July 1, 2022

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Stephanie Stradley’s Q&A with experts on Texans’ 2022 NFL Draft

28 min read

For today’s Q&A, Stephanie Stradley asks people of varied backgrounds and perspectives what their opinions are on the Texans and the 2022 NFL draft. 

Benjamin Albright (@AllbrightNFL): Broncos insider at the Broncos flagship. Twitter raconteur.

Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler): The Athletic’s Senior NFL Draft Analyst and author of “The Beast” NFL Draft Guide.

Evan Lazar (@ezlazar): Patriots beat reporter for CLNSMedia and host of the Patriots Beat Podcast that can be found on YouTube or other podcasting networks.

Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann): Creator, analyst and host of “The Film Room” on YouTube.


Charles McDonald (@FourVerts): I write and podcast for Underdog Fantasy. Host of The Exempt List podcast that recently started. Fellow tortured sports fan (Atlanta variety).

Thor Nystrom (@thorku): NFL Draft/CFB Senior Content Creator for NBC Sports EDGE.

Cole Thompson (@MrColeThompson): Covers the NFL and college football for FanNation.com. Cole primarily can be seen covering the Houston Texans at TexansDaily.com and be heard on SportsMap Radio’s “Just Sayin It” a national syndicated show from 2 – 6 a.m.  

Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman): Publisher of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio, the most comprehensive analysis of skill-position prospects available to the public. In publication since 2006, the RSP is one of the small handful of independent scouting guides that NFL personnel staff use as an outside resource. 

Stephanie Stradley (@StephStradley): That is me, and these are my questions. I’m a Houston lawyer who has written about the Houston Texans and other NFL topics since 2006. Finalist for the now-defunct ESPN Fan Hall of Fame 2014 Class for various fun nonsense and advocating for things good for the NFL, its fans, and the Texans community specifically. I have very few vested opinions about the incoming draft class, but I do have thoughts about the Texans needs, draft trends and building for now and the future. 

Q&As

Q: Some thoughts on what a Nick Caserio/Lovie Smith draft might look like given what you know of both?

Lazar: Since there aren’t any potential franchise quarterbacks in this class, my question is what does Houston want to accomplish in this draft? We know that they need high-end talent at the top of the roster, but they also need culture builders. Furthermore, is Lovie Smith their long-term answer at head coach or another lame duck? He has a unique coverage system that relies heavily on cover-two zone at a league-high rate. If they are drafting to make Lovie look good, they could prioritize a zone corner such as Ahmad Gardner over a man corner like Derek Stingley. 

Taking it one step further, what kind of offense do they want to run? A West Coast scheme with a pocket passer like Davis Mills, which is the indication under Pep Hamilton, or a more college-style spread system for a dual-threat quarterback? My guess is they don’t get too lost in the X’s and O’s and focus on culture builders. There’s too much uncertainty about the schematic direction of the franchise to draft based on coaching preferences. 

Thompson: It’s very clear Houston is going to upgrade its defense. Last season, the Texans finished 31st overall and 31st defending the run. Although Houston did manage to finish top 10 in takeaways, they finished bottom five in pressures in sacks. Smith is running a four-man front, which means that if the value of a defensive tackle outweighs that of a defensive end, he’ll likely want to add him to fortify penetration up the middle. 

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The Texans are also in the market for a new No. 1 cornerback. Smith has been adamant about how inconsistent the cornerback position was last season. Despite the addition of Eagles cornerback Steven Nelson, that’s not enough for Houston to feel content. 

Offensively, the Texans need a running back. That’s the top priority. Adding an offensive linemen or receiver would be nice to help with Davis Mills, but the No. 1 need offensively is a running back. Knowing Nick Caserio’s background in New England – a team that loves to run the ball – one or two runners should be added. 

Nystrom: If Lovie Smith is as engaged on Draft Weekend as he was during the end of his Illinois tenure, this is going to be Caserio’s show. I wouldn’t expect any ideological change whatsoever. 

Waldman: Caserio has a history of drafting versatile and intelligent players: James White, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman are some of the hits that Caserio earns some credit for as a Patriots exec. Smith also has a preference for intelligent, versatile, and physical players. Matt Forte comes to mind as one of his successful picks. 

Caserio was a part of a Patriots squad that has earned criticism for erring on the side of being so selective with players for its draft boards that they sometimes had to trade away picks because they were running out of viable players to acquire. One of the stories to expect next week is whether Caserio brought this selective philosophy to Houston.

Brugler: Based on my experiences with both, Lovie Smith and Nick Caserio are aligned with three main priorities when it comes to roster construction. Players need to be smart, they need to be tough, and they have to be reliable. They also want players to be bigger, faster and stronger than the opponent, especially with Smith’s basic principles on defense that ask players to beat the man in front of them. But above all, they want dependable and disciplined players – that is where the conversation starts.

Allbright: You’d think heavy on “nasty” types. Attitude and attack type players.  Hitters on defense, guys that also contribute on special teams.

Kollmann: I think Caserio and Smith tend to prioritize character and culture above all else because they are true believers that culture is what leads to championship level programs. Obviously having some elite talents on the roster is ideal, but my general feel for how they do things is if given the choice between an elite physical talent with character concerns or just a good physical talent with exceptional character, they’ll go with the high-character dude every single time. Whether or not that is the right approach, I don’t know … but it does seem to be the one they favor. 

McDonald: I think at this point in their process, following the board and going with the best player available makes the most sense. Davis Mills is an acceptable quarterback option right now which means they don’t have to force a pick at quarterback early in the draft. This team is, unfortunately, very far away from being a playoff squad again so they should really just try to pick the players they think will be immediate upgrades with long-term potential. 

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Stradley: The too early evaluation of last year’s Texans draft is positive. A number of the draft picks had connections with coaching staff members. Out of 2021’s performance, likely the best thing the Texans did was navigating the few picks the Texans had. 

The big concern from outsiders is how much do the new Texans value talent along with who they consider “good guys.” Sometimes the 2021 talk about who was a culture fit and a good guy seemed so narrow that it would only encompass people they personally liked and knew. Sometimes it seems like they grade on a curve for the players they like as human beings and culture builders, excusing poor to average performance.

For most teams, saying you are picking “good players who are good people,” would be not controversial at all. Sometimes the way the Texans talked about “good people” in 2021, made it sound like they were insulting everyone but their personal friends and relationships. Don’t believe that was intended but communication involves context and saying that in a trusted team environment where winning seasons are automatic may be different than when a team seems to care about their friends more than everyone else.

Q: The Texans pick in the first round at 3 and 13. Do they find a trade partner at either spot and why or why not?

Brugler: I don’t think so at three. There just doesn’t seem to be the motivation from other clubs to give up draft picks to get into the top three. There is a better chance at 13, however. And a lot depends on the run on quarterbacks. When does it start? A quarterback-needy team (Steelers?) might be looking to trade up to guarantee they land their guy. If the quarterbacks fly off the board in the top 10, that means several talented players will be pushed out of the top 10, which also increases the chances of the phone ringing with a viable trade offer.

Thompson: Of the two, No. 13 is likely the trade chip. When teams are moving up into the top three, it’s likely for a quarterback. There isn’t a quarterback worthy of moving up for in this year’s class, making it challenging for Houston to receive an offer Caserio is willing to accept. 

Three teams I’d keep an eye on in a trade at No. 13: New England, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Chargers. The Patriots need a new top cornerback and LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr., might be the target. The Chargers need a right tackle to pair with Justin Herbert. The Saints are reportedly “in love” with one of the speed receivers, but so are the Eagles. New Orleans would have to jump Philadelphia at No. 15 to grab “their guy.” 

Nystrom: Both spots are ripe trade-down territory. The good thing about having a roster with so many holes is that you aren’t penned-in to any possibility. I’d expect them to field all calls.

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McDonald:  I don’t think they’ll find a trade partner at 3 unless a team really, really likes Malik Willis. The value isn’t quite there this year with the quarterbacks at the top — and if there was a quarterback prospect legitimately worth being taken at 3, that should probably be a player the Texans consider adding to the team. Thirteen seems more likely because that seems like a sweet spot for a team to trade up for a quarterback like Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett or Mississippi’s Matt Corral. Trades take two to tango and most trade-ups in this era of the NFL Draft center around getting franchise quarterback prospects. This is a weak draft class for guys with that potential.

Allbright: They could. Can they drum up enough interest that a desired player won’t be there after 4?  That’d be the key. Tougher to do without top-end QBs and a team needing a QB behind them.

Waldman: While not considered a strong draft, there’s enough first-round talent to keep the picks unless Houston is determined to take a quarterback. I don’t think they should with quality offensive linemen and defensive backs available.  

Kollmann: To be honest, I think they stick and pick. It’s possible that they move down with New Orleans and take both of those first rounders they have if the Saints are indeed trying to come up to get Evan Neal or Charles Cross, but we’ll see. My gut says that they just take the two best players they can find and try to inject some more talent into a roster that sorely needs it.

Lazar: The Patriots made a draft weekend trade every year under Bill Belichick besides in 2004, and this feels like a draft where Caserio would prioritize picks over players. Why? There’s no real consensus at the top of the board and no sure-things at quarterback. Assuming Caserio uses a similar grading system as he did with the Patriots, he’ll have players in tiers or buckets, where they might look at four or five players as equals. 

For instance, Caserio’s draft history would indicate that he might not see a major difference between Travon Walker (Georgia) and Jermaine Johnson (Florida State), so he would be comfortable trading down. Houston could even look to add picks in future years, so they’ll have more ammo to go after a quarterback in 2023. The strength of this year’s draft is its depth, not top-end talent, so Belichick and his disciples have to be thinking about trade-down scenarios. 

Stradley: Caserio, for all the best reasons, has not had a lot of high picks to work with in the past so it is hard to use inductive reasoning to see what he will do in a rebuild. I get the sense that quality trade partners may be hard to find, and some argue for taking more picks for the future, but at some point you need to develop quality players under cheap contracts. It sounds some like this is what Caserio wants to do this year. 

Ultimately, I expect a lot of draft movement to pick specific guys they want in the building.

A lot of experts think the Texans will target North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu with the third overall pick.

A lot of experts think the Texans will target North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu with the third overall pick.

Mark Brown/Getty Images

Q: Let’s say the Texans get two players in the first round? Which are your ideal two (or collection of players likely available) for the Texans?

McDonald: If Lovie Smith is going to have more control over this team as the head coach, they should try to get some players that fit what he likes to run on defense. Defensive line talent is a must if Smith is going to keep his trademark Cover 2 defense with more modern two-high looks that have become popular in recent years. An edge rusher like Kayvon Thibodeaux or Aidan Hutchinson (if he falls) both make sense. A wild card for the pick could be Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis who legitimately might be the most athletic player to ever step foot on an NFL field. Davis would give the Texans a dominating interior presence with sky-high upside to hold down the middle of their defense. 

At 13, targeting a wide receiver or anyone to help out Mills makes sense. Getting Pep Hamilton to stick around was huge for Mills and the Texans and their immediate results on offense this season. Take it a step further by bringing in a talented wideout like Chris Olave, Jameson Williams, Drake London or Garrett Wilson. 

Brugler: NC State tackle/guard Ikem Ekwonu at No. 3 and then Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton at No. 13. Ekwonu can start at tackle or guard as a rookie and be the long-term answer at left tackle. Hamilton is a unique 6-foot-4, 220-pound safety, but there is a better chance he is drafted in the 11-15 range than the top 10. They would give the Texans a cornerstone on both sides of the ball.

Kollmann: This would be very tough to pull off because I think all of them are top 10 talents, but I believe there’s a legitimate shot that they come out of the first round with both Aidan Hutchinson at third overall, plus either Jordan Davis or Derek Stingley at 13th overall. I firmly believe Jacksonville will go Travon Walker at first overall, and that the Lions will take Malik Willis at second overall, which paves the way for Hutchinson to still be on the board. And when factoring in what I said earlier about the kind of culture Caserio and Lovie want to build, he’s a perfect fit for that. 

Lazar: Houston should keep surrounding Davis Mills or potentially their next franchise quarterback with offensive talent. The Texans have a chance to build a roster that they can drop a quarterback into next season, if Mills isn’t the guy, and hit the ground running. At number three, I would go offensive tackle with either Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu. That would give them two solid OTs with Laremy Tunsil and allow them to improve their interior offensive line by moving Tytus Howard inside. Then, I would try to land LSU corner Derek Stingley, whose stock isn’t as high as it should be due to injury and inconsistent play. I bet Stingley is the best player from the 2022 draft in three years. In 2019, Stingley was the best corner in the country as a true freshman and has been waiting around at LSU to go pro. If they can grab Neal and Stingley, you could make a strong case that they got the two best talents in the draft. 

Nystrom: Evan Neal and Jermaine Johnson. Need to start winning in the trenches again.

Thompson: At No. 3, take the best offensive lineman. If Davis Mills is going to have any chance of being successful, he needs protection. Both Tytus Howard and Laremy Tunsil could be on new teams next season, meaning at least one tackle spot should be up for grabs in 2023. Of the two, I’d take Ikem Ekwonu simply because he can play four different positions with ease, but if Alabama’s Evan Neal was the pick, it’s still a strong selection. 

At No. 13, this is tricky. I’d be trading back and trying to add an extra mid-round pick, but if forced to stay, I’m targeting either LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. or Ohio State receiver Chris Olave. Stingley has all the tools to be a premier cornerback in today’s league, but he also has the size Smith is looking for on the edge. Mills needs another receiver, especially one in the slot. There isn’t a better route-runner in the class than Olave, who mirrors that of Atlanta’s Calvin Ridley. Both are quality starters with immense potential.   

Allbright: I would continue rebuilding that defense early. Adding Travon Walker and hoping Kyle Hamilton slips to you at 13 I think would be a coup.

Waldman: I’d like to see Houston roll with tackle Ikem Ekwonu from NC State to pair with Laremy Tunsil. While it’s more difficult than most realize to switch the tackle to a side of the line where he lacks experience, Ekwonu has the talent to make the adjustment. Considering that Davis Mills displayed promise in a difficult scenario last year, it’s best to upgrade the offensive line while giving Mills another year. At worst, the Texans will have a better unit if they opt for a free agent or draft pick to replace Mills in 2023. 

I know a lot of people love Garrett Wilson as a potential option at 13 and he’s an exciting player with a ceiling that could fulfill the promise of his first-round draft capital. He also has lapses with techniques and concepts that are correctable but may delay, if not stall, his rise to stardom. This includes clapping onto targets, patient and physical corners stymying him at the line, and the desire to eschew easy rushing lanes for necessary yardage to move the chains at the risk of losing yardage and contracting the offensive playbook. 

If Wilson is arguably a high-end version of former USC star Marqise Lee in terms of similar strengths and flaws, Wilson’s OHio State running mate Chris Olave is Robert Woods with a higher ceiling. He’s a more efficient route runner and an excellent tracker of the football who can win anywhere on the field. He may lack Wilson’s dynamic athletic ability, but he’s a more refined player with more than enough juice to carry a passing game as a reception/yardage leader or provide support in a variety of roles. 

Stradley: Playing around with mock drafts, there seems to be an abundance of quality players in the top 100, and the Texans need an abundance of quality players at pretty much every position, so I am not wed to any spots. 

I think this draft could go a lot of different ways, and reminds me some of 2006 Texans draft, where outsiders might not like the first pick off the board but if you look at the draft in a totality, it makes a lot of sense.

Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton could be a culture fit for the Texans in the first round.

Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton could be a culture fit for the Texans in the first round.

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Q: Last year, it looked like the Texans targeted specific players they wanted in the building. From the top to the bottom round, who are some names you think they may be targeting specifically?

Kollmann: Jalen Pitre from Baylor would make sense. Not only is he a fantastic defensive back that has flexibility at both safety and at nickel, but he’s a great “juice” guy in the locker room. One of my buddies was around both Jamal Adams at LSU and Pitre at Baylor, and he told me that Pitre is the best leader he’s ever seen at the collegiate level – period. 

Nystrom: Caserio often talks about finding scheme fits, trusting his reads, and not being concerned what the rest of the league thinks. I think you’ll see more of the same. I think Cincinnati cornerback Sauce Gardner would be a great fit, but it feels like he’ll go between the Nos. 3 and 13. Travon Walker is a good fit for Smith’s system, he’s definitely in play at No. 3. 

Lazar: That is not surprising given where they are as an organization. Caserio knows they’re in the early stages of building a new culture in that building, which is more important than accumulating raw talent. Although there are concerns with his tape, I wonder if the Texans gravitate towards Malik Willis. From all accounts, his energy is contagious, and he was by far the biggest alpha at the Senior Bowl. 

I could also see Kyle Hamilton checking that box for them; team captain at Notre Dame, high-effort player, and one of the best prospects in the draft. In the middle rounds, look out for Kentucky C/G Luke Fortner. His intangibles are through the roof and could set the tone for them at center. 

Thompson: Ekwonu feels like a Caserio-type player. He had the opportunity to get an Ivy League education, but elected to play in Raleigh because he wanted to improve as a player. He also has been highly regarded for his demeanor, being described by scouts as a “locker-room guy with culture-building personality.”

Three quick names I’d also like to mention: Nebraska cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr., and Illinois safety Kerby Joseph. Britt was a three-year starter and team captain for the Cornhuskers, plus he also is a versatile player in terms of position. Robinson’s character has been highly praised for his persistence to move up the depth chart at Alabama, going from a special teams roleplayer to 1,000-yard rusher and Cotton Bowl MVP. Joseph played for Smith at Illinois, though he was a receiver before the new staff transitioned him to safety. 

Brugler: Smart. Tough. Reliable – that’s what this team wants. And those three qualities sum up Iowa State running back Breece Hall so it is not surprising that Houston has shown interest in him.

McDonald: Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is an interesting prospect for the Texans to discuss. His style of play is a perfect fit for the current era of the NFL, but questions have come up about his speed given the fact he ran in the 4.7s during the offseason circuit. 

Given how the NFL tends to value safeties in the NFL Draft, Hamilton could realistically be there for the Texans second pick at 13th overall. Another player that makes sense for them in the middle or later rounds is Georgia offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer. He’s got the versatility to play tackle and guard, but he probably projects best long term as a do-it-all offensive guard. Check out his tape against Michigan’s edge rushing duo in the Orange Bowl if you need to be convinced. 

Allbright: Felt like they wanted culture guys. Not sure for specific names this year.

Stradley: Really, I am not sure that it seems this way, but I am excited to have an actual experienced, successful draft person doing actual GM things for the draft from top to bottom. The outsider concerns have always been about ownership/other meddling on normal GM decisions to the detriment of final decisions but I don’t think that will be happening with the draft. 

Outsiders, of course, will read a lot of things into various team choices because of the general current lack of trust in Texans leadership decision-making based on known information.

Brown's E.J. Perry is a quarterback the Texans could take a flier on late in the draft.

Brown’s E.J. Perry is a quarterback the Texans could take a flier on late in the draft.

G Fiume/Getty Images

Q: Do the Texans draft a quarterback in any round? If you think so, who?

Waldman: I believed Davis Mills was underrated and a better prospect than Zach Wilson prior to the 2021 NFL Draft. Even so, it’s wise for most teams to take shots on a Day Three quarterback with the hope of the prospect developing into a viable backup. Skylar Thompson and Bailey Zappe would be excellent options early on Day Three. 

Both options have at least contributor-level potential in a class of passers where there is little consensus among scouts about who is worthwhile as a potential starter. Thompson, in particular, is significantly more promising than advertised thanks to his pocket presence, experience in a West Coast offense, and accuracy metrics (and on film) that go beyond the surface-level data shown to the general public.  

Because these two options can be had after the third round, it gives Mills a chance to continue his development as a starter. I thought he showed toughness and inventiveness from compromised pockets and improved as the season unfolded. 

Allbright: I doubt it. Mills is better than the guys they’d draft where they’d draft them.  Plus they have other holes. Maybe a dart throw late or undrafted free agent pickup on E.J. Perry from Brown?

Nystrom: They should. I’m fine with giving Davis Mills the season to ascertain whether he’s the long-term answer or not. But with only Jeff Driskel and Kyle Allen behind him on the depth chart, it makes all kinds of sense to roll the dice on a developmental flier and see what happens. Day 3 possibilities include Bailey Zappe — who has the Houston Baptist local connection — Notre Dame’s Jack Coan and Southeastern Louisiana’s Cole Kelley. 

Brugler: In the late rounds, Brown quarterback E.J. Perry fits those smart, tough, reliable qualities and he is worth the dart throw. He could have played college basketball or several other sports – he is that type of athlete. He played on a below-average team in the Ivy League, yet led the FCS in total offense in 2019 and was the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year in 2021. I don’t see the Texans drafting a quarterback in the first four rounds, but in the later rounds, Perry would make sense.

Lazar: Houston’s best bet is to stay away from the quarterback class. It’s not all bad, but there aren’t any prospects who are head and shoulders above Mills. As I said earlier, I could see the Texans gravitating towards Willis’s character and bravado. Plus, they could use Mills as a bridge and have Willis develop for a year. 

If they want to add another high-upside talent, Carson Strong had a similar college career as Mills and should be obtainable in the middle rounds. Strong, like Mills, has flashes of ridiculous arm talent but dealt with injuries and uneven play throughout his career at Nevada. Strong might not be a bad dart throw if they don’t go quarterback early. 

Thompson: The only name I think Houston would consider would be E.J. Perry out of Brown. His production in two years was great and he comes from a program that Caserio likely saw often during his time in New England. Some think because of his athletic traits, he could be a Taysom Hill type player, and he’s met with the Texans. Perry is likely a seventh-round name, which basically means they’re drafted for their potential. 

Houston isn’t going to draft someone to compete for the starting job. The Texans have to see if Mills is capable of being the starter, so adding a prospect in Round 2-3 isn’t going to bode well with anyone.  

Kollmann: I do not believe Houston takes a quarterback. Davis Mills performed quite well as a rookie (all things considered), and I think he has earned himself a shot in year two to show what he can do. If he doesn’t take a substantial enough leap, next year’s QB class is better than this one anyway if they do end up wanting to take another guy. 

McDonald: Maybe in the middle rounds someone like Carson Strong makes sense, but unless they’ve quietly fallen in love with someone at the top of the draft, I don’t think this is the year for them to add another rookie. 

Stradley: I like Mills’ professionalism a ton given his situation. I’m curious to see what he does. Can he survive this year’s schedule? The types of hits he was taking was concerning, and I won’t buy into the Texans having a functional offensive scheme until I see it. It has been a long time. I don’t have strong feelings about adding another rookie one way or another, as I know the arguments for and against, and am not pulled strongly a direction with the roster so far.

Q: Is there any specific thing you think NFL fans in general should know about the 2022 draft in particular? 

Thompson: What you see before the draft isn’t what you’ll see on draft day. Specifically for the Texans, Caserio is going to be aggressive in adding players he thinks can build a foundation around for the next several seasons. Currently, Houston has 11 picks. I think they walk away with roughly eight prospects, meaning they’re trading up to land “their guy” in the mid-rounds. 

This shouldn’t come as a surprise since Caserio did this twice last season. In the third round, the Texans traded their fourth- and fifth-round selections (109th and 158th overall) and a 2022 fourth-round selection to the Panthers to secure receiver Nico Collins. In the fifth round, Houston traded both of its sixth-round selections (203rd and 212th overall) to the Bills to land Garret Wallow. If a player is there Caserio likes, he’s trading up to get him. 

Kollmann: There is an absurd amount of depth in this class because of the sheer number of players that are coming out. COVID impacted a lot of players that normally would have come out last year, so this class is way larger than a typical talent pool. The top end talent relative to the last couple of classes is just OK, but in terms of overall depth that you’ll see into Day Three … this class is nutty. Whatever team has the most picks between rounds four and six will end up “winning” the draft. 

Lazar: The one thing you continue to hear, and I spoke to a few AFC scouts about this, is that this is a “flavor” draft. In other words, there’s no real consensus about anything because it all depends on what you’re looking for as an organization. With that in mind, scheme and culture fit will be big. For example, teams that run West Coast systems might prefer big wide receivers such as Treylon Burks or Drake London, who can block and carry the football, while spread teams will likely have Jameson Williams as WR1. There could be some surprise picks as a result. 

Brugler: I think this draft will be remembered for the quality pass rushers. I have 19 pass rushers ranked in my top 100 – by far the most of any other position (wide receiver and cornerback were the only other two positions to even reach double-digits). With five picks in the top 100, there is a decent chance that the Texans nab one of them early.

Nystrom: Infrastructure draft. This is the draft where you load up on offensive linemen and front-seven guys.

Waldman: There is a lot of depth at running back but little demand for a starter. The Texans may take a shot on an early-round option like Breece Hall or Kenneth Walker, but there are a lot of options capable of leading a committee in Houston, if not becoming a feature back. 

McDonald: The Georgia defense is loaded with draft prospects and there’s legitimately a chance that all of their prospects that get drafted end up as quality starters in this draft. Check out the Exempt List podcast this week for a very detailed discussion about the draft prospects. 

Stradley: In the past, it was always obvious what the glaring needs of the Texans were and sometimes, it was easy to peg who their first-round pick would be, at least by position. The Texans can shop this draft like a grocery store getting pretty much any position, and they would be needed. I could see the Texans making a lot of trades because Caserio is unafraid of them, and there are some big gaps between clusters of picks.

Q: Is there anything I didn’t ask about this draft that I should have that you that you would like to answer?

Lazar: I wrote about this last week and think it could be relevant to the Texans. We are in an era where elite veteran wide receivers are A., Getting paid $20-plus million a year and B, Dictating their destinations like it’s the NBA. With that in mind, the value for teams is quickly moving towards drafting wide receivers, and a team like Houston, who might not attract a Davante Adams or Tyreek Hill could find it’s the only path to finding elite wide receiver play. The value of getting high-end talent at wide receiver on rookie contracts has never been higher. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Houston take a wide receiver early this year. 

Kollmann: If you think all of the Bama and Georgia players that are in this class are good (and they are) … just wait until next year. Y’all ain’t seen ANYTHING yet. 

Thompson: One of the more annoying draft day questions asked is ‘Why didn’t we draft this guy? We already have that position covered.’ Yes, well one position might not seem like it’s a need right now, teams are always building for the long-term. You have to look at a player’s production, contract and overall fit within a system. Another thing to keep in mind is the upcoming class in the future. If a position is weak a year down the line and that becomes a need for you in the future, a team must address it now and bet on the longevity of the prospect. 

Things like that usually fly over a casual fan’s head, but it’s important to look at the bigger picture. And with rebuilding teams especially, they’re always trying to do what’s best for the future of the organization. 

McDonald: As a fan of a team that’s also rebuilding, I just wanted to say we’re all in this together! Go team!

Some additional draft thoughts

Please thank these gentlemen for their draft thoughts. I love talking football with people and passing it along. 

In 2017, I wrote a Groundhog Day Texans Draft Preview. Sometimes blog posts are like time capsules, and if I went back to that time, I would be wistful about just writing about bad football that wasted good defenses and player’s careers.

Like back then, nobody asked me if the Texans were a cult. The 2022 Texans would deny, get angry-bemused-surprised that anyone would think they are a cult without shifting blame or reflecting why anyone would feel that way.

But there is still time in 2022, and hopefully a combination of Lovie Smith and Nick Caserio can get the focus on watchable, relevant football versus distractions, paternalism, strong bad feelings and distrust. It’s on the list of things I want for everyone, what everyone wants, and also on the list of things I do not control. 

I will end this post by self-plagiarizing from the Groundhog Day article with a few minor revisions, hoping for the happy loving ending of the movie:

Draft Nihilism

I pay enough attention to the pre-draft stuff to know the basics about the players and who is likely going to be available. I try not to pay so much attention that I become vested in wanting particular players to come to the Texans because that is an exercise in futility and frustration.

Caring too much about the draft is like punching yourself in the face. Why would you do that?

Sometimes the players that some fans are the angriest about the Texans choosing, end up being some of the Texans best players. See e.g. Duane Brown, Kareem Jackson, J.J. Watt. And sometimes the players fans like the most because they “dropped,” end up being the disappointing options.

I think the better approach is to do the following:

1. Wait to see the entire draft. The draft isn’t just the first round, and sometimes the best drafts are defined by how the entire draft class worked together. For example, in 2006, many fans were angry that tackle wasn’t chosen higher but were happy when Eric Winston was taken as a value choice in the third round.

2. See the rationale behind the picks/class. Some years it is easier to see why after the fact, the Texans chose who they chose. The national draft big boards are meant for all 32 teams and not for yours. The players aren’t just positions, they are people, and they need to fit what your team does and with the players your team has and will need to have in the future.

So a player like a Duane Brown may have not made as much sense on the big board as some of the other tackle options, but after you looked at his individual attributes, you could see why he was chosen.

3. Wait. Though great players tend to show flashes immediately after you draft them, most of the best take some time before they become the players they can be. This seems like a no duh proposition, but sometimes fans and analysts tend to call players busts quickly, especially if their preferred choice wasn’t picked by the team.

4. Don’t take it out on the players. Some fan draft unhappiness comes from an unhealthy relationship relating to team leadership that needs a lot of mending given recent history and two decades of history. 

The surprise choice of Mario Williams wasn’t his fault but the negative reception he got was difficult for him, particularly in contrast to how happy other fanbases would have been getting him near the top of the 2006 draft. The players shouldn’t be blamed for what draft round they were chosen in or who chose them. 

Being drafted by the Texans likely means opportunity, but it also means being chosen by a non-legacy franchise who currently has alienated some of their fanbase and potential fanbase.

The one-paragraph story of the Texans has been drafted players wanting to win for the city, being failed by some combo of odd roster construction, lack of competent QB play, professional coaching and scheme. “Wasting careers” by having higher standards of professionalism and accountability for players than the leadership of the organization. Knowing just looking at the roster, coaching, scheme that a team likely has no chance no matter how hard they work or talk about work work work or act like they invented the concept.

Yes, that is ugly seeing it written like that. Nobody wants that. This is the season of hope, and my hope is that the Texans make it easier on all the people who want to like what they are doing without requiring blind faith and a high tolerance for ugly football. 

If you are not a draft nihilist and have firm and certain convictions of who the Texans should pick, well, good luck with that. Hope your life turns out better in other regards. That said, have any questions or comments about the draft or the Texans, please contact me on Twitter @StephStradley. If I don’t know the answer, I likely know someone who does.



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