Last week we ran a poll of what to do with the #3 overall pick, trade it or use it to select a specific need. 47% of respondents want to trade back for more picks or for a veteran starter. 48% want to keep the pick and use it for either best player available or a specific need.
This week, let’s pretend there is no worthy trade partner and Houston is keeping the pick. Barring any craziness with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions who pick first and second, that would give the Texans their pick of the litter, minus two of the top players.
Currently, there’s a general consensus that these players are among the best of the current draft class:
The Houston Texans Select Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE Michigan
Some are calling Hutch “J.J. Watt 2.0”, and while the jury is still out on that, having a reboot of a Watt-esque player on the defensive line would be a huge step toward rebuilding the identity of this team. Hutch even went on record earlier in the process, stating he would love to be a Houston Texan. We’d love that too, Hutch.
Hutchinson offers A+ tools and technical skills. The 2021 Heisman Trophy runner-up combines his exceptional physical gifts and refined hand-to-hand combat ability with the relentless effort that overwhelms blockers over time. He comes with a track record of performance and production that makes him a high-floor prospect with outstanding potential.
The highest-graded defensive player in the country:— PFF (@PFF) March 26, 2022
〽️ Aidan Hutchinson〽️ pic.twitter.com/rkmgO2EJfl
The Houston Texans Select Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
While a lot of mock drafters have Houston taking a tackle, presumably to protect sophomore quarterback Davis Mills, the Texans already have Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard, so if there is a such a thing as a position where the 2022 Texans are solid, offensive tackle is it. So, taking Neal might mean that a Tunsil trade happens before or during the draft. Getting a young tackle to offset Tunsil’s burdensome contract would certainly help the cap space. And, with Tunsil’s absence for most of last season, it’s not like he and Mills have cemented great chemistry just yet.
Neal will be a dominant blocking force in the NFL. He’s ultra-athletic for such a large frame, agile enough to handle the best pass rushers and powerful enough to move defenders out of the way in the running game.
Some mockers also have Houston taking Ickey Ekwonu, the tackle from NC State, but for the same reasons Houston doesn’t need Neal, the team doesn’t need Ekwonu either.
BamaCentral Three-And-Out: Will Evan Neal Go No. 1 Overall in the NFL Draft? https://t.co/5nSGi6nCc9— Bama Central (@BamaCentral) March 29, 2022
The Houston Texans Select Kyle Hamilton, Safety, Notre Dame
Hamilton may very well be the best all-around football player in the draft. While his stock took a hit at the combine, he has steadily climbed draft boards and mock drafts all off-season. The Texans need to replace Justin Reid, who left during free agency to join the Kansas City Chiefs. Hamilton could be the anchor to the Texans secondary for the next decade, something they sorely need right now.
Hamilton has rare height (6-4), length and fluidity for the safety position. Against the pass, his versatility is a major asset. He has exceptional instincts from the deep half and his range is off the charts (see: INT vs. Florida State). He eats up ground quickly with his long stride and has the athleticism and speed to mirror tight ends and slot wideouts all over the field. Hamilton is an explosive blitzer from depth. He can find and play the ball with ease. Against the run, his burst and angles to the ball are highly impressive, but he will go low and miss a few tackles. I love his competitiveness and production covering punts. Hamilton has all of the tools to emerge as a Pro Bowler early in his career.
I mean this is just unreal from Kyle Hamilton. Incredible range! pic.twitter.com/CClVkeV23c— Pat Doney (@PatDoneyNBC5) March 26, 2022
The Houston Texans Select Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Many draft gurus liken Thibodeaux to another former Texans D-lineman, Jadeveon Clowney. His boom or bust potential will either catapult a franchise forward or set it back. While he doesn’t have Clowney’s “The Hit” video cementing its way into college football lore, he is every bit as explosive, powerful and dangerous as Clowney was when he came out.
Is Kayvon Thibodeaux really falling down NFL Draft boards? Or are we looking at the epitome of smokescreen season? Either way, there’s been several issues vocalized about the Oregon defensive prospect.
As the top prospect on our 2022 NFL Draft Big Board, we don’t see them. What we do see is an excellent athlete whose impressive functional length and ability to bend the edge gives Thibodeaux a distinct advantage regardless of opponent. Additionally, he’s as equally adept at stopping the run as he is getting to the quarterback.
The Houston Texans Select Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Gardner has seen his name rocket up draft boards since his pro day. Houston head ball coach Lovie Smith had a private meeting with Gardner and was rumored to have come away very impressed with the young ball hawk. Taking Gardner at #3 seems to be a bit of a reach, but if both Thibodeaux and Hutch are already gone and Houston has questions about Hamilton, Gardner might make sense here. Maybe...
Gardner is a tall, long cornerback with elite movement skills and toughness. In press coverage, he uses his length to successfully re-route wideouts. He has abnormal fluidity for such a huge cornerback (6-foot-3, 200 pounds). He can completely open his hips to mirror and match underneath. He’s rarely out of position, but if it happens, he has an incredible burst to recover. From off coverage, he is fluid and explodes out of his plant and drive. He has natural ball skills; he can find it and play it. His overall awareness is excellent. He is very willing as a run defender and blitzer. Although he’ll miss an occasional tackle, the aggressiveness and want-to are easy to identify. Overall, Gardner has a unique skill set for his size, and I see similarities to four-time Pro Bowler Antonio Cromartie coming out of Florida State.
The Houston Texans Select Malik Willis, QB, Liberty University
This one is a wildcard, major-reach sort of pick. However, Willis has been linked to the Texans more than once, his pro-day hype was off the hook and, let’s face it, a quarterback from the biggest Christian university on earth would fit Jack Easterby’s Cultureball system.
If Houston isn’t truly sold on Davis Mills and they believe a team behind them, like the New York Giants, New York Jets or Carolina Panthers is eyeballing Willis, it wouldn’t be a surprise for this front office to pull that trigger. There’s a solid chance Willis will still be on the board when Houston’s second pick at #13 overall rolls around (he might even still be there at Houston’s 3rd pick, #37 overall), but you just never know what crazy thing this team is going to do next...
Teams have reportedly been “surprised” by Malik Willis’ overall offensive knowledge and ability to retain offensive info and play-calls for the position pic.twitter.com/rEx3mjQyTQ— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 2, 2022
Some may believe Kenny Pickett from Pittsburgh is a better QB prospect, however, his scouting report reads a lot like Davis Mills: big armed, pocket passer. Willis is more a Deshaun Watson type, with legs to keep plays alive and the type of playmaking ability to extend drives and pull points out of thin air.
As has been reiterated throughout the offseason, the 2022 quarterback class is flawed. And Liberty signal-caller Malik Willis is among the most flawed and polarizing of the bunch, but his high-end athleticism and throw power combination is enough to bypass accuracy and processing concerns in a class without a complete quarterback prospect.
So many examples of just effortless throw power on Malik Willis' tape pic.twitter.com/jtHScivBDk— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) March 26, 2022
Who Are You Selecting #3 Overall?
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