tackles in their top 50, with Armstead and Stanley finishing 43 and 46, respectively.
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Armstead graded out with a 85.4, nearly 10 points higher than Tunsil. The reason? Run blocking. Armstead's 90-plus bulldozing approach made him a more complete left tackle, thus upping his status outside the top 40.
Stanley, a Pro Bowl blindside protector, graded just four points higher than Tunsil, but that could be due to injury. Just days after signing a massive five-year, $98.75 million extension, he suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
Stanley is expected to be back in time for the start of the season.
Tunsil and Stanley are similar players when broken down. Both thrive as pass blockers while have seen their fair share of concerns in the run game. Over the past two seasons, Stanley has been forced to improve with mobile Lamar Jackson under center, plus the emergence of Gus Edwards and rookie J.K. Dobbins.
The past two seasons, Baltimore has ranked among the top three teams in rushing.
As for the other Texans missing the list, check back in come season's end. Brandin Cooks is a five-time 1,000-yard receiver who proved he can be a No. 1 target. Zach Cunningham has been a tackling machine, finishing top three in stops the past two seasons.
New slot defender Desmond King is considered a top-five player at his position by PFF entering this season. After a mixed 2020, can he rebound for a shot at the top 50 spot come 2022?
Texans' quarterback Deshaun Watson would likely have made the list if not for his status off the field. Watson's 22 civil cases of sexual misconduct and assault are not expected to see court until the spring of 2022, making his status unknown for know.
Last year, Watson graded out as PFF's No. 3 quarterback, trailing just Tampa Bay's Tom Brady and Rodgers, who picked up his third MVP.
One website's rankings shouldn't define a player's status in the NFL. Tunsil has shown in two seasons that he's a top-five tackle in the sport. And with the value at tackle, that should be enough to secure a top-50 ranking.
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