You know the draft is approaching when rivals Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay are working together...
In this three-round mock draft, ESPN’s lead analysts select and detail their choices for each team. The Texans currently have five picks in the first three rounds and will probably trade back at some point, but for now the Texans are fairly loaded with picks which makes this draft process that much more fun.
McShay’s pick: Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
The Texans had just 32 sacks last season, and Thibodeaux has an incredibly fast first step off the edge. Houston has been looking for a top pass-rusher since it moved on from J.J. Watt last offseason.
This grade is less a reflection of Kayvon’s talent than the relative value of this selection. There isn’t a quantifiable difference in the talent between the first 20 picks. The Texans landing Thibodeaux nonetheless would be an immediate injection of talent and skill to a defense in need of top tier talent at every level. The lack of discernible difference in stats from other pass rushers, combined with the personality questions surrounding Thibodeaux, doesn’t instill jubilation in this pick. It’s doubtful that the Texans can trade back, but if they can they’ll receive a similar player along with other draft picks.
If Davis Mills is going to have success in the NFL, Houston has to get some protection for him. Cross might be the best pure pass-protector in the entire class.
Cross would be a good landing spot if the Texans pass on Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu with the third overall pick. The Mississippi State prospect is labeled as the best pass protector in this class, as McShay claimed, but Cross is more than that. The real angle here is that Mike Leach’s 7-on-7 offense offers more pass blocking tape than run tape. Analysts simply aren’t clear on his ability to get nasty and move people. He may be only able to play left tackle, which is a concern considering he’d have to sit behind Laremy Tunsil until his contract, which was extends through 2023, concludes.
It’s no secret that Houston has a lot of weak spots on its roster, and we could go just about any direction here after a great Day 1 haul of Thibodeaux and Cross. But the Texans were dead last in the NFL in rushing last season (3.4 yards per carry), and Hall is tough to contain when he finds some space.
Not only is this a reach, but the Texans have bigger needs than running back. Yes, helping Davis Mills with a better running game makes sense, but this is too pricey considering the Texans needs at secondary and interior line. Breece is unmistakably the best back in this draft, but wouldn’t be a top-five back in the 2019 draft in my opinion. The Texans would be passing up on...
68. Kiper’s pick: Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State
This is the first Texans pick I’ve gotten to make, and they really need to add as much talent as they can, no matter the position. Brisker could be a potential Justin Reid replacement.
Kiper snags an immediate impact safety for the Texans with their third round pick. Brisker, whose birthday is today, will be 24 by the start of the season as he stayed for a fifth year at Penn State. Three years of consistent play make this a safe pick. Brisker’s NFL Draft Comparison is Justin Reid, which is fantastic considering the value the Texans got from Reid over his tenure here. The concern is he was a man among boys and if he’ll be able to rise to the new level of play in the NFL, which he has the size and speed to do. He’s able to play all over the field and specializes in tight end and run support. Brisker would be a fantastic add and hopefully available at this point in the draft.
80 (via NO.). Kiper’s pick: Marcus Jones, CB, Houston
With the last of Houston’s five picks in the first three rounds, I’m going to give the Texans an ascending corner who is the best return man in the class. He won the Paul Hornung Award last season as the most versatile player in college football. Jones is only 5-foot-8, which means he’s probably a slot corner only.
Jones, who will also be 24 when the season starts, would not only start at slot corner but as the team’s return specialist. To Kiper’s point, he’s a bit undersized but is a pure football player. UH even put him in on offensive plays, he’s that dynamic. In all honesty, it would be smart for the Texans to draft a definitive slot corner; it would help put several pieces in place around him that are still up for grabs. This pick goes from a B to a B+ for several reasons. First, in the context of this draft Jones would fit in well with the Texans. He shouldn't be the only secondary player we draft in case he doesn’t fully develop. Second, the guy played for the Cougars, and we need some local players to put fans in seats. He fills multiple roster needs at slot corner and return. There are few players who offer such versatility and answer so many questions for a team desperate with talent.
OVERALL GRADE: B+
The Texans check most of the biggest crisis points for the team and find three immediate starters in Thibodeaux, Hall, and Brisker. They have high ceiling developmental prospects in Cross and Jones.