June 26, 2022

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The Houston Texans’ best 2022 first-round draft options

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The Houston Texans are primed to fill some of the (many) gaps in their roster with top level talent in the NFL draft. They currently hold five picks in the top 100 selections, including an extra first from the Deshaun Watson trade. While there are many directions the front office could go, here are three potential options for each of Houston’s first round picks. 

Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Oregon (5) Kayvon Thibodeaux (DE) celebrates after a college football game between the Oregon Ducks and the Stanford Cardinal on September 21, 2019, at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

PALO ALTO, CA – SEPTEMBER 21: Oregon (5) Kayvon Thibodeaux (DE) celebrates after a college football game between the Oregon Ducks and the Stanford Cardinal on September 21, 2019, at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux has been consistently good for so long that people got bored and started looking for flaws. The 6’5” All-American might genuinely be the best player in this draft, and the Texans could grab him with the third pick.

He’s a bendy pass rusher, able to move with both power and grace around the edge. He recorded 7 sacks and 12 tackles for loss (TFL) in 2021, and boasts top-shelf upside if he can develop his hand-use and rush timing. 

Ikem Ekwonu, OT, N.C. State

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 23: Ikem Ekwonu #79 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack in action against the Miami Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium on October 23, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 23: Ikem Ekwonu #79 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack in action against the Miami Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium on October 23, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Mark Brown/Getty Images

If Houston is serious about using this year to evaluate quarterback Davis Mills, they’d do well to find a star tackle to pair with Laremy Tunsil. NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu is an absolute powerhouse, pancaking defenders in the trenches and allowing only two sacks in more than 820 snaps at left tackle in 2021.

Houston can either slide him to right tackle as he adjusts to the NFL, or potentially utilize him on the left to take pressure off Tunsil. Ekwonu is my top rated player in this draft and I would be thrilled for the Texans to take him.

Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 02: Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) reacts after a play during a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Cincinnati Bearcats on October 2, 2021, in South Bend, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SOUTH BEND, IN – OCTOBER 02: Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1) reacts after a play during a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Cincinnati Bearcats on October 2, 2021, in South Bend, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner is a top-two corner in this draft—and he’s not number two. A press-man specialist with the eyes of a ball-hawk, Gardner kept opponents out of the endzone on over 1,000 coverage snaps over the course of his college career.

He was targeted as the closest defender only 31 times during the 2021 season, the net result being 8 catches for a paltry 60 yards. Opposing teams viewed him as effectively a mobile no-fly zone, something Houston could truly benefit from in rebuilding the defense.

Round 1, Pick 13

George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 30: Defensive end George Karlaftis #5 of the Purdue Boilermakers prepares to rush against running back Rahmir Johnson #14 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the second half at Memorial Stadium on October 30, 2021 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

LINCOLN, NE – OCTOBER 30: Defensive end George Karlaftis #5 of the Purdue Boilermakers prepares to rush against running back Rahmir Johnson #14 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the second half at Memorial Stadium on October 30, 2021 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Purdue’s George Karlaftis is an explosive, if unpolished, edge rusher, as well as a card-carrying member of Bruce Feldman’s 2021 Freaks List. A certified game wrecker, Karlaftis recorded 11.5 tackles for loss in 2021.

He can be a bit stiff coming off the edge, and has a tendency to overshoot the pocket on occasion, but he’s able to rush both outside and through gaps in the interior to make a quarterback’s life a living hell. 

Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 20: Jordan Davis #99 of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts after rushing in for a touchdown during the first half against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Sanford Stadium on November 20, 2021 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

ATHENS, GA – NOVEMBER 20: Jordan Davis #99 of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts after rushing in for a touchdown during the first half against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Sanford Stadium on November 20, 2021 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Big man goes fast. Big man goes real fast. Jordan Davis is an unreal athlete with bottomless potential. The 6’6”, 341-pound Georgia Bulldogs defensive tackle ran an 4.78 forty at the NFL Combine in March—faster than Patrick Mahomes despite weighing 118 pounds more than the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback.

A literal 99.9th percentile athlete, Davis’ only downside is he projects better against the run than the pass. With his athleticism, however, this limitation could be coached out, and Davis could become an anchor for a rebuilding defense.

Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 13: Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Garrett Wilson #5 celebrating as he runs with the ball during the game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Purdue Boilermakers at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on November 13, 2021. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

COLUMBUS, OH – NOVEMBER 13: Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Garrett Wilson #5 celebrating as he runs with the ball during the game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Purdue Boilermakers at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on November 13, 2021. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Buckeyes wideout Garrett Wilson is a speedster and potential YAC (yards after catch) machine, having recorded a 27.14% missed tackle percentage in college as well as recording a 4.38 forty yard dash in the NFL Combine. Wilson’s agility is unmatched, and his lower body is typically already rotating up-field as his hands secure catches.

Wilson could help complete a developing receiver corps for the Texans and give Davis Mills another target to work with. It’s very possible that he’s the best receiver in the draft, and the Texans should run, not walk, to the podium if he’s there at 13.


Or…Trade Back

This might be cheating, but Houston’s best option could be multiple picks later in the first round.

The Texans have a lot of needs and this draft class has a greater depth of “very good” players instead of can’t-miss prospects. Houston’s picks might be perfect for teams looking to come up and grab a QB or WR. While there seems to be a greater general desire to move down than up this year, pick 13 could be of interest to the Packers or Chiefs who may try and replace their former all star receivers in the draft. Ultimately the Texans have a lot of options in front of them and many positions of need to resolve. Hopefully this draft will serve as a foundation and be looked back as a turning point for the franchise. 



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