Former Pitt wide receiver Jester Weah and offensive lineman Jaryd Jones-Smith didn’t hear their names called on the final day of the NFL draft, but they didn’t linger long on the free-agent market, as both were signed by the Houston Texans on Saturday evening.
Weah’s draft value peaked after he caught 36 passes in 13 games for 870 yards and 10 touchdowns during the 2016 season, earning him a reputation as one of the top college receivers to watch in 2017. However, Pitt’s constant turnover at quarterback and Weah’s occasional underperformance led to less production last season, and his stock took a hit as a result.
Still, as a former sprinter in high school, the 6’3” receiver piqued the interest of analysts and scouts with his combination of size and speed, and he continued to turn heads at the NFL combine by running the 40-yard dash in just 4.43 seconds, ranking sixth among receivers.
That was enough to convince an NFL team to take a chance on him, and he wasn’t the only Pitt product to land in the Bayou City, as the Texans opted to pick up Jones-Smith as well.
Like Weah, Jones-Smith is an athlete whose sheer size was enough to attract the attention of NFL teams, and it notably won the 6’7”, 320-pound offensive lineman the Pterodactyl Award — the unofficial award for longest wingspan — at the NFL combine in March. While there, he also finished among the top performers at his position in the broad jump and 40-yard dash.
Jones-Smith was one of several Pitt players to get a long look from NFL scouts this offseason, as he was invited to play in the East-West Shrine Game alongside Weah and Avonte Maddox in January in addition to earning himself an invite to the combine.
The lineman first interviewed with the Texans during the lead-up to the Shrine Game, and it appears he made a lasting impression, as they decided to sign him over the weekend.
Weah and Jones-Smith both have a long way to go to make the Texans roster, as there are no guarantees when it comes to undrafted talent in the NFL. With that said, Houston is in dire need of offensive line help, as they ranked second in the league in sacks allowed last season with 54. So there’s at least a chance Jones-Smith could break camp with the team if he performs well.
The Texans are deeper at receiver, as they’re currently stocked with former college standouts like DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller and added former Texas Tech receiver Keke Coutee in the fourth round of the draft. Given that, Weah faces a tougher battle to make the roster but could potentially outperform some lesser members of Houston’s top-heavy receiving corps.