By Kyle Schroeder – Contributing Writer
There had been reports throughout the past several weeks that the New Orleans Saints had strong interest in Malcolm Butler. When Butler signed his franchise tender on April 18, this opened up the possibility for Butler to be traded to New Orleans. With no other teams involved in discussions, it appeared to be the Saints or no trade at all. When the Saints drafted former Ohio State corner Marshon Lattimore with the 11th overall pick, and the first round ended without a trade, it all but confirmed that Malcolm Butler would remain in a Patriots uniform. Out of all the scenarios that could have played out on the first night of the NFL Draft as it relates to the Patriots, this was the best of them all.
With Butler seemingly staying in New England, the Patriots now have a substantially improved roster from last season. When the Patriots signed former Bills corner Stephon Gilmore, it felt like he might be the replacement for Butler. Now that Butler is under contract and won’t be traded, Butler and Gilmore will form one of the best corner duos in football.
This is a massive development considering the fact that Eric Rowe would have been the second corner behind Gilmore if Butler was traded. With Butler here, the Patriots will have two top-ten caliber corners on the same defense. Pair that defense to an offense that has added Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen, and Mike Gillislee, the Patriots will now be overwhelming favorites to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
One team that hopes to be a challenger to the Patriots next season is the Houston Texans. On Thursday night, the Texans may have taken a step closer to the Patriots after drafting Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson with the 12th overall pick. Since Bill O’Brien took over the Texans in 2014, the quarterback position has been a complete mess. They have had eight different quarterbacks start in a game the last three years. With the defense performing near the top of the league each of those seasons, it has allowed the Texans to be a playoff team.
The need for a quarterback was never more apparent than in the Texans’ divisional playoff game against the Pats this past season. The Texans top ranked defense gave Tom Brady fits. Brady completed a season low 47% of his passes while throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions. When Brady’s production is that poor, usually the Patriots lose. However, because Brock Osweiler was the Texans quarterback threw three interceptions in the game, the Texans lost by 18.
Now with Deshaun Watson under center, there is new hope that the Texans finally have a quarterback to bring them to the promised land. Watson had an excellent college career at Clemson where he completed 67% of his passes for 90 touchdowns and 32 interceptions in 28 games. His performances against Alabama in two consecutive national title games are really what defined him.
As a sophomore, he completed 63.8% of his passes for 402 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception in the loss to Alabama. As a junior, he completed 64% of his passes for 420 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the win over Alabama. This included a game-winning drive in which he completed six of seven passes for 51 yards and the game winning touchdown to Hunter Renfrow with one second remaining. Amazing performances against defenses with NFL draft picks sprinkled all over the field. There have been concerns about his deep- ball accuracy and ability to adjust to a pro-style system, but his intangibles, college production, and other physical tools give the Texans a promising quarterback and the belief they can be Super Bowl contenders.