No one was surprised when Houston took Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick. Almost everyone was perplexed when they waited until the third day of the draft to take a quarterback.
And not just any quarterback, but one that came out of nowhere on the final turn like a 20-1 longshot at the Preakness. In the weeks following the NFL combine, Savage was not even in the conversation for selection in the first three rounds of the draft.
Then Peter King of MMQB reported on April 14 that Gil Brandt, pioneering talent evaluator for the Dallas Cowboys during the Tom Landry era, had told King that Savage was “the hottest guy in the draft.”
On April 30, NFL Media analyst Charles Davis said the one-year starter from the University of Pittsburgh might even sneak into the first round. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports came on board May 2 with a second-round prediction:
Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and Savage was claimed by the Texans with the 35th pick of the fourth round. Now the questions turn to more practical matters.
What can the Texans expect from their minimal investment? Recent history indicates hopes should not get too high.
Since the AFL and NFL combined their drafts in 1967, 445 quarterbacks have been taken in the fourth through 12th rounds. Four have won a Super Bowl: Joe Theismann, Mark Rypien, Brad Johnson and Tom Brady. However, only Brady has been drafted in the last 20 years (2000).
When will Savage make his first appearance in a regular season game? Unless he lights it up in the preseason, it is difficult to imagine that Savage will even be the backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick in the season opener against the Washington Redskins. Despite his 0-8 record as a starter in 2013, Case Keenum is the likelier choice.
Well then, when will Savage make it on to the active roster? That could take some time.
Only two of the Texans' first nine opponents had a winning record in 2013—the Indianapolis Colts (11-5) and Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)—and the nine teams combined for a .444 winning percentage last season. It is possible that when their bye comes up in Week 10, the team might be flirting with a 5-4 record.
First-time NFL head coach Bill O’Brien could be more interested in building some equity with the fanbase by winning some games than throwing an inexperienced quarterback into the breach.
Should Fitzpatrick stay true to form and remain a turnover machine, leaving only two or three wins on the ledger, then turning the offense over to a rookie would be a viable option.
Savage had only one full season as a starter in college, playing behind an offensive line at Pittsburgh that gave up 43 sacks, the most in NCAA Division-1 football. He will need some extra time before his ability to read defenses and maneuver in the pocket catches up with his top-flight arm strength.