With the NFL draft just a day away, there’s no better time to start thinking about who the Houston Texans could select with their ten picks. Of those ten, five are within the top 100, which means the front office will have access to plenty of talented players. Without further ado, here is a seven-round Texans mock draft, with details about why I chose each pick.
1.3 - Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
This pick was surprisingly the most challenging. For months, I assumed Kyle Hamilton or Kayvon Thibodeaux would be a lock here, but my opinion has changed quite a bit as of late. Although there will be several great edge rushers and offensive linemen on the board at third overall (both positions of need for Houston), Gardner would not be a controversial selection. During the offseason, Lovie Smith has constantly reminded the media about how highly he values cornerbacks, as they play a significant role in his defense. Gardner is, with no doubt, the best corner in this class, given what he did during his time as a Cincinnati Bearcat. The AAC program was able to make the College Football Playoff (CFP) thanks to players of his caliber, becoming the first G5 program to accomplish the feat. Gardner is the definition of “lockdown,” and would be a day one contributor for the Texans. Not only would this pick be safe, but it would prevent the team from having to use multiple picks at cornerback for depth later in the draft. Ultimately, the Battle Red community would welcome Sauce with open arms.
1.13 - Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
Standing at 6’7” and weighing in at 325 pounds, Penning is simply a beast of a human, and can give the Texans a lot of versatility. Sure, it might not be the sexiest pick, but giving Davis Mills some protection in 2023 is one of many priorities. The team has had success with small-school players at the position before, with Tytus Howard (Alabama State) becoming a reliable guard/tackle combo in recent years. While Penning is currently listed as a tackle, he could likely take snaps at guard when needed, even though his height may prevent him from taking on top defensive linemen. At 13th overall, Penning will likely be the best at his position left on the board, as my “big three” (Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, and Charles Cross) are consistently projected within the top 10.
2.37 - Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
A few months ago, I identified Walker as one of the running backs that Houston should target in this draft. At the 37th pick, it’s a near perfect fit for both sides with overall value in mind. Walker was a Heisman candidate last year, tearing up defenses across the Big Ten. The only running back that has the potential to go ahead of Walker is Iowa State’s Breece Hall, who climbed up draft boards as the 2021 college season progressed. If Hall is still available at 37, the Texans will certainly have a decision to make, but I believe that Walker brings more upside to the team.
3.68 - Kerby Joseph, S, Illinois
Following the departure of Justin Reid to the Chiefs in free agency, the Texans need another safety, and Kerby Joseph could be the steal of their draft class. Joseph played under Lovie Smith at Illinois for three seasons (2018-2020), and is very familiar with how the coach runs his system. Although I have a fourth-round grade on Joseph, teams are likely aware the Texans will pursue him, so it may require a bit of a reach to get their guy. Players like Daxton Hill and Jaquan Brisker will be off the board by now, so it’s not like Houston is really skipping or passing up anyone.
3.80 - Myjai Sanders, DE, Cincinnati
Yes, I know it’s already a bit late for the Texans to be taking their first edge rusher, but Sanders falls into the “best player available” category at no. 80. Most draft sites have him projected in the late 70s-early 90s, which is a very reasonable evaluation. Sanders would be reunited with college teammate Sauce Gardner in this scenario, and already be high on the depth chart as a day two pick.
4.107 - Ed Ingram, IOL, LSU
Ingram is a very solid guard prospect who can operate at either the left or right spots. He played in the SEC and constantly faced top competition, which means he doesn’t have as much to prove as some of the other players on this list. Ingram is one of the best depth pieces you could ask for, and the Texans are in a prime position to select him.
4.108 - Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia
After the success of Brevin Jordan in 2021, a fifth-round rookie from the University of Miami, the Texans should look to add a complementary piece at the position. This is especially important given Jordan Akins’ recent departure to the Giants in free agency, but with a tight end class deeper than ever, there’s no need to trade up for a good one. Jelani Woods is the same height as Trevor Penning, and although he’s 60 pounds lighter, it doesn’t make him any less frightening to watch. When I first saw Woods’ film, it reminded me of Brevin Jordan. No, not because of the play style, but because of the potential. I knew last year that Jordan could be the best tight end in his class, and I feel the same way about Woods. If this is the direction the Texans choose to go, they shouldn’t have any regrets.
5.170 - Hassan Haskins, RB, Michigan
If you look at Haskins’ production from last year, you might be wondering why he’s still on the board in the middle of day three. A leading reason is because he’s viewed as a “developmental” piece by many scouts, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be getting some attention. Haskins would be a welcome addition to the Texans backfield, and in this case, would join forces with an old collegiate rival (Kenneth Walker).
6.205 - Jeffrey Gunter, DE, Coastal Carolina
The second edge rusher the Texans select is an unfamiliar name to many, but could turn into a rotational player as time goes on. Not much else to say here, except that Coastal Carolina is starting to produce some valuable NFL talent.
6.207 - Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor
Thornton is most notable for recording a 4.28 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine, which got the attention of many scouts and fans alike. However, the speedster won’t be going as high as someone like John Ross, who holds the fastest 40 time in combine history. Instead, he will be a camp body/special teamer that needs additional practice, a common storyline for late day three picks. There is a lot to like about Thornton, and he played college football within state lines. However, it would be surprising if he receives snaps in 2022, as the team still needs to focus on other young talent like Nico Collins. The Brandin Cooks extension also explains why the team hasn’t selected a receiver higher up.