May 26, 2022


Here’s who to draft with those two first-round picks

4 min read

Welcome to the first day of the rest of the Houston Texans’ life, and it’s a big one. The Texans have two of the first 13 picks in Thursday night’s draft and seven of the three-day draft’s first 108 selections. Hit on all seven of those – no, that’s not realistic, but it’s draft season, and much like spring training, everyone’s an optimist on draft day – and suddenly Houston is back on the path to NFL relevance.

Before general manager Nick Caserio gets to work with those five picks in the second, third and fourth rounds, he’s really got to nail these first two. Here’s where we implore you, Nick: Don’t get too cute.

It looks like the first two players off the board are going to be defensive ends Travon Walker from Georgia and Aidan Hutchinson from Michigan. That leaves the Texans with the opportunity to address a huge area of need by drafting either the best offensive tackle or the best cornerback.

The options at tackle are North Carolina State’s Ickey Ekwonu or Alabama’s Evan Neal, and at cornerback you’d be choosing between Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner or LSU’s Derek Stingley.

There’s a lot of buzz that the Texans are falling in love with the 20-year-old Stingley, who is super talented, but has played just 10 games the past two seasons at LSU. That would be an interesting pick with a huge upside, but the Texans can’t afford a swing-and-a-miss here, so keep it simple: Ekwonu is the pick.

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The Texans need to see what they have in quarterback Davis Mills, who they took in the third round last year. To give Mills a fair shot and see whether or not you’ll need to go quarterback hunting in next year’s draft, he must have a much better offensive line than what the Texans trotted out last year. Ekwonu is the guy to make sure that happens. He’ll be a Day 1 starter, likely at tackle, but he has some experience playing guard in college, so if you wanted to do the Tytus Howard shuffle, he could play there for you as well.

This draft is heavy on elite receivers with Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, Alabama’s Jameson Williams and USC’s Drake London all possibly going in the first 15 picks. It’s tempting to grab one of them at No. 13 to really see what Mills can do, but it’s probably better to use one of your second-day picks to grab a receiver a tier or two below those guys.

So, at No. 13, it’s time to get a defensive difference-maker.

The ideal scenario would be for Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton to drop in your lap. This is a little bit of wishful thinking, but there are mocks – including the latest from ESPN’s Mel Kiper – that have Hamilton dropping all the way to the Texans. The former Fighting Irish team captain ran just a 4.59 40, which could be scaring off some teams, but his play-making instincts more than make up for any footraces he might lose.

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Another wishful-thinking scenario would have Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson still being on the board when the Texans pick at 13. The beginning of the draft will be all about pass rushers and Walker, Hutchinson and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux all should be gone in the Top 10. Johnson slots in right behind those guys. Lovie Smith needs to improve his defensive line, and Johnson would step right in and help immediately.

If you don’t luck into Hamilton or Johnson, you should still be able to grab the third-best cornerback in the draft after Gardner and Stingley. If Washington’s Trent McDuffie wasn’t a tad undersized at 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds, he would never make it to the Texans’ second pick, but he’ll likely be there, and he would be a starter from Day One with a really high upside to be a shutdown corner in the future.

Caserio loves to trade draft picks, so the urge will be there for him to turn that 13th pick into more shots on the draft wheel. Unless someone makes you an offer you can’t refuse, don’t do it, Nick. The Texans need difference-makers right now. Grab the best offensive tackle and the best defensive player and get ready fill the rest of the roster’s holes in the rest of the draft.

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