Ranking Deshaun Watson Trade Assets | Miami Dolphins | Houston Texans

The Houston heat is bearing down on two men; quarterback Deshaun Watson and general manager Nick Caserio stare into each other's eyes like a classic Western showdown, awaiting the first blink. Deshaun and his camp have emptied their clip, utilizing the media like a 35 revolver in an attempt to shape the narrative in their favor. Nick doesn't care, hasn't budged, and when asked to comment, replies, "what's a Tweeter?".

With less than a week to go until the start of the 2021-2022 NFL Season, the Houston Texans just officially named Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback. There was little shock involved with this announcement and confirms that the most likely scenario the team is heading towards is paying Watson around 10 million to be inactive for the rest of the season. The Texans will likely provide the excuse that he has a minor, week-to-week injury and look to find suitable trade capital in return after the season and his allegations are completed.

Until then, more trade proposals have been thrown around than I can count, so I wanted to rank picks (going to stick to 1st and 2nd round picks to simplify things) and players, some of which have been mentioned and some of which have flown under the radar.

With the Miami Dolphins seemingly in the driver seat - they have been since this whole thing started - due to them being the main team Watson wants to play for and will waive his no-trade clause for, plus have the most alluring capital, let's limit our scope to their assets.

In addition, imagine that the timeline for this hypothetical trade is after the season, thus, while I wouldn't expect rookies to be included in a before-season trade, there is a greater possibility of being dealt after the season.

#1: Christian Wilkins, DT

The first three assets will be ones I want to place under a "Dream Target" label as I'm fairly confident the Dolphins will not give them up; however, if more teams become willing to meet the Texans demands after the allegations are completed, these assets may have to be utilized in a package. At the end of the day, Deshaun Watson is a better player than everyone on this list, so the Dolphins should not be unwilling to part with one individual player.

Let's start with Wilkins, the Dolphins' 13th overall pick in 2019 has instantly become starter caliber on a top defense and is their best talent in the trenches. The Texans have looked to retool their d-line and build their identity through the position.

Wilkins has put up good, not elite numbers yet and part of that is the conservative role he plays in the Phins gap-control defense. Allow him to be more aggressive and weaponize his athleticism as Lovie Smith has done for our D-line and Wilkins could see a breakout.

#2: Jaelen Phillips, DE

Sticking in the trenches and our first rookie appears, Phillips, the 18th overall pick in the 2021 draft possesses an elite ceiling as an alpha pass rusher. He would be #1 on this list if he had any proven solid production at the NFL level, and he could very well jump Wilkins by the end of the season after we get a tangible sample size.

Phillips possesses a freaky combination of athleticism and technique for the position and was my #1 EDGE and #9 overall player in the 2021 Draft Class.


#3: Jaylen Waddle, WR

Another one. The 6th overall pick in the 2021 draft, Waddle is as close of a twin to Tyreek Hill as we've ever seen. The Houston kid would provide the Texans with the dynamic deep threat and creative swiss army knife they lack. Waddle can take the top off in every way imaginable and also gain easy yards off screens, jet sweeps, handoffs and in the return game.

Waddle sounds magical, so why is he below Phillips? The gap between the two is pretty much zero in my mind, however, It comes down to positional value and DE>WR every day of the week. Along with Phillips however, Waddle can jump Wilkins on this list, barring a strong rookie season.

#4: 2022 1st Round Pick

Our first draft pick on this list cements the start of what I believe we can expect to potentially gain in return for Deshaun Watson. From here on out, I think any of the next listed assets are more attainable and the ability to choose a young, talented prospect on a rookie deal with this pick, is extremely enticing.

Since we are hypothesizing that the trade will occur after the season, the Dolphins' record would not be boosted - and their draft pick hurt - by adding Deshaun to the team. Seeing as the Dolphins ended with the 18th pick last year, that would be their floor for the 2021 1st, and with Tua potentially taking a step and Miami adding a plethora of young talent in the offseason, Texans fans should expect this pick to land in the low/mid-20s at the best.

Some of my favorite draft prospects in that range include Arkansas WR Treylon Burks, Iowa Center Tyler Linderbaum, Cincinnati CB Ahmad Gardner and of course, Liberty QB Malik Willis who I recently mocked to the Texans.

#5: Noah Igbinoghene, CB

The 30th overall pick (from the Tunsil trade, funny enough) in the 2020 draft, Igbinoghene is a name that I have not often seen thrown around. He appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, but started just two and played 28% of the defensive snaps. I viewed Igbinoghene as an athletically inclined but raw corner coming out of Auburn and honestly thought the Dolphins reached a bit.

He didn't have a standout rookie year and there were many reasons for that. First, he was the youngest player in the entire NFL and was a receiver before making the switch to corner in 2018. Second, COVID accelerated the offseason program and rookies were hurt the most. Third, he was thrust into the starting lineup earlier than the coaches expected due to injury.

While he didn't look at home early on, most rookie cornerbacks do not, even Jaguars' 9th overall pick CJ Henderson struggled all year. However, I'm bullish on Igbinoghene's stock because he was always more of a developmental guy and what better CBs to learn from than Xavien Howard and Byron Jones?

The Dolphins coaching staff have raved about the development that Igbinoghene has displayed in 2021, cornerback coach Charles Burke says, "It's been a lot of growth… I love where he’s at. Again, he has a tremendous work ethic, attention to detail, day-in and day-out. I believe in Noah and I’m glad he’s here."

Furthermore, defensive back coach Gerald Alexander said, "He’s developed a lot just as far as his technique, his fundamental footwork, his transitioning and then not to mention developing in our defense and what we’re asking him to do." The players have taken notice too, six-year veteran Eric Rowe saying, "His coverage skills have gotten a lot better from whenever we played the Bills early on. His future is looking great."

This 2021-2022 season will tell us a lot about Igbinoghene's future and with him cross-training at outside and nickel corner, it would be wildly impressive for the 21-year-old to prove himself and certainly make for an intriguing piece to trade for.


#6: Tua Tagovailoa, QB

It's a bit crazy to think there are five better assets on the Dolphins than Tua, especially after he looked like a different player in the preseason. While Tua would certainly give the Texans an upgrade at quarterback and provide them the luxury of not having to draft one with their first-round pick in 2022, I'm just not sold on Tua's ultimate ceiling.

He lacks the athletic ability and off-script playmaking needed to beat the most elite defenses in the playoffs and his below-average arm strength will unfortunately never improve. He needs to take insane steps in the mental game and reach a Brady/Brees/Manning level of calculated robot assassin for me to believe in him as a Super Bowl leading QB, which is a lot to ask.

I would certainly welcome and root for Tua on the Texans but would prioritize other players and the 2022 1st over him in a heartbeat.

#7: 2023 1st Round Pick

The second most valuable pick the Dolphins can provide the Texans is their first in 2023. Expect this pick to land in the late 20s as it will be after a full season with Watson leading the Dolphins. At the end of the day, a first-round pick is still a first-round pick and Nick will surely do his best to attach as many as possible to this deal.

#8: Xavien Howard, CB

The biggest name that Texans fans seem to want in return for Watson is All-Pro Xavien Howard but he's fairly far down my rankings. There is no doubting Howard's talent - he led the league in interceptions for crying out loud - but at 28 years old and 29 after the season, Howard will quickly be on the wrong side of 30 before the Texans are realistically entering their contending window.

While he would certainly help stabilize a weak outside-cornerback position group, he's making 12.9, 12 and 12.2 million dollars from 2022-2024 and after restructuring the contract this offseason to meet Howard's demands, the Dolphins have already agreed to revisit restructure negotiations after the season. If Howard is traded to the Texans, expect his agent to be pounding on Nick's door asking for more money ASAP, which if not met, could lead to another holdout which I'm sure the Texans are sick of at this point.

There are younger, cheaper players who fit the Texans timeline better, that Nick should prioritize instead.

#9: 2024 1st Round Pick

The maximum amount of years in the future that teams can trade their picks is three years, thus the 2024 1st round pick is the last 1st round pick the Texans can acquire from the Dolphins. Since it is the farthest in the future, it is the least valuable and will likely also land in the late 20s, barring anything catastrophic.

The reason it is ranked below Howard - who did not have a shining review himself - is because if the Texans were to gain Howard at the end of the 2021-2022 season, I would expect him to be flipped to a contending team that is willing to meet his compensation desires for a 2023 1st round pick (and potentially more). Again, a 2023 1st rounder being more valuable than a 2024 1st rounder.

#10: 2022 2nd Round Pick

The Texans are not only looking for multiple first-rounders in the Watson deal but also multiple second-rounders, as they should. Acquiring as many premium draft picks as possible provides Caserio with the young, cheap talent needed to push this rebuild in the right direction as quickly as possible.

Some of my favorite draft prospects projected in the mid/late 2nd round include Penn State WR Jahan Dotson, Utah LB Devin Lloyd and RB Kyren Williams.


#11: Jerome Baker, LB

One of the best Dolphins who flies under the radar is the athletic and coverage-inclined Jerome Baker. At just 24 years old, Baker plays the weakside linebacker role for the Dolphins and was pegged as a safety hybrid defender after playing for Ohio State in college.

We've seen how Lovie Smith values athletic LBs who can cover in space and Baker would be the best the Texans have ever had in franchise history, in that regard.

He recently signed a 3 year, 39 million dollar extension in June, signifying the Dolphins' trust in the youngster, so I'm not very confident the Texans could pry him away, but they should certainly try.

Baker plays the same position as Zach Cunningham, who is making 35 million over the next 3 years himself; however, Zach is one of the few trade assets the Texans have and they could look to ship the 27-year-old LB for some draft capital, and usher in a more modern LB who is 3 years younger, in Baker.

#12: 2023 2nd Round Pick

Not much explanation is needed with this one, load up on them picks Nick! If it comes down to one or the other, I would prefer Baker over a future 2nd rounder as Baker plays a sparse role (coverage LB) and has proven production at just 24.

#13: Mike Gesicki, TE

Another player I'm sure the Dolphins will want to keep around so that Watson has sufficient weapons, Gesicki blossomed in 2020. The uber-athletic tight end made countless highlight-reel catches and showed off great chemistry with Tua Tagovailoa.

However, if Tua is to be traded, the Dolphins may be more willing to part with his favorite target in Gesicki. At 25 years old, Gesicki has yet to hit his prime and could do so for the Texans. Pairing him and Brevin Jordan together would make for an extremely athletic and dangerous TE duo.

#14: Brandon Jones, S

Jones was a 3rd round pick out of Texas in the 2020 draft and had a solid rookie campaign. He appeared in all 16 games, started 4 and played 37% of the snaps, mainly in Dime packages. He was an efficient player, tallying 62 tackles in his limited time.

Fit wise, Jones is a strong safety and he would pair well with Justin Reid - whom the Texans could look to extend - taking the free safety snaps. Jones is a big hitter who has a nose for the football and would be a massive upgrade over Eric Murray and allow Lonnie Johnson to develop in his backup free safety role.

#15: Myles Gaskin, RB

The last player on our list is an electric running back who may very well win you your fantasy league. The Dolphins found a gem in the 7th round of the 2019 draft, and Gaskin has shown he can be a very strong back in a committee, but also a spot starter who started 7 games in 2020.

He had an efficient 4.1 YPC for 584 yards - very impressive when you factor in the Dolphins horrid offensive line - and 41 catches on 47 targets for 388 yards. He did all of this while missing four games on the injured reserve (MCL sprain) and missing two games due to COVID protocol, so in a full season, he is a virtual lock for 1000+ scrimmage yards.

The Texans have no RBs signed after the 2021-2022 season and while I believe highly in Scottie Phillips, pairing him with Gaskin would provide a young and electric backfield for many years.

Concluding Thoughts

The Dolphins roster is certainly one filled with numerous enticing players and Nick should prioritize the young guys who have shown flashes of potential *cough cough I don't care for Xavien Howard.

Ultimately though, while there were more players than picks on this list, I wouldn't expect that to be the case for the actual trade. The 1st and 2nd round picks will be a necessity to Nick, but realistically if a player is added, it'll be someone further down this list than we'd ideally like - and that's okay because the Dolphins have a lot of young talent.

Sit tight Texans fans, neither Deshaun nor Nick have blinked on their stance, it looks like we're all going to have to sweat it out for a while.