While the entire Houston Texans franchise is sitting in the Pit of Misery, there’s nothing like the pure optimism of a mock draft to raise our collective spirits. It’s certainly more difficult to approach a draft without a first round pick. First, you have to identify players that you won’t have a shot at. Why waste your time on players who won’t even be available? However, the Texans still have to do their due diligence in case one of those top players drop.
I’ll get the ball rolling as the draft guy. In this version of the 2020 NFL Draft, it’s defense first and offense second for Houston. The Texans have to rebuild the defense and fill the holes or they’ll never have a glimmer of hope in this up-and-coming AFC South.
2nd Round (40th): Marlon Davidson, DL - Auburn.
Davidson was paired next to college football’s best interior defensive tackle in Derrick Brown, but don’t take anything away from Davidson. He has natural pass rush ability from the interior and plays the run with first-round level hands. VERY versatile defensive lineman, had a great Senior Bowl, and he says he stayed at Auburn to fulfill a promise to his mom to graduate. I adore a defensive lineman who wears a single digit jersey number, too. He’s a late first/early second round guy.
Best case scenario: A.J. Terrell, CB - Clemson
A well-rounded corner who appears to be the latest high-ceiling secondary prospect out of Clemson, Terrell’s stock will depend on how early the first tier of corners are drafted. Some mocks have seven cornerbacks selected in the first round.
Another guy to consider: Antoine Winfield Jr., S - Minnesota
This guy is a really intriguing prospect. Winfield Jr. is a perfect fit in Romeo Crennel’s defense. He missed two of four years at Minnesota with injuries. Then he ran a 4.46 40 yard dash, but he’s only 5’9” and that’s tiny for the league. His draft stock is all over the board, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a team falls in love with him and nabs him in the late-first round.
2nd (57th): Cameron Dantzler, CB - Mississippi State
I’ve really fallen for this guy. At 6’2”, he’s built to take on any receiver. Dantzler may not be a fit against AFC South receivers who are more speed than strength, but he is built for the modern NFL. This pick will be a pure-needs based pick. Dantzler’s weaknesses are all fairly “fixable”, as he struggles with getting his hands on receivers, needs to build strength, and would benefit from point of contact play development. But he has a ton of reps to build off of and has been covering elite SEC talent for years.
Best case scenario: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR - Colorado
He was a mid-first round WR until he suffered an injury at the combine. He would probably be the best player on the board at this point and is a tall, physical receiver who can play anywhere on the field. He is from Desoto, TX, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill O’Brien brought in a Texas man to help calm things down.
Another guy to consider: Kyle Dugger, S - Lenoir-Rhyne
The smallest-of-small school players has teams salivating over his height-weight-speed intangibles and the tenacity with which he plays the game. He looked like a man among boys at Division II.
3rd (90th): Alton Robinson, DE - Syracuse.
In this scenario, the Texans have gone full rebuild on the defense, which before the Texans’ trade of DeAndre Hopkins would make complete sense. Still, this is probably one of the most well rounded players left this late in the draft. A couple mistakes early in life are the only reason why this kid isn’t playing in the SEC. Robinson fits the system and is a great asset from day one.
Best case scenario: Zack Moss, RB - Utah
Moss was the engine behind Utah’s historic 2019 season. He reminds me of Frank Gore coming out of Miami. With 4,000 yards under his belt, he sustained a heavy workload that has caused some injuries. Moss would be an ideal back in O’Brien’s offense.
Another guy to consider: Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR - Michigan
Doesn’t have breakaway speed or agility, but DPJ knows how to play the WR position. He can play all over the offense; it will just take a special coach to unlock his god-given skills.
4th (FROM MIAMI, 111th): Quintez Cephus, WR - Wisconsin
I doubt the Texans want to wait until Round 4 to make a wide receiver decision, but here we are. At this point in the draft, we are looking at the 20-25 WRs in the class, which in any other year would not be as promising. Cephus reminds me of Martavis Bryant, who flashed for the Steelers. From the players I’ve seen, he’s got the most upside and ability to be a WR1 at this position in the draft. He is not a fast guy at all—he had the slowest 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine this year.
Best case scenario: K’Von Wallace, S - Clemson
A safety who could go late second or fall to day three. Does not have a true position in the secondary, but that may fit the Texans’ defense.
Another guy to consider: Logan Wilson, LB - Wyoming
This is a guy who could really help on special teams and be a good backup for Benardrick McKinney. Getting any three-year team captain will be hard for BOB to pass up. Wilson is a strong athlete and can cover well and is fairly instinctive.
5th (171st): Charlie Heck, OT - North Carolina
There’s a couple reasons why I guarantee this kid will be a Texan. 1) He played 12 games his junior year at right tackle and then switched to left tackle for 12 games his senior year. Bill O’Brien will love that versatility this late in the draft. 2) He is 6’8”. Can you say “Julien Davenport, Part 2”? Give me a guy this big and I’ll give you a shot in the league. 3) His family has a rich offensive line bloodline. His father was a first round pick and is an offensive line coach; his brother started four years at UNC.
Best case scenario: Solomon Kindley, OL - Georgia
The third Georgia lineman off the board. He is a bruising guard who loves to get physical at the point of attack. The Texans’ offense won't force him to do things he isn't comfortable with.
Another guy to consider: Isaiah Hodgins, WR - Oregon State
A guy who would be a third or fourth round pick, but with basically every team having selected a wide receiver this point, he falls due to a lack of need. Hodgins is an experienced receiver who racked up yards and touchdowns in Oregon State’s high-powered offense.
Because this is the 7th round...these guys I hold in the highest regard, and I don’t have further scenarios to consider.
7th (240th): Stanford Samuels, CB - Florida State
Outside of having a great football name, Samuels has some great things going for him. At 6’1” and a five star high school recruit, Samuels has the physical gifts you are looking for at corner. A complete project, but at this stage in the draft you are just looking for a guy to make the roster. A poor NFL Combine drops him into the 7th round here, but the Texans would be happy to sweep him up. Not that they have good experience developing late-round secondary players, of course.
7th (248th): Jacob Breeland, TE - Oregon
Honestly, adding a tight end the draft may start a riot in households across Houston, but that’s exactly what BOB is looking for. Breeland is a strong receiving TE who will need to learn how to block to play in the league. It helps when you have Justin Herbert throwing you the ball.
7 (250th): Antonio Gibson, RB - Memphis
This would be a saucy selection. Gibson only has one year of production, as he worked in rotation with Patrick Taylor in 2019 and 2018 prospects Darrell Henderson and Tony Pollard stole all the carries the year before. Memphis is producing RBs, but Gibson is an all-around athlete who could return kicks, punts, and jump into the slot. Don’t be surprised if the Texans package two of these 7th round picks to move up and make sure to secure him in the 6th.
What would you grade this draft if this was the outcome? How early should the Texans look to replace Hopkins?