Based on a multitude of free agent moves over the past four days, the Houston Texans are eyeing a defensive end in the first round of the NFL Draft.
The Texans have signed WR Robert Woods and Noah Brown, who bring veteran receiving talent to a locker room without much talent at all. Then, the Texans added two strong interior defensive lineman to the group. Sheldon Rankins and Hassan Ridgeway fill out a group led by Maliek Collins and Roy Lopez and bolstered by second year lineman Kurt Hinish and Thomas Booker II. Combine those additions with the signing of safety Jimmie Ward and guard Shaq Mason, the Texans have filled needs in their other core areas of need.
Outside of QB, the main premium positions where the Texans have a need and there is reputable talent at the 12th pick include cornerback, wide receiver and defensive end. There’s debate whether a WR in this class is worthy of the 12th pick, but that’s for a separate article. While this class, does have extremely high CB talent, it’s possibly the deepest in the draft and can be the position of choice on day two of the draft.
That leaves us with the Texans taking a defensive end with their second pick in the first round. The only problem is, there is a huge drop off in this defensive end class. There are four players within the top of this 15 draft class - Will Anderson, Tyree Wilson, Myles Murphy, and Lukas Van Ness.
Then you don’t see the second tier of DEs until the beginning of the second round. The difference between Myles Murphy and the tier of Will McDonald, Kieon White, Ojulari, and Felix Anudike-Uzomah is substantial. While all four of those players should be in-play when the Texans select at 33, there’s still a stark difference in talent at a premium position.
As we stand in the midst of free agency and mock draft season, the ideal target for the Texans at 12 is Myles Murphy, Defensive End from Clemson. Roll the tape please, Vox Media:
Murphy will be an asset at the next level. He is extremely well built and combined power with speed as his mode of operation. It’s impressive how well he can fend off blockers and get to the QB while maintaining his gap integrity.
A lot of mock drafts have Myles Murphy going to the Super Bowl-losing Philadelphia Eagles with the 10th pick. If that’s the case and Houston can’t get their guy, Lukas Van Ness should be the next guy in line.
Personally, Lukas Van Ness is not a prospect I endeavor for. A ‘tweener’ whose tenacity and grit at the point of attack got him to where he is, but technique-wise I am not all-in yet. I think the ceiling us much too low for the pick at this moment.
Van Ness would be a more long-term project than Murphy, who appears to be more NFL-ready.
While the Texans have signed DE Chase Winovich, who only played eight games in Cleveland after being traded from New England, he will only be a rotational player for the Texans at this point in his career.
Finding quality players at premium positions is the name of the game in the first round. It’s not about striking gold as much as it is raising the bar at positions of value in the NFL. Sure, first rounders can easily change the trajectory of the franchise they join. But for the Texans at this pick, they need to select a player who is going to be a cornerstone piece on the defensive line that DeMeco Ryans can anchor the building blocks around for the next half-decade.