Finally some closure can happen in Houston albeit not accompanied by the king’s ransom expected by many. However with the third and thirteenth selections in the draft the Texans have a stake in pivotal points for what will define the momentum of the first round come draft night. Beginning at the top of the draft with Jacksonville as the betting favorites to snag wolverine Aidan Hutchinson that just leaves Detroit at second overall as the only team standing in Houston’s way of being the primary pivot point should an aggressive trade up start to materialize. On the flip side after acquiring Cleveland’s thirteenth overall pick there lies a chance for General Manager Nick Caserio to go in a lot of different directions to navigate what appears to be a very murky top ten given the varying opinions on Quarterbacks this year and the potential for some of the top players at the four premium positions (offensive tackle, pass rusher, wide receiver, and defensive back) to slide.
Is a trade back likely? Should the focus be on improving a historically bad defensive unit? Or perhaps the intention should be on a full court press to surround Mills on offense? Here is just one of many scenarios I could envision playing out, come draft night.
Round 1 (3rd Overall) Travon Walker DE Georgia:
Lance Zierlein had a comment that really stuck out to me alluding to how Walker more than likely would fit not only Lovie Smith’s philosophy of a bigger bodied defensive edge at 272 pounds while also metaphorically jumping out of the gym considering his size. But he also would fit Nick Caserios mold of a traditional New England two gapping defensive lineman. In my eyes a lot of this top ten hype surrounding Walker is based more around what he could be than what he is currently, but it’s clear this is a rare athlete in a draft featuring a lot of ‘good’ as opposed to ‘special’ players. At the very least he is one of if not the better run defenders in this draft who can ensure himself a spot on the field to push gaps while his technique and pass rush plan come together.
Round 1 (13th Overall) Trevor Penning OT Northern Iowa:
Penning has been on an ascension ever since he impressed old school tough nosed evaluators with his 80’s film bully type of mentality at the Senior Bowl, and then followed that up with a rather solid athletic showing for the combine. Ultimately I think the recently (re)restructured Laremy Tunsil and position fluid Tytus Howard who has a looming fifth year option play into this type of selection at tackle. No one truly knows how Nick Caserio views those spots long term, but I could imagine flexibility in the idea of Penning redshirting at the undecided left guard spot, not unlike Laremy Tunsil did his rookie year to get his feet wet, while Laremy and Tytus go back to their 2020 spots of left and right tackle respectively.
Round 2 (37th Overall) Chad Muma LB Wyoming:
Former safety Chad Muma just strikes me as somebody the Houston brass would love. He’s incredibly intelligent at diagnosing his keys in the run game while also being one of the more aggressive tacklers for his position when it comes to committing to his angles and trying to go straight through people. Lovie Smith’s unit, regardless of how long term you believe his tenure will last, is reliant on strong contributions from the three technique at defensive tackle and having a rangy playmaker who can shut down plays sideline to sideline at the Will linebacker spot. With this being a rather weak three technique class after likely late first rounder Devonte Wyatt finds a home, combined with fan favorite Grugier-Hill only resigning for one more year to establish his market, I’d imagine Lovie smith put this role fairly high on his “grocery list” for Nick to go shopping with.
Round 3 (68th Overall) Trey McBride TE Colorado State:
To be honest, I don’t expect McBride to be here after the second round. But this pick should symbolize the sweet spot of the depth for this tight end class as a whole which should be very rich from day two up until early day three. Last round Nick made a pick to fit his defensive coordinators scheme. It’s only natural that the same energy be reciprocated to accommodate Pep Hamilton’s tight end heavy personnel offense that Houston was so desperate to run they didn’t even seem to care how ill suited the roster was for it. Last year Brevin Jordan was scooped up in the fifth round to be more of an ancillary ‘F’ tight end piece, who, as Mike McDaniels best put it, “minor in blocking” as opposed to majoring in it. It’s only right that a true bigger bodied Y tight end that this franchise has been attempting to find for the better part of a decade be addressed in this deep crop.
Round 3 (80th Overall) Alex Wright DE UAB:
If guys like Marcus Davenport can get snatched up by the Saints in the first round with such a small resume and untapped physical tools, that I am truly baffled why Alex Wright is not getting more love regardless of how loaded this edge group is this year. At 6’4 271 Wright moves jaw droppingly well for a defender his size and has good power in his initial punch to catch unprepared lineman off guard. Not unlike Walker, Wright is raw as a pass rusher, but his build leads me to believe length will be his best trait to win at the next level. A big reason he’s slid this far is a lack of athletic testing numbers due to only doing positional drills at the combine, which tells me there are reservations about showing the world his agility times. Still to get a third round rusher who can keep Greenard fresh and has tools this noticeable would have to be a win for Caserio as he essentially plays clean up on his board around the bottom of day two.
Round 4 (107th Overall) Alec Lindstrom OC Boston College:
A lot of people are disappointed in the Justin Britt resigning, and personally, I don’t blame them. However when looking at the free agent market along with who is filling the other thirty one teams it’s hard to truly find a realistic upgrade that wouldn’t have needed an egregious overpay. Personally I view this as a down year for centers outside of consensus top dog Tyler Linderbaum that features more athletes with upside than the intriguing starters produced last draft.
Now you could hold out until next year where guys like Jarret Patterson, John Michael Schmitz or Ricky Stromberg are expected to be hot commodities or you could throw a dart at a medium floor low ceiling candidate like Alec Lindstrom. He has experience in both gap and zone blocking schemes the past two seasons, can consistently hit the second level despite not being an elite athlete, and worked very well in tandem with draft darling Zion Johnson on combo blocks. A good quarterback needs a center they can rely on and Lindstrom’s NFL pedigree as the brother of Atlanta Falcons Chris Lindstrom could make him a steady eddy in the trenches for years to come.
Round 4 (108th Overall) Coby Bryant CB Cincinnati:
If Houston needs to find high IQ players who can get on the field to start sooner rather than later, I think you will enjoy the man living in the shadow of ‘Sauce’ Gardner. Athletic limitations prevent him from ever being a true number one corner and they probably limit his upside in a man scheme, but he has a ton of experience navigating zone coverage and was tested a lot as teams looked to avoid his teammate. A sturdy build allows him to be aggressive in run support and a willing tackler who has a lot of tools to survive on the boundary at the next level almost like an inverse of the all athlete, limited processing style, we’ve seen from Lonnie Johnson, who is currently penciled in at the second outside corner spot
Round 6 (183th Overall) Kevin Austin Jr. WR Notre Dame
Here is where the drop off truly hits. At the moment very little depth in terms of young talent exists in the wide receiver room. While that could be addressed earlier, I think Austin is one of the few intriguing options on day three at this point on the board. His starter potential needs an appropriate grain of salt in terms of expectations, but this is a bully ball receiver who can win at the catch point while also surprising defensive backs with his sneaky 4.3 speed. A lack of reps make him more of a developmental guy, but if he can put it together you have a nice balance of playstyles amongst the Houston pass catchers.
Round 6 (205th overall) Abram Smith RB Baylor:
It’s fairly obvious that Houston will deploy a stable of backs to implement its ground attack next season, and I would say it’s fair to desire more depth than what is currently on the roster. There are a few pass catching backs worth picking up as a priority undrafted free agent, but when I look at the roster, I don’t see that early down battering ram who can potentially close out ball games in the second half. Enter Smith who is a load to bring down at over 220 pounds, who is not only coming off his best year leading the Bears to a Big 12 title, but the former linebacker has very little tread on his tires, despite proving he can be a twenty plus touches a game type of guy.
Round 6 (207th Overall) Jeremiah Gemmel LB North Carolina:
Gemmel puts the smart in ‘tough, smart, dependable’. It becomes hard not to like Gemmel as you watch him. He’s clearly instinctive and was the lynchpin holding that Tarheel defense together…now come the reasons why he’s available this late. Strength and size are not his calling cards to be an every down player, and while you ideally would project him to help on special teams ideally he has no tangible experience to his name. That being said, his intelligence and ability to fill every ‘football player’ cliche is evident, making a flier in the middle of day three worth it in my eyes.
Round 7 (245th Overall) Aaron Frost OG Nevada:
Most know Frost for how he handled Purdue edge George Karlaftis and then taunted him after a block. The former right tackle for quarterback Carson Strong is a road grader in the run game by nature, and would be best served to transition inside. While he has adequate athleticism, his temperament and edge are what truly catch your eyes when you watch him.