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2022 NFL Draft: Potential Day 2 Targets For Texans

Who could the Texans take with their three picks on Day 2 of the 2022 NFL Draft?

Boston College Offensive Lineman Zion Johnson answers questions at the 2022 NFL Combine
Boston College Offensive Lineman Zion Johnson answers questions at the 2022 NFL Combine
Boston Globe

The 2022 NFL Draft kicks off in a mere 32 days (give or take a few hours), and after a 4-13 season from the Texans, Houston fans will surely be looking forward to a draft in which their hometown team possesses a first-round pick for only the second time in the past five years.

After a blockbuster Deshaun Watson trade to the Cleveland Browns, many eyes will be focused on who the Texans will choose with their No. 3 and No. 13 overall selections come April 28th. Today, however, we’ll center on the meat and potatoes of the NFL Draft: Day 2.

Day 2, which contains the second and third rounds of the draft, could arguably be the most important day for a Houston team that is squarely in the middle of a rebuild and has a plethora of roster holes to fill. In a draft where analyst Daniel Jeremiah says the difference between Player 15 and Player 60 is as “slim as (he) can remember,” the Texans could find impact players who could provide valuable playing time outside of the first round.

The second day draft capital for the Texans stands at three picks: No. 37, No. 68, and No. 80 overall (from the New Orleans Saints). Today, we’ll take a look at three possible player selections Houston could target at each draft slot that might fit the new Lovie Smith/Pep Hamilton regime, and that could help speed up the rebuild process for the Boys on Kirby.

ROUND 2 - Pick No. 37 Overall:

  1. Zion Johnson: (OL - Boston College - Senior - 6’3” - 312 lbs.): Johnson is an interior offensive line prospect whose name has risen quickly ever since his work ethic and versatility display at this year’s Senior Bowl. The three-year starter at Boston College has played both tackle and guard in college, but projects inside at the pro level. He plays with almost casually dominant strength in pass protection, and led the field in bench press at the combine with 32 reps of 225 pounds. It would be a slight surprise if he was still on the board at 37, but the possibility is there for a Texans team that desperately needs to revitalize its run offense.
  2. DeMarvin Leal (DL - Texas A&M - Junior - 6’4” - 283 lbs.): After a high production year in the SEC (8.5 sacks, 12.5 TFL in 2021), Leal enters the draft as a junior who projects to be a solid fit in Lovie Smith’s even front (4-3 defense) as a single-gap attacking defensive tackle or a larger defensive end (he lined up at almost every defensive line position at A&M). If the Texans somehow miss the mark on re-signing Maliek Collins, Leal could be a versatile replacement who can use his athleticism and strength to overpower interior offensive lineman.
  3. Kenneth Walker III (RB - Michigan State - Junior - 5’9” - 211 lbs.): Walker is a one-year starter for Michigan State who left an RPO-heavy scheme at Wake Forest to play a feature role for the Spartans, and produced stellar numbers because of it (263 carries - 1,636 yds - 18 TDs in 2021). He plays with high-twitch shiftiness, vision, and has home-run hitter ability on any play (his first play ever at Michigan State was a 75-yeard touchdown run). Walker had a strong Combine, and could be a feature back for the Texans.

ROUND 3 - Pick No. 68 Overall:

  1. Breece Hall (RB - Iowa State - Junior - 5’11” - 217 lbs.): Under Pep Hamilton, there’s been speculation that the Texans will favor a power run scheme more than a zone scheme, and Breece Hall fits into that projection solidly as a strong, powerful downhill runner who also possesses breakaway speed. Hall averaged 5.8 yards/carry at Iowa State in 2021, and set the NCAA record for most consecutive games with a rushing touchdown (24 games). He also has third down back ability with above-average hands and receiving production (36 rec - 303 yards - 3 TDs in 2021).
  2. Chad Muma (LB - Wyoming - Senior - 6’3” - 242 lbs.): This Wyoming product played standup inside linebacker for the Cowboys as their defensive play caller, and had a high-production breakout year in 2021 (142 tkl - 3 int - 1.5 sacks). He is a strong tackler, and takes on blocks with pop at that point of attack that displays his playing strength (27 reps of 225 at the combine). Muma played as one of two standup backers in Nickel defense, and would project to play in sub packages or as SAM backer initially where he can attack off-tackle runs or cover bigger tight ends in Lovie Smith’s defense.
  3. Tariq Woolen (CB - UTSA - RS Senior - 6’3” - 205 lbs.): An intriguing combination of size and speed, Tariq Woolen has an athletic profile that NFL teams dream of for an outside corner. His combine testing numbers lived up to the hype, as Woolen ran an official 4.26 in the 40-yard dash, and had a vertical jump of 42 inches. His skillset is still raw, as he’s only played corner for two years and played against smaller-school competition (UTSA). He would likely need development past year one to contribute as a starter, but his non-teachable traits give him a very high ceiling as a project for both man and zone schemes.

ROUND 3 - Pick No. 80 Overall:

  1. Calvin Austin III (WR - Memphis - RS Senior - 5’8” - 170 lbs.): Calvin Austin III is a small slot receiver with blazing speed who also flew up draft boards after he was virtually unguardable at the 2022 Senior Bowl. Austin is a nightmare for defensive backs in both route-running and after-the-catch ability. Although his size might raise questions, a Texans passing game that looks to predicate itself on creating matchup issues could benefit from a slot receiver who threatens to take the top off of every defense also while posing as a possession threat in soft zone coverages.
  2. Greg Dulcich (TE - UCLA - Senior - 6’4” - 243 lbs.): Dulcich is an athletic tight end who could be used in multi-tight end sets, and even out of the backfield as a matchup nightmare for defenses. He had high production at UCLA in his junior and senior years (combined 68 REC - 1,242 yds - 10 TDs) boasting a 18.0 yard/reception average over his college career (3rd highest for a TE at the combine since 2003). Solid size and a large catch radius make Dulcich a fit in a Texans offense that wants to run multi-tight end sets and create mismatches.
  3. Sam Williams (EDGE - Ole Miss- Senior - 6’4” - 261 lbs.): Sam Williams was a JUCO transfer to Ole Miss from Northeast Mississippi Community College, and played three years for the Rebels. Williams took advantage of his extra year of eligibility from the transfer portal in 2021 and it translated into his most productive year (15 TFL - 12.5 SK) as a 4-3 defensive end. A Walter Camp All-American Second Team candidate, Williams excels in rushing the passer when using speed on the edge, and sometimes can win converting to counter moves inside. He would need development against the run game, but has flashes of setting strong edges. With the DE position opposite of breakout Jonathan Greenard up in the air, the Texans will need to evaluate draft candidates at EDGE with a purposeful emphasis on adding a fresh face.