The Texans aren’t going to find Day One starters in the 2021 NFL Draft. Expecting a Justin Reid to emerge from this group is unrealistic. What’s more likely is that the Texans will find rotational players ato help usher in the new offensive and defensive systems. But how they go about this will shine a light on the new organizational structure as a whole. Without much hope for a legitimate impact player, the Texans must find unique ways to utilize the picks they do have in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Go All-In On Secondary Players
Have you ever seen a kid with a soft serve ice cream cone that is bigger than his face? That’s what the Texans’ secondary coach could look like if the Texans spend this otherwise useless draft to completely retool their ailing secondary. They could find specialists they can train on specific skill sets rather than having a player try to learn the entire defense at once, a la Lonnie Johnson. Additionally, having a class of defensive backs would allow them to train, learn, and develop as one unit. A group brought up under the same guidance and instruction for four consecutive years could be a promising proposition for a secondary that lacks continuity at the moment.
The current Texans’ starting secondary would feature cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves III and Lonnie Johnson, paired with safeties Eric Murray and Justin Reid. That could easily be the worst secondary in the league. There isn’t even reliable depth behind them. Imagine if Reid goes down again; the entire defense crumbles. The Texans feasibly could add two corners and two safeties through the draft and still need more depth. However, the Texans would rather depth be filled by cheap draft prospects than expensive free agents looking to bank on a desperate team.
Secondary players also make for excellent special team contributors. They can play on almost any unit, and it provides the draft picks with the opportunity to get on the roster while they learn the defense and mature. The Texans could kill two birds with one stone by bringing in four pure athletes who can serve a multitude of roles.
Trade And Delay
The 2021 NFL Draft will not be one to remember. Why not trade the early(ish) round picks to teams looking to move up for future draft picks? A draft pick the next year is usually seen as less valuable than the one this year. However, the New England Patriots have made a living on the recency bias of desperate teams attempting to cash in on a player they desire who is still available. For example, if a team notices a player falling on Day Two of the draft that could be available during the Texans pick, that team might be willing to give the Texans a third rounder next year AND a fourth or fifth in exchange for that pick. Or, in some cases, swap a second next year and thirds this year if the other team is desperate.
Admittedly, it’s hard to be a seller during the draft when you don’t have much capital to sell. However, the Texans can package picks with players they are looking to trade to get better deals. For example, defensive end Brandon Dunn could be traded, along with a late-round pick, to a team for a mid-round pick in 2022. The Texans would save over $3 million on the salary cap and set themselves up for a better prospect in the future. Other players who could fit the bill include Kahale Warring, Keke Coutee, and Ka’imi Fairbairn (we aren’t going to score points in 2021 anyway).
Focus On High Risk, High Reward Talents
A 6’3” corner from Utah State who tore his ACL but runs like a gazelle and had four interceptions last year? Sure. A 325 pound rotational defensive tackle from Ohio State who was a five star recruit but never got his chance? Absolutely. A small school wide receiver who was the team captain but wasn’t able to shine at the NFL Combine? Let’s do it.
The draft is full of opportunity. That’s why it’s so enjoyable to watch. The potential is there; you just have to take your pick. The Texans have the chance to find several diamonds in the rough this year while other organizations try not to screw up their first round pick. No team should know more about players rated 50-150 than the Houston Texans. If Nick Caserio wants to show the league he knows what he’s doing, this is the moment to do it. The Texans can zig while the league zags. We can finally look smart.
The Texans have such late draft picks that none of the players left will be “complete” prospects. That is, each one of the players available to the Texans will have a major flaw or lack the ceiling of earlier prospects. Of the two, the Texans should focus on players with high ceilings, boom or bust potential, and specialty skills rather than a generally average player across the board. If the Texans fail to find “the guy” this year, that’s totally fine. They simply need to give themselves the chance to find players who can contribute. Select players who are unique and cause problems for the opposing team, not just the best player left on the board.
When opportunity knocks, how do the Texans respond? Do you think any of these options sound like a feasible strategy for the draft? I’ve always been a fan of using a single draft to load up on one specific position group. It allows the team to immediately solve a problem and consequently not rely on a single draft pick to be the heir apparent to a team’s biggest problem. With that in mind, if I were in Caserio’s ear, I’d spend three or four picks on Houston’s secondary. He’s already focused on the linebackers, offensive line, and running backs. Why not knock out the secondary in the draft?