We are just eight days away from Houston stepping up to the podium to kick off the 2023 NFL draft. Houston possesses 12 picks, with five on the first two days of the draft. Those first five picks are the focus of today’s mock draft.
In this mock draft, I focus in on college football’s premier conference - the Southeastern Conference. There’s no doubt the 14 teams in the SEC are above and beyond the best conference and produce the most NFL-ready players. Year in and year out, SEC players comprise of a significant portion of the first three rounds. This year will be no different. In Mel and To 32 of the 102 picks hail from the SEC - that goes to show the quality and depth playing in the SEC
Round 1, Pick 2 overall: Bryce Young, QB - Alabama
The Carolina Panthers take Ohio State signal caller CJ Stroud in this mock draft. That leaves Houston with the top choice of their QB in Bryce Young. Young’s size has been the topic of many an article, podcast, and YouTube video, but it will be his heart, football IQ, and play making ability that makes him a professional for a decade plus.
Round 1, Pick 12 overall (from CLE): Nolan Smith, OLB - Georgia
While WR is the flashy pick, it’s not the most valuable choice in the draft. I also predict the Tennessee Titans or another team will take Jaxon Smith-Njigba fore the Houston Texans get a crack at him.
This is a DeMeco Ryans-run team, which means the team needs elite pass rushers to allow his linebackers to run freely and support the pass game. Nolan Smith is a leader, athletic specimen, and dynamite off the edge. He would be the runaway starter on Ryans’ defense and a great pair with Jonathan Greenard.
Round 2, Pick 33 overall: Jalin Hyatt, WR - Tennessee
The dynamic wide receiver falls to the Texans at the beginning of the second round. Houston has made several additions to the wide receiver room including Robert Woods and Noah Brown. Hyatt would instantly be the downfield target that’s missing on this roster. He’d also allow Nico Collins to play more of a mid-field and red zone role, which better fits his skillset.
What Hyatt lacks in scheme versatility and route tree capabilities he makes up for in game-breaking skill. Hyatt possesses traits that the Texans haven’t possessed since Will Fuller IV. Hyatt has Pro-Bowl capabilities if everything lines up and he learns to implement his speed throughout the route tree.
Round 3, Pick 65 overall: Devon Achane, RB - Texas A&M
Widely considered the fourth-best running back in this class, Devon Achane is an all-around quality running back. However, his lack of size will keep teams away. Standing at just 5’8”, Achane plays bigger than his size. It will severely limit his ability to become a three-down running back as he will struggle against linebackers that have five inches on him in height. He also does possess many similar traits to Dameon Pierce; they both are tenacious in between the tackles, can catch the ball out of the backfield, and know how to break tackles.
Achane will be a nice rotational back for the Texans and a local player the fanbase will enjoy rooting for.
Round 3, Pick 73 overall (from CLE): Darius Rush, CB - South Carolina
There’s a chance a team like the Raiders fall in love with Rush and make him a top 50 pick. For now, he’s currently slated to be drafted mid-third round due to his boom-bust potential.
It’s always difficult to evaluate teams that have two great cornerbacks. It makes the film review and deciphering of the QBs decision making that much harder. It’s due to the defense scheming the two CBs to cover up for either’s weaknesses, which makes the opposing offense only target either player in a specific approach.
With Darius Rush, you’re looking at the dream prototype. He’s 6’2”, 200 pounds, and ran a blazing 4.36 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
He is what teams would call “toolsy” - he’s got all the stills and attributes teams want but are a few years of tutelage away from putting it all together. He is the ideal foil to Derek Stingley Jr. Adding him on the other side of the ball will keep Stingley Jr. off the pressure cooker and allow both young DBs to grow into the capable stars they can be.
Houston addresses their biggest needs on offense and add two dynamic game changers on defense. While Houston will most likely move up several times in the draft, it’s great to see they’ll be able to check all these boxes by the first three rounds.