It’s a blood bath right now in the Houston Texans war room. Ohio State QB CJ Stroud’s recent test scores make one fear that he’s ineligible to operate a motor vehicle. The mere thought of drafting the next Vince Young sends shivers down my spine. One week ago I was extremely happy with taking Stroud... maybe winning that one game turned the wheels of fate in our favor for once? Oh, forgot, this is the Houston Texans we’re talking about.
Regardless of the most recent reports, I truly believe Houston will be stalwart in the face of chaos and make the choice they have been planning to for several months.
As you’ll find in this mock draft, the chaos doesn’t begin with the second overall pick, but in the back-to-back draft trades executed in this full seven-round mock draft.
Round 1, Pick 2 overall: CJ Stroud, QB - Ohio State
To say that the past week has been hell for predicting who will be taken here would be an understatement. If I’m having sleepless nights worried about Stroud’s S2 test score, then I can’t imagine what GM Nick Caserio is going through.
Now that it’s fairly certain the Carolina Panthers are taking Bryce Young, it’s all up to Houston to make a really, really frantic and inchoate decision with the second pick in the draft. Stroud remains the most viable option for Houston to turn the franchise around as quickly as possible, even if he will never complete a Rubik’s cube in his life.
Round 1, Pick 12 overall (from Cleveland Browns): Nolan Smith, OLB - Georgia
While choosing a 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 1, Pick 27 overall (from Minnesota Vikings): Jordan Addison, WR - USC
Trade breakdown: Houston gives up it’s 33rd, 104th, 188th and next year’s fourth round pick for the Minnesota Vikings’ 27th pick and 158th picks.
The value at the front end of the second round is the most bang-for-your-buck in the entire draft. Prospects 25-40 can go in any order, which means Caserio & Co. feel obligated to trade with a team. They use last year’s Jags and Bucs’ trade as a blueprint to pull off this deal.
Before the draft, there was no way Houston could possible win the day. In this mock, Houston strings together one of the greatest days in recent NFL Draft history. They mortgage several picks from their arsenal to get a fantastic offensive asset to pair with their new QB.
What’s great is they don’t have to trade either of their two third round picks. Minnesota will separately want and negotiate hard for it, but in the end they get two more picks in total.
Jordan Addison has been falling down draft boards due to his disappointing NFL Combine performance. However, Addison projects to be a better NFL receiver than college one - and that’s not to say he wasn’t productive in college. He would fit in extremely well given the new depth at receiver Houston has collected and would develop into an immediate impact player.
Round 2, Pick 33 overall: (TRADED AWAY)
Round 2, Pick 55 overall: Joe Tippmann, C - Wisconsin
Houston trades the 65th pick, TE Brevin Jordan, and next years fifth round pick to move up 10 places and select the second best center in the class.
That’s right; I predict the Texans trade up AGAIN in the draft and relinquish quite little to do so. The front office is not messing around this year as they know their backs are against the wall and they need to prove their sense of urgency. Texans fans have their new offense all in a tight bundle.
Tippmann is FLYING up mock draft boards ahead of players who ranked higher than him in the Big Ten. I think teams will come to their senses and see him as a plus-starter who may not deserve the second-round grade he is being given. Even so, he’s a fantastic fit for an NFL-style offense and would help last year’s first round pick Kenyon Green become a more consistent player.
I hold true that this pick will be a center, regardless of the name or if Houston trades up. Other prospects include TCU’s Steve Avila, Ohio State’s Luke Wypler, and Arkansas’ Ricky Stromberg.
Round 3, Pick 65 overall: (TRADED AWAY)
Round 3, Pick 73 overall (from Cleveland Browns): Darius Rush, CB - South Carolina
Here is what I wrote about Rush in my All-SEC mock draft:
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.
Round 4, Pick 104 overall: (TRADED AWAY)
Round 5, Pick, 158 overall: Owen Pappoe, LB - Auburn
I’d rather Houston miss by selecting Pappoe than another team take him and he hits. Pappoe sits around 8-10th in a fairly slim linebacker class, but with the right adjustments can be a fantastic stand up linebacker. Honestly, the signing of Denzel Perryman and molding Pappoe behind the veteran linebacker Pappoe makes me even more confident in a player I chose as a Top Fit for DeMeco Ryans’ Defense.
Oh, and he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine... and he had the fasted 10 yard split... and he had the fifth highest vertical... and he had the fourth longest broad jump...and he had the most bench press reps. Call me crazy but being the best at everything matters right? Or am I lucid dreaming over here? Pencil Pappoe in as the dream scenario in the fourth round.
Pappoe would be an instant special teams play maker and rotational linebacker for Perryman.
Round 5, Pick 161 overall: Josh Whyle, TE - Cincinnati
After an exhausting two days, Houston waits almost 100 picks before striking next. This will be known as the Brandin Cooks trade. Whyle has five years of college production with three years of 30+ catches for 300+ yards.
According to NFL Draft Buzz, Whyle has T-Rex arms; he’s in the 14th percentile for tight ends. That doesn’t bode well for either his blocking or pass catching acumen. However, his productivity will translate to another rotational tight end. The Texans will give up it’s own tight end in the trade for Tippmann and need to take another chance, again, at the position.
Round 6: 201: Ronnie Hickman, S - Ohio State
Hickman was the first Buckeye since 2015 to collect over 100 tackles in a season. Though he started, his snaps dropped severely last year due to more talent on their defense and a role change. He fits as a big-bodied nickel defender, which is honestly a need in today’s NFL. I imagine he could be the apple of a team’s eye and get selected in the fourth round. If not Hickman doesn’t scream special teamer, which could make his draft stock fall drastically into our loving arms.
Round 6: 203 (from New York Giants): Ochaun Mathis, EDGE - Nebraska
Houston goes for defensive depth again in the sixth round by selecting a player with four years of productivity and a product of Manor, Texas. At 6-5, 260 pounds, he is a diamond in the rough and a clinical steal at this portion in the draft. Honestly, he’d be the most exciting prospect in the entire Day Three prospect pool listed here.
The Texans aging and mediocre crop of edge players is immediately bolstered by a strong duo of the leadership and speed of Nolan Smith and the stability and potential of Ochaun Mathis.
Round 7, Pick 230 (from New York Jets through Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Trevor Reid, OL - Louisville
The most athletic offensive tackle you will ever find in the seventh round. Everything I see online pegs the starting left tackle as a draftable project, which he is, but based on his physical traits there’s no reason to not give this guy a chance. What’s the worst he will do... beat out the oaf of a backup Charlie Heck?
Here’s a great breakdown of his film where he faces off against future late-first, early-second round pick Keion White. I wouldn’t say that Reid has traits of an NFL-level left tackle, but rather he just looks like one. Reid is a pure shot in the dark, high upside guy who needs a complete overhaul of his technique.
Round 7, Pick 259: Xazavian Valladay, RB - Arizona State
Your 2023 Mr. Irrelevant goes to a running back who found the end zone 18 times in 2022. You read that right. Houston is fairly thin at running back and the third back is extremely up for grabs. Valladay has the size and versatility to make it in the league. He saved his best season for last as a fifth year senior when he transferred from Wyoming to Arizona State.
While Valladay doesn't possess any special features, he’s a viable candidate for RB3 in Houston and one that can attempt to live up to the Mr. Irrelevant name that Brock Purdy has elevated this past season.
There you have it. Two trades. 11 picks. No drama. We are just a few days away from seeing the real thing and the anticipation is just about killing me.