Going into week one of the 2021 NFL season, most people assumed Zach Cunningham would be the starting linebacker for the Houston Texans after being paid like a top-five player at his position and leading the league in tackles in 2020. That was far from the truth. Cunningham fell out of favor quickly in Houston due to violating team rules on multiple occasions. Cunningham was released by the Texans in early December and was quickly claimed by the Tennessee Titans.
A player that exceeded everyone’s expectations and played at a Pro Bowl level was Kamu Grugier-Hill. Hill was known as a backup linebacker and special teams player that never had the opportunity to consistently start until he got to Houston. Hill provided a much-needed boost and energy to the Lovie Smith led Texans defense. Grugier-Hill was recently re-signed by the Texans to another one-year deal. Another player that played relatively well was Christian Kirksey. Kirksey was brought in as a free agent in 2021 and was a leader for the Texans defense. Kirksey was also recently re-signed by the Texans to a two-year deal.
The other linebackers on the Texans roster include Garret Wallow, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Neville Hewitt, Blake Cashman and Jalen Reeves-Maybin. It seems unlikely that the Texans will target a linebacker early in this upcoming draft, but it would be wise for Texans general manager Nick Caserio to plan for the future. Christian Kirksey turns 30-years old this season, and Kamu Grugier-Hill is on a one-year deal, leaving his long-term future with the Texans uncertain.
Here are a few linebackers that the Texans could have interest in during this upcoming NFL Draft:
Christian Harris (Alabama)
The Texans had a “Top 30” visit with talented linebacker Christian Harris. Harris is an extremely athletic player that was a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide and should be a mid-round target for the Texans.
Terrel Bernard (Baylor)
Bernard is another player that had a “Top 30” visit with the Texans, meaning there is significant interest and should be a late-round target for the Texans. Bernard is a smart and tough player that will need time to develop.
Devin Lloyd (Utah)
Devin Lloyd is arguably the best linebacker in this upcoming draft and could be a highly productive player in Lovie Smith’s defense. It seems unlikely that the Texans will draft a linebacker in the first-round but if that is ultimately the direction the Texans end up going, Lloyd would be a good player for a long time in Houston.
In 2021, the Texans linebacker group wasn’t bad, but Nick Caserio must focus on the future, especially with Kamu Grugier-Hill playing on a one-year deal and Christian Kirksey turning 30-years old before the 2022 season begins.