The Houston Texans change course and focus on rebuilding a formidable defense in this 2023 NFL Mock Draft. The defensive side of the ball was far and a way better than the offense. However, there’s still a lot of room to grow on defense with significant gaps in talent and most of the pass rush being buoyed by aging veterans,
To take a step back though, the Texans face the real possibility of not getting the QB of their dreams. If that’s the case, they should instead turn to improve all aspects of the defense.
It’s illogical to believe the Texans would pick five straight defensive players, but logic is a fairly novel concept to this franchise at this moment in time. With that in mind, this mock draft adds a couple key offensive players to help fill glaring needs and maintain a sense of reason to a defensive-minded mock draft.
Personally, I prefer drafts that possess a certain level of intention. This team is in a ‘best player available mindset’ for sure, but it is quite appealing to spend the top portion of a draft class overhauling one side of the ball.
Yes, it does leave the other side, in this case the offense, void of top talent. But the Texans have the draft capital and actual capital to make a defensive-minded draft possible.
In this mock, the strategy is to focus on key areas of concern on defense, add immediate starters on offense, and support additions we made to the secondary in last year’s draft. Four new starting secondary players in two draft classes allows them to grow and develop together under one scheme... assuming the Texans don’t haul off and fire a third consecutive coach.
R1. Pick 02: Jalen Carter, DL - Georgia
Considering the win (READ: loss) against the Colts and move to the second pick overall, I assume the Bears will take full advantage of the Bryce Young sweepstakes and sell the first overall pick to the highest bidder. Or, and what I believe they’ll personally do, trade Justin Fields and pick Young themselves.
In that case, Jalen Carter becomes the Texans best case scenario. Not one that anyone would complain about, but would prompt the team to dive into fixing this putrid defense front the bottom to the top.
Carter possesses a rare combination of size, aggressiveness, and technique that would elevate a young but weak core on the defensive line. The Texans run defense was astonishingly poor. Based on this past season’s re-dedication to the run across the league, adding a true interior run stopper who can also pressure the quarterback checks all the boxes.
Considering the Texans don’t have a defined scheme, defensive coordinator, or general direction, drafting Will Anderson does not equate. The Texans need scheme-agnostic talent, and interior defensive lineman at Carter’s level are scheme agnostic.
R1. Pick 12: Joey Porter Jr., CB - Penn State
Derek Stingley’s mediocre season that ended on IR only heightens the team’s need to find more solutions at corner. Teams were too quick to pick a part a thin and confused defense. Adding Joey Porter Jr. to a budding young secondary with Stingley and Jalen Pitre will boost the talent in the room immediately.
JPJ is a 6’2”, 195 pound lock down corner for Penn State, which has been producing a consistent churn of quality secondary players of late. He plays a good amount of off-ball coverage, but has the length to press receivers at the NFL level. He also comes with an NFL background, as his father is the fabled linebacker Joey Porter.
The biggest knock on Porter is the lack of interceptions over his career; he has one interception through 30 games played. Either teams avoided him completely, or his style of play does not create interceptions.
This could be a reach for the cornerback given his current draft stock, but for a team looking to immediately improve it’s defense, it’s a clear line in the sand. Having two stud corners is a must in a league where the best teams have two elite receivers.
R2. Pick 33: Jalin Hyatt, WR - Tennessee
There’s a lot of hubbub about Hyatt flying up draft boards due to his speed and quickness down the field. Comparisons to Tyreek Hill are being drawn, which make any GM salivate.
It’s hard to deny his acceleration and the production proves it; 1,200+ yards, almost 19 yards per reception, and 15 touchdowns in the SEC is a miraculous stat line. If he was playing for the Crimson Tide, he’d be a bona-fide top 10 pick.
This player may truly not be available at this pick by the time April comes around, but for now he’s the perfect fit at the top of the second round.
R3. Pick 65: Zach Harrison, DE - Ohio State
Another option is KJ Henry from Clemson, but drafting the second-best pass rusher on a team is like someone else picking your coffee order for you. Harrison has the physique of dreams: 6’6”, 275 pounds, and a boom-or-bust prospect by all accounts.
The core cons’ against Harrison have to do with pre-snap reads, timing, and technique. All things, depending on the scout and reader elicit a different response. Either teams believe they can train bad habits our or would rather a more consistent prospect.
For a team where the bottom of the talent trough has been hit, adding a guy who has elite-level capabilities in the third round makes sense. The Texans add a talented prospect who can grow into the role with other players such as Jonathan Greenard and Ogbo Okoronkwo starting off the edge.
R3. Pick 73: Ricky Stromberg, C - Arkansas
Yes, yes this is in fact a defense-focused draft pick, but for the 5-7 more mock drafts that I write the Texans will be drafting a center in the first three rounds.
Current starter Scott Quessenberry failed to support rookie Kenyon Green and was a weak spot in an ultimately improved offensive front. At 6’3, 310 lbs., the First-Team All SEC center is a four-year starter with accolades throughout his tenure in Arkansas. He has a center’s balance of athleticism, length and agility; ultimately he won’t inspire ballerinas but he can pack a punch and get the job done.
He’d be a plug-and-play starter on the offensive line, which you can’t ask for more from your fifth pick in the draft.
R4. Pick 101: Sydney Brown, S - Illinois
Production. Production. Production. Sydney Brown elevated the Fighting Illini’s defense to unprecedented heights this season. With six interceptions, seven passes defended and 59 tackles on the season, Brown’s productivity is exactly what you are looking for in the fourth round.
He’s not an enforcer like Pitre but rather a ball hawk with impressive football IQ and a talent for being at the right place at the right time. He’d be an instant impact player on special teams and vie for starting role immediately. Placing Brown next to Pitre would give the two a long-term partner and round out the young secondary the Texans are putting together with Stingley Jr., Pitre, first-round pick Joey Porter Jr, and Brown.
That’s a secondary that can compete in the AFC South where QBs aren’t in their heyday and this group can develop into a formidable group instead of getting picked a part at a young age.
In summary, the Texans would add two new defensive lineman to support Maliek Collins, Roy Lopez, and Jonathan Greenard. They skip out on linebacker as the position has future leaders in Christian Harris and Jake Hansen along with veteran Christian Kirksey. They add two impact secondary players in Joey Porter Jr. and Sydney Brown, which immediately make the Texans secondary a young and dynamic group. On offense, whoever takes over at QB will have a new weapon and person at center to snap them the ball.
If you want to go all seven rounds with me, I would predict the Texans use their remaining draft picks to either combine and trade up or add low-end offensive tackles who they will transition to guard. A fifth round running back to support Pierce makes sense. And to round it out, more tight ends are always welcome in Houston until we find one that sticks.