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2021 NFL Draft: Diving Into The Texans’ Draft Class

A more in-depth analysis of every player selected by the Houston Texans.

NCAA Football: Stanford at UCLA Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the dust has settled on the NFL Draft craziness and the first few days of undrafted free agent signings has passed, it’s a great time to take a deep dive into the college tape of the new members of the 2021 Houston Texans. What did the Nick Caserio and Co. see? What are these players capable of? Can we expect to see them on the field in 2021? Was this the best player on the board when Houston drafted them? Is Houston a significantly better football team now that the draft has concluded? These are the questions we have to answer.

In this article, I’ve included an overview of each player, the notes I took while watching their tape and reading about them, and my overall opinion of how they’ll fit on the 2021 roster. Here are my reviews of every player the Texans drafted and signed during the 2021 NFL Draft:

Davis Mills, QB, Stanford (Pick #67)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 19 Stanford at UCLA Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Height: 6’ 4”

Weight: 217 lbs

Arms: 31 3/8”

Hands: 9 1/2”

40 Yd Dash: 4.82

Vertical Jump: 32”

Broad Jump: 9’ 02”

3-Cone Drill: 6.95

2020 Stats: 5 Games, 66.2% Cmp, 1508 Yds, 7.8 AY/A, 7 TDs, 3 INTs, 139.9 Rating

PROS:

  • Great footwork, throws from a nice platform and gets squared up quickly.
  • Goes through reads fairly well.
  • Occasionally shows the ability to navigate pressure while keeping eyes downfield.
  • Occasionally shows the ability to throw off platform.
  • NFL level arm.
  • Excellent accuracy and anticipation for the most part.
  • Mediocre athleticism. Isn’t going to be running much, but can run for a first down or extend the play a bit if needed.
  • Occasionally flashes great touch and the ability to throw players open.
  • Confident, steps into throws and is willing to fire it into a tight window.
  • Puts a nice zip on the ball.
  • Fast processor. Goes from one read to the next quickly.

CONS:

  • Very inconsistent overall.
  • Has the tendency to lock onto a receiver.
  • Frequently tries to do too much. Takes sacks when trying to extend the play, tries to make throws that he can’t, trying to play hero-ball sometimes.
  • Gets flustered very easily. Accuracy, decision making, and upper body mechanics often fall apart when pressured or the pocket collapses.
  • This flustering is what may lead to the occasional wildly inaccurate passes he makes every game. Some genuinely terrible throws he makes that are completely unacceptable in the NFL.
  • Average to below-average throwing speed.
  • Throwing motion can be a bit wonky at times. May be prone to fumbling if the mechanics aren’t polished.
  • Occasionally hesitates, leading to passes that are too late.

REVIEW:

I was hoping we’d take Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond SO BAD that seeing him go literally one pick before us (thanks a lot, Vikings) and getting polarizing and unproven passer Davis Mills instead almost felt like a cruel joke the football gods had set up for us Mond fans in particular. Regardless, the Texans taking Mills forced me to jump back into the film room (my bedroom) and take a deeper dive into the obscure world of Davis Mills.

The #1 quarterback coming out of high school (ranked over Tua Tagovailoa), Davis Mills quickly had his career at Stanford derailed by injury. Once attaining health and the starting job in 2019 and keeping it in 2020, Mills would show flashes of #1 QB play, but not with any consistency to make me confident he can be a starter of any quality in NFL.

But...

I can see it. I can see why some scouts and analysts saw him at a Day 2 steal in the draft. Why some had him right in line with Mac Jones. He’ll go through stretches in games where his accuracy, anticipation, and touch are incomparable in this draft class. The ball jumps out of his hands and he can launch a perfect 40-yard strike outside the numbers with ease. Just for the next play to be...a terrible check-down throw that soars over the running back’s head.

Consistency is the name of the game, here. If he can make these highlights consistent quarterback play in the NFL, he at least an above-average starter. He’s already consistently great at keeping his eyes downfield, squaring up his body and following through the throw like a seasoned passer, but the eleven games of college experience shows practically everywhere else. The floor is Josh Rosen, but the ceiling is Andrew Luck.

Were there any better players available that we should have picked instead?

Yes, there were plenty of other directions the Texans could have gone with their first pick that would have improved our team much more than Davis Mills can. Players like offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield, EDGE Joseph Ossai, cornerback Aaron Robinson, wide receiver Dyami Brown, guard Wyatt Davis, and center Quinn Meinerz would have all been selections that substantially improved this team. All of these players are likely starting-caliber talents in 2021, Davis Mills is almost certainly not.

But, unlike many other writers on Battle Red Blog, I understand the decision to select a quarterback here. This is a lost season, and quarterback is the biggest need this team currently has. Getting a project quarterback like Davis Mills and seeing how he develops during the tank season may bear fruit, and if it doesn’t, we’ll have a top five pick in the 2022 draft to make sure it does next year.

Many argue, “why waste a third rounder on a quarterback if you’re likely going to be using a first rounder on one next year?” While I can’t fully disagree with that sentiment, I think getting a developmental quarterback with plenty of promise now gives us a way out of tanking for a franchise passer in the event that Davis Mills surpasses expectations while also giving us either a solid backup or trade capital for the future in the case he doesn’t. I’m not saying it’s the best decision, but I can understand the justification for it given the context of how unique a prospect Davis Mills is. I would especially understand the justification if it was KELLEN MOND, but I’ll save that conversation for another rainy day.

Nico Collins, WR, Michigan (Pick #89)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 10 Michigan at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Height: 6’ 4”

Weight: 215 lbs

Arms: 34 1/8”

Hands: 9 3/8”

40 Yd Dash: 4.43

Vertical Jump: 37 1/2”

Broad Jump: 10’ 05”

3-Cone Drill: 6.79

Bench Reps: 14

2019 Stats (2020 Opted Out): 12 Games, 37 Rec, 729 Yds, 19.7 Avg, 7 TDs

PROS:

  • Extremely talented athlete. Big, strong, and fast. Surprised he fell as far as he did in the draft.
  • Fantastic 50/50 ball catcher. Uses his body and hands to win contested balls and often stays up to gain yards after the catch.
  • 6’4” with a 4.43 40-time!
  • Great deep threat. Uses his size and speed to create separation and can track the ball.
  • Good hands. Reliable catcher.

CONS:

  • Mediocre acceleration, won’t be able to dominate from the slot. May have difficulty succeeding in the short and mid routes because of this.
  • Could stand to get a bit stronger.
  • Route running needs polished, sometimes gives away his intentions with gradual turning and positioning.
  • Wouldn’t be very effective on special teams.
  • Overall production is underwhelming (because of Michigan’s bad offense)
  • Can be locked down by good cornerback play (Okudah, Henderson)

REVIEW:

This was just a straight up great value add by the Texans. Nico Collins is a ridiculously talented athlete that has the skills to thrive in the NFL, his stock was just ruined by poor quarterback play at Michigan.

Rarely do you see a wide receiver that’s 6’4”, a 4.43 40-time, and consistent catching ability and performance that Collins had in college. He’s fantastic at the point of contact, using his massive frame to shed of defenders and snare the ball, and then utilizes his speed to take off down the field. He was frequently used as a deep-threat at Michigan, and it’s not hard to see why when he’s almost guaranteed to come down with the ball if you just launch it in his general vicinity.

That being said, he is a little rough around the edges. He’s fast, but it takes him a minute to get up to speed. He won’t be blazing past defenders the second the ball is snapped, meaning he’ll need to rely more on fighting for the ball in the short to mid range. But, tossing it deep, he often has plenty of separation, as long as there isn’t a lockdown corner mirroring him. There’s a few games in his career where cornerbacks like Jeff Okudah and C.J. Henderson were able to take him out of the game, but he also has games where he just torches guys like Damon Arnette.

I don’t think he’d be a great slot receiver, but I’d be really interested to see him take over a #2 outside receiver that absorbs plenty of the deep post and crossing routes. He’s not nearly as fast as Will Fuller, but in time, he might be able to make up for it with his size. The floor is Mack Hollins, but the ceiling is Mike Williams.

Were there any better players available that we should have picked instead?

Not really! You might be able to make an argument that EDGE Ronnie Perkins, center Quinn Meinerz, or cornerback Elijah Molden would’ve helped out are team more in 2021 and I would have a hard time disagreeing with you, but I do believe that Nico Collins was probably the best player available at pick #89 (maybe a little worse that Ronnie Perkins).

Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami (Pick #147)

Miami v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Height: 6’ 3”

Weight: 247 lbs

Arms: 32 7/8”

Hands: 9 3/4”

40 Yd Dash: 4.64

Vertical Jump: 34”

Broad Jump: 9’ 08”

3-Cone Drill: 7.57s

Bench Reps: 17

2020 Stats: 8 Games, 38 Rec, 576 Yds, 15.2 Avg, 7 TDs, 2 Rush Att, 1 Yd, 0.5 Avg

PROS:

  • Excellent blocker. More than willing to dig in and easily open up running lanes with his strength.
  • Nice size and athleticism.
  • Has the ability and speed to gain some separation and get yards after the catch.

CONS:

  • Not much acceleration, more of a one speed player.
  • Route running steadily got better over his college career, but still needs work.
  • Uses his body to catch the ball too much, causing drops.
  • Absolutely needs to use his body and strength more during contested catches. Rarely uses his size to his advantage in this context.

REVIEW:

Another valuable addition by the Houston Texans. Brevin Jordan was one heck of a tight end for Miami in 2020, and I was very surprised to see him fall into the fifth round given that he has starter potential. He’s got some serious blocking ability and enough speed and athleticism to get separation and catch passes downfield. If he gets stronger, improves his catching, and starts using his frame more to create separation, he’s a starting caliber tight end with Noah Fant/Evan Engram ceiling. If not, he’s a solid #2 tight end, with the floor of Ryan Izzo.

Were there any better players available that we should have picked, instead?

Well, it depends on who you ask. Some believed Jordan was a day two or early day three pick, so the Texans taking him in the fifth round looked like a steal. To me, I think safety Jamar Johnson, cornerback Shaun Wade, running back Kenneth Gainwell, and safety Damar Hamlin would have been better or comparable picks for our team. Tight end isn’t a position of need compared to any spot on our entire defense, and I think all of these players are roughly as talented or likely to succeed in the NFL as Brevin Jordan. Still though, a good pick that I can’t be too mad at.

Garret Wallow, LB, TCU (Pick #170)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 28 TCU at Kansas Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Height: 6’ 2”

Weight: 220 lbs

Arms: 30 7/8”

Hands: 9 1/2”

40 Yd Dash: 4.65

Vertical Jump: 32 1/2”

Broad Jump: 10’ 02”

3-Cone Drill: 6.87

Bench Reps: 22

2020 Stats: 10 Games, 90 Tackles (50 Solo, 40 Ast), 9.0 Loss, 2.0 Sacks, 1 PD, 3 FFs

PROS:

  • Plenty of production and a leader for the TCU defense.
  • Played both safety and linebacker while in college.
  • Has excellent speed and instincts when attacking the ball carrier. Frequently involved in the big plays in the backfield.
  • Fast processor.
  • Enough athleticism to get around blocks and pursue carriers.
  • Great closing speed.
  • Flashes a knack to quickly position himself to disrupt a play or lead carriers into tackles.

CONS:

  • Very undersized for an NFL linebacker.
  • Not very strong.
  • Can be removed from the play with a good block.
  • Relies too much on his speed and instincts, meaning he can even take himself out of the play if he makes a poor decision.
  • Aims too high when tackling.

REVIEW:

This one was weirder one. Garret Wallow does have his fans, (and with the production he had at TCU, I can see why), but I don’t think this is a great pick. Wallow does have speed, excellent football IQ, and tackling ability, but I think his lack of size makes him rely far too much on jumping the gun and hoping he made the right decision or leapt through the right gap. He already had trouble getting absorbed by blocks in college, it’s going get worse in the NFL. The game is faster, the players are much faster and more elusive, and he’ll be relying more and more on his instincts which may not translate as well as we hope.

Although, I don’t think it’s a bad pick. Wallow is talented and very productive, and given a year or two might fully adapt his skillset to be a solid backup for our linebacking corps. There’s no for sure prospects down this far, but a lot of things are going to have to go right for this pick to work out. Wallow will have to get stronger, improve his before and after snap recognition, figure out how to get out of blocks, and aim lower when making tackles.

He’ll be a fine special teams player, but if he improves every facet of his game, his ceiling is Zach Cunningham. If not, his floor is a mediocre special teamer that is out of the league in a few years.

Were there any better players available that we should have picked, instead?

Absolutely, yes. I liked safety Damar Hamlin, EDGE Quincy Roche, linebacker/safety JaCoby Stevens, and wide receiver Frank Darby here. All of these players were still available, and all would either make a greater impact on our defense/special teams in 2021 or have a higher ceiling than Garret Wallow. I’m still surprised at how far Hamlin fell in this draft for how productive he was at Pittsburgh, and he could be a starter for Houston’s defense. In fact, the thing I dislike about this pick the most is not the player, but the picks that we gave up to move up to #170. We traded two sixth rounders, #203 and #212 overall, to move to #174, and then traded #174 and #233 to get up to #170. I know it doesn’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but there were several quality players available well into the sixth round.

Roy Lopez, DT, Arizona (Pick #195)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 29 Arizona Bowl - Utah St v New Mexico St Photo by Chris Coduto/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Height: 6’ 2”

Weight: 318 lbs

Arms: 32”

Hands: 9 7/8”

40 Yd Dash: 5.19

Vertical Jump: 31”

Broad Jump: 8’ 09”

3-Cone Drill: 7.39

Bench Reps: 36

2020 Stats: 5 Games, 18 Tackles (10 Solo, 8 Ast), 4.0 Loss, 1.0 Sack

PROS:

  • Big and wide
  • Does a good job of keeping square, making it difficult to completely eliminate from the play.
  • Can clog running lanes with his size and nose for the football.
  • Low center of gravity makes him very difficult to move.
  • Solid motor, consistently controlled the line of scrimmage while at Arizona.
  • Keeps fighting to reach the edge using his hands and hips to gain leverage.

CONS:

  • Doesn’t have NFL size for the position, making it possible he’s practically eliminated on most plays by someone bigger than him.
  • Footwork is just okay.
  • Speed and burst is nothing to write home about.
  • Doesn’t have speed or many moves to rely on.

REVIEW:

Another weird pick. I’ll admit it, I knew nothing about Roy Lopez before the Texans drafted him, so all of my film-viewing and profile-reading and stat-analysis (everything in APA, 12-Point Times New Roman, of course) came after the draft was over. That being said, I’m not impressed. But, let’s get to the positives, first.

Roy Lopez is a massive, wide body that uses his low center of gravity, solid footwork, and hands to control the line of scrimmage and get pressure on the inside of the pocket regardless of where he’s lined up. He uses his sheer size to clog up gaps and pressure his blockers inward, and has a few moves as an edge rusher that got him into the backfield in college.

But, he’s size/length that is so important to how he played in college will be virtually neutralized in the NFL. Blockers with more skill, size, or length will likely be able to completely remove him from a play fairly easily, since Lopez lacks the speed or skill to counter bigger players. He’s still a massive human being that keeps the pressure on, so I think there’s a chance he becomes an okay run-stopping defensive tackle, but even that is betting on him to transform his game. If he does and becomes the diamond in the rough that the Texans are hoping they found, his ceiling is a slightly worse D. J. Reader. If not, his floor is backup/practice squad player and then gone in a year or two.

Were there any better players available that we should have picked, instead?

Oh my goodness, yes! EDGE Quincy Roche, EDGE Shaka Toney, safety Damar Hamlin, offensive lineman Stone Forsythe, guard Trey Smith, linebacker/safety JaCoby Stevens, wide receiver Demetric Felton, running back Khalil Herbert, and cornerback Tay Gowan were somehow still on the board at #195 and we passed on all of them for a developmental defensive tackle. All of these players would have had the potential to either start or play significant snaps for the Texans. Forsythe or Smith would probably be give us solid interior line play for 2021, something we desperately need if we want to get a good read on Davis Mills abilities as an NFL quarterback.

Now, imagine a world where we did not trade up to #170 and instead sat on #195, #203, #212, and #233. In this magical world, Houston could have drafted guard Trey Smith, (#195), wide receiver Demetric Felton (#203), safety Damar Hamlin (#212) and EDGE Shaka Toney (#233). That’s a starting interior lineman, a high ceiling safety, a skill weapon that can blow up opposing defenses and be a safety valve for Davis Mills, and a developmental edge rusher. Sounds a lot better than a special teamer and a developmental defensive tackle, doesn’t it? Well, welcome back to reality, Nick Caserio is here to absorb our souls into his baby-blue vest.

Whatever, whatever. Hindsight is 2020, and there’s no way the Texans could have prepared for this exact scenario.

Overall, I think the Texans did okay in this draft given the context of when and how they entered it. There were no truly terrible picks, and I think they found some great value with their first three selections (well, we’ll see about Davis Mills). I’d give it a B-.

Follow me on Twitter: @FizzyJoe