There’s just no arguing that the past several years of Houston Texans drafting has been, well, less than desirable. After Bill O’Brien and Jack Easterby gutted the draft pick pantry, then used what was left on the likes of Lonnie Johnson Jr., one doesn’t have to look far to see why this roster is in the state it’s in.
However, with his first full draft, bolstered by picks secured in the Deshaun Watson trade with the Cleveland Browns, Houston general manager Nick Caserio seems to have appeased the football gods with a buffet of young talent not seen in H-Town in a very long time.
There’s an argument to be made that the Texans were the worst drafting team in the league from 2018 through 2021. Each of those four classes failed to crack the 25th percentile in PFF’s annual draft grades, receiving a “below average” tag in 2018 and 2019 and earning a C+ in 2020 and C- in 2021.
This year, Houston turned the tide.
LSU product Derek Stingley Jr. is the definition of great potential, to either boom or bust, sometimes in the same week. Thankfully, the off-season is where hope springs eternal. And, if Stingley can achieve his potential in a Lovie Smith defense, the Texans will have drafted the best cornerback in team history.
Stingley is the proud owner of the best true freshman campaign PFF has ever seen when he was the highest-graded cornerback in the country in 2019. Injuries derailed the last couple of years, but by no means did he get worse, as PFF’s Seth Galina broke down recently.
Stingley has a scheme-versatile skill set that is needed in new head coach Lovie Smith’s system. Yes, he is a Cover 2 advocate, but that coverage makes up under a quarter of their plays. Stingley is going to need to do it all, and he is fully capable.
The other potential early home run was Baylor’s defensive back/Swiss Army knife Jalen Pitre.
The Houston Texans pick Baylor Safety Jalen Pitre at No. 37 overall.— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 29, 2022
ZERO touchdowns in coverage at Baylor pic.twitter.com/v9fciiAlMD
- Senior Season (RS)
- Tallied at least a 0.5 tackle for loss in 13 of 14 games
- Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year
- Finalist for 2021 Jim Thorpe Award, which honors nation’s top DB
- The only player in all of D1 FBS football with at least three fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and two interceptions
- Junior (RS)
- First Team All-Big 12
- Honorable Mention for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year
- AP First Team All-Big 12 as a safety
- Led the team in total tackles with 60 and tackles-for-loss with 13
- First BU player to have two INT returns for TD in same season
Slot corners are valuable pieces to the defense, and Pitre was one of the best slot corners in college football from 2020 to 2021, producing a top-three slot coverage grade among Power Five defensive backs in that span. The former Baylor Bear didn’t allow a single touchdown in the slot while producing the second most passing stops (20) and 11 combined plays on the ball. Pitre was also a stout run defender and an excellent pass rusher, whether in the slot or on the occasions he moved closer to the ball at outside linebacker. He posted a 92.7 run defense and 83.6 pass rush grade in 2021.
Fewest yards allowed in coverage since 2020 (min. 400 coverage snaps)— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 4, 2022
Trent McDuffie: 163
Jalen Pitre: 253
Kyler Gordon: 317 pic.twitter.com/DCWs2lSuKC
Pitre has the skill set to be a more versatile player in the league than he was at Baylor. But he should be a strong slot defender at a minimum. He has the physical instinct, quickness and processing ability to do so.
Last season’s Houston Texans secondary was so bad words can’t describe it adequately - and that was with Justin Reid. The additions of Stingley Jr., Pitre and the definition of addition-by-subtraction in trading Johnson Jr., 2022 should provide far different results. Especially if the upgrade to the Texans front seven provides QB pressure once more.