With the 2022 season deep into the review mirror, attention is turning to the new NFL season and excessive debate/salivation about the NFL Draft. The NFL Combine kicks off the two month period of Draft-o-mania, where we debate, analyze and go irrationally insane about prospect X’s shuttle run times vs. QB prospect 3’s 13th throw on a 15-yard out pattern. Sure, there will be some diversion with the opening of the free agency frenzy, but in reality, it is all about that draft.
For the Houston Texans, this figures to be as significant a draft season as they’ve ever had. At present, the team holds both the #2 pick (well-earned from a 3-13-1 season) and #12 pick (thank you Cleveland and underwhelming Deshaun Watson). Already, terabytes of words focus on what the Texans will do at the top of the draft. Will they trade up with Chicago to regain the #1 pick that they lost with the best/worst-timed Octopus in franchise history? Will Houston stay at #2 and let some other team (Indy, Carolina) jump them to get the #1 pick? Could they trade down from the #2 pick…er, may not on that one.
Conventional wisdom suggests that whether Houston moves up to one or stays at the #2 slot, a QB is the likely target. Given the current state of QBs on the Texans’ roster, and the lack of legitimate free-agent options, that moves make significant football sense. However, there hasn’t been as much debate about the status of the #12 selection. For a team with the myriad of talent shortfalls across the roster, the #12 pick figures just a prominently for Houston.
Granted, the Texans may not have that pick come draft day. Most trade scenarios have that pick going to Chicago as part of a deal to get the #1 slot. It is possible that Houston can still hold on to the #12 pick, at the expense of future high picks (the team holds two 2024 first round picks as well as some other higher level options from the Deshaun Watson trade). However, if Houston is going to move up to the #1 slot, the #12 is likely going as well.
Should Houston stay pat, what do they do with the #12 pick? As previously stated, Houston has a lot of roster deficiencies, especially where the interior lines on offense and defense are concerned. Additionally, the WR room is not exactly bursting with game-changing players. Brandin Cooks is seen as the best of that bunch, and with his contract, he likely spends 2023 in Houston. However, Cooks desperately wanted out at last season’s trade deadline. Now over 30, Cooks indicated he doesn’t want to see another rebuild, which is exactly where Houston stands in its franchise evolution. Other receivers on the roster do not project as game changers.
Thus, several recent mock drafts have Houston at the #12 slot going WR. Quinten Johnson (TCU) appears a popular pre-combine/free-agency target for the squad, as the team looks for its next great franchise WR. Jordan Addison (USC) has also been mentioned in this slot. Either offers a significant upgrade talent-wise and could off-set the potential loss of Cooks. Maybe WRs like Nico Collins could take exception, but based on recent on-field performance, a receiver taken at the #12 slot comes into training camp as the #1 guy.
Some earlier iterations also saw Houston take an offensive lineman. Enter OT Paris Johnson, who offers some talent upgrades as well as a ready-made replacement for the potential departure of Tunsil and/or Howard (both are free agents after the 2023 season). Admittedly, offensive tackle is not that weak a position for Houston, given how effective both were at pass protection. However, few guards/centers project that high to take at #12, and Houston could solve those requirements later in the draft.
Then there is another option not significantly explored. Presuming that Houston does not package the #12 pick to move up to #1, the Texans could trade down from #12 to load up on more picks. Houston is in a position that it needs a many opportunities to draft as many quality prospects as possible. Maybe Houston misses out on some of the top WRs if they leave 12, but plenty of options will be available, especially if they get another 1st and other day two picks (2023 and 2024).
While no owner will refuse cheaper labor, Houston has actual cap flexibility for the first time in a couple of seasons. The BO’B/Easterby-induced cap hell is over, and Houston sits on ~$40M in free cap space. Still, with new free agents, plus potential new deals/extensions for players like Tunsil and Howard, that cap space could disappear fairly quickly. Few teams would say no to some more day one and/or day two picks if they can get them.
We will likely get little clarity on the status of the #12 pick until the day of the draft. So many factors/scenarios exists where Houston either keeps that pick, trades up, or trades down. In a way, that will be its own special drama. Does Houston package the #12 pick as part of a “Godfather” offer to Chicago? Or does someone offer Houston a “Godfather III-type offer” (solid, but not near as awesome) for that #12 slot.
Yet, with all the talk about the #1 pick, perhaps it is fun to spice up the debate with a few considerations for that #12 pick. So, what say you Texans’ fans? What do you think Houston should do with the #12 pick, gifted to us by Cleveland, after we traded the #12 pick from the 2017 draft to them?
What Should Houston Do With the #12 Pick in the 2023 Draft?
This poll is closed
A) Include it with a trade package to obtain the #1 pick in this year’s draft
B) Leave well enough alone and draft the best playmaker available at that slot
C) Trade down to get MOAR picks
D) When do the Astros start playing baseball for real again?