The 2022 NFL Draft is only weeks away, and the excitement is palpable around NFL news outlets and apps. Every year, the draft is a fan favorite that receives almost as much viewership as big games during the season. Why? Because the NFL Draft is awesome. Whether through tear-soaked phone calls or family hug fests in the green room, the draft always carries feelings of hope, change, and optimism.
The Houston Texans have been involved in 20 years worth of drafts, with a total of 155 player selections over that time span. As every fan knows, teams don’t hit on every pick - some players are busts, some become legends. Even though the Texans are a young franchise, the team has already produced some “legends” of the game.
Here are the greatest Houston Texans draft picks of all-time by round (in reverse order, with honorable mentions):
7th Round: Derek Newton (OT, Arkansas State)
Finding team “legends” that were drafted in the later rounds of the draft is a challenge. Tackle Derek Newton doesn’t fit the moniker “legend,” but he was a solid starter for the Texans for five seasons; not bad for the No. 214 selection in the draft.
Honorable Mentions: Andre Hal (DB, Vanderbilt)
6th Round: Christian Covington (DT, Rice)
The 6th round hasn’t been a historically good round for the Texans, but there have been a few productive players in the penultimate draft round over the years. Covington was selected out of hometown Rice University in 2015 and spent the four years of his rookie contract making solid comedy videos and contributing in the interior of the defensive line. After his time in Houston, Covington played on multiple playoff teams, giving solid minutes for Dallas, Cincinnati, and the LA Chargers.
Honorable Mentions: David Quessenberry, Roy Lopez
5th Round: D.J. Reader (DT, Clemson)
D.J. Reader flew under the radar in the 2016 draft, and somehow continued to do so (outside of the city of Houston) in his first years in the NFL as well. Despite his anonymity, Reader put up stellar numbers and grades year after year. Reader didn’t miss the eyes of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2020 when they signed him to a 4-year, $53-million dollar contract to play on their D-line instead. It’s always sad to see former-Texans players picking up sacks in the Super Bowl. Keep after ‘em, D.J.
Honorable Mention: Randy “Beer Can” Bullock
4th Round: Owen Daniels (TE, Wisconsin)
Before Deshaun Watson, the Texans were full-time passengers on the QB Carousel. Before that, the Texans had a “star” quarterback named Matt Schaub. Outside of Andre Johnson, Schaub’s favorite target was one Owen Daniels. Daniels is the only tight end in franchise history to make the Pro Bowl, and is third all-time for the Texans (regardless of position) in receiving yards (4,617). Daniels also followed former Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak to the Denver Broncos, where he helped the team win Super Bowl 50.
Honorable Mentions: Glover Quin (S, New Mexico) , Ben Jones (OC/G, Georgia)
3rd Round: Eric Winston (OT, Miami)
Believe it or not, there were a few years (long ago) when the Texans experienced continuity and success on their offensive line. Eric Winston was a mainstay at the right tackle position on that “gelled” unit for years. Winston’s life after his playing days also left a sizable impact on the NFL, as he spent 7 years as president of the NFL Players Association.
Honorable Mentions: Brandon Brooks (OG, Miami OH), Jacoby Jones (WR, Lane)
2nd Round: DeMeco Ryans (LB, Alabama)
DeMeco Ryans was a Texan for six years of his career, and over that time made two Pro Bowls and won Defensive Rookie of the Year. In the NFL, a nickname often used for a team’s middle linebacker is the “Quarterback of the Defense.” Ryans took those leadership skills on the field and transitioned them to behind a clipboard when he became an NFL coach. In 2021, Ryans earned his first defensive coordinator position and helped his San Francisco 49ers reach Super Bowl 56.
Honorable Mentions: Connor Barwin (EDGE, Cincinnati), Chester Pitts (OL, San Diego St.)
1st Round: J.J. Watt (DE, Wisconsin)
It is a great irony that the player likely considered the most prominent face of the franchise’s metaphorical “Mt. Rushmore” was heavily booed on draft night in 2011 when he was selected No. 11 overall by the Texans. After 10 years with the team that included over 100 sacks, five Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections, and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, those fans surely look back on their boos with regret. Though Watt left Houston to continue his career in Arizona, his actions on and off the field helped put the Texans on the map, and his impact on the city of Houston will last for years.
Honorable Mentions: Andre Johnson (WR, Miami), DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson), Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
(Bonus Content) Undrafted Free Agents: Arian Foster (RB, Tennessee)
Any list of Texans Greats would be remiss to not include Arian Foster - trick is, Foster wasn’t drafted. Each year, there is a mad scramble in the hours following the NFL Draft where teams call up the players who were not drafted and sign them to small(er) deals to come play. Foster fell into this mad scramble and emerged a Houston Texan. After a career of two All-Pro selections, four Pro Bowls and over 50+ career touchdowns, Foster is widely considered a necessary face on the aforementioned Texans Mt. Rushmore.
Honorable Mentions: Vonta Leach (FB, East Carolina), Mike Brisiel (OG, Colorado State)
Who knows if the Texans will find any more names to add to this list during this year’s NFL Draft - only time will tell. But, with 11 picks symbolizing a possible 11 new players, the “hope, change, and optimism” meter has to be off the charts for fans of the Steel Blue.