The Texans went with a “true” BPA approach, which is admirable, and stockpiles talent when executed properly. However, they are in a unique position of possibly having a franchise QB and not knowing whether they need an upgrade or whether Davis Mills can be the catalyst of a Superbowl run. It would have been possible to go “mostly” BPA and still surround Mills with enough talent to see if he is “the guy.” Instead, the Texans went with half measures. Their approach may result in more overall talent in three years, but analytics have shown that “whether you have the guy at QB” trumps all other team talent considerations.
Pick 3 – Derek Stingley Jr., CB – LSU
Stingley may be a true shut down corner, which is one of the most valuable and rarest things you have in this league. However, he comes with significant uncertainty, which is always the enemy of value. If the Texans wanted a corner here, Gardner came with the same upside and significantly less uncertainty. The question also must be asked as to why this was not an OT, which would have brought the same value. The reason you hire Lovie Smith is that his defense can operate without the need of investing this heavily at the corner position. However, if Stingley can recapture his 2019 play, the Texans have bolstered their depleted CB room with a possible lockdown startr.
Pick 15 – Kenyon Green, OG – Texas A&M
WR Jameson Williams was taken immediately before the original pick at 13, and it appeared the Texans “lost their guy”. They traded back two spots to obtain more value, and took OG Green. This pick only makes sense if Tytus Howard moves from OG to RT, where he historically has a higher PFF grade, and you plan on Howard being your answer at RT. However, Howard has never displayed elite tackle play. So, this pick leaves open the risk that RT remains an issue because it was addressed with a half-measure. The Texans chose Green over Zion Johnson, who has superior movement skills, signaling their desire for a mauler. However, maulers can be found later in the draft. The only reason to draft a guard this high is for elite movement skills, as part of a zone-blocking scheme. Having said all that, Green will be a solid OG, who mauls defenders, so there is no uncertainty regarding whether he can accomplish his purpose.
Pick 37 – Jalen Pitre, S – Baylor
Pitre is a solid, jack-of-all-trades defender who tackles well and blitzes well. There was a question about his coverage skills, but he answered those during his senior bowl practices. Pitre is a solid pick but there were similar players with higher ceilings available, and this does nothing to bolster Mills.
Pick 44 – John Metchie, WR – Alabama
Perhaps feeling the pressure to finally address the need to help Mills, the Texans traded up to draft Metchie. Metchie is a solid, detail oriented rout runner who will provide separation for Mills, but is not a dynamic playmaker. He will not win 50/50 balls, so completions to him will be gained by well-timed reads and accurate passes. As with the OT situation, it appears that the hole at “pass catcher” was addressed with a half-measure.
Pick 75 – Christian Harris, LB – Alabama
Harris is a sideline-to-sideline run defender with good reads. However, his tape is rife with tardy reads and missed tackles. He has the speed to stay with receivers but is not a plus pass defender. He has some blitzing potential, which is a plus tool. However, Nakobe Dean was also available here, and he is a plug-and-play three-down starter who always makes the correct read and correct play at the snap.
Pick 107 – Dameon Pierce, RB – Florida
Pierce is a strong runner with average speed, lateral quickness and agility, and vision. There were RBs with these traits available later in the draft (along with at least one plus attribute in one of those categories).
Pick 150 – Thomas Booker, DT – Stanford
Booker needs to improve his play strength, but his lateral and turning quickness gives him the upside of a dynamic pass rushing 3-technique. This is a bit of a lottery ticket, but that is exactly what fifth round picks are for.
Pick 170 – Teagan Quitoriano, TE – Oregon State
Quitoriano is a slow TE with decent lateral qickness but average size. He profiles as a backup, and second tight end on running downs. With James Mitchell still available, this pick simply did not make sense. The later rounds are for drafting plus traits on players with questions in their health, development or small school prospects. This pick was for a player with 5th round talent.
Pick 207 – Austin Deculus, OT – LSU
Deculus has good size but average bend and athleticism. He profiles as a backup RT with a possible move to Guard.
Overall Grade B-
What I would have Done
It is too speculative to guess how trades would have worked out in relation to different draft picks. Accordingly, I jotted down what my pick would have been, relative to the board as it actually played out, based on the pre-trade picks.
3 – Even Neal, OT Alabama
13 – Traylon Burks, WR Arkansas
37 – David Ojabo, Edge Michigan
68 – Travis Jones, DT Cincinnatti
80 – Nakobe Dean, LB Georgia
107 – Daniel Faalele, OT Minnesota
108 – Zyon McCollum, CB Sam Houston State
185 – Jamaree Salyer, OG Georgia
205 – Kevin Austin, WR Notre Dame
207 – Samori Toure, WR Nebraska
245 – Isaiah Pacheco, RB Rutgers
Neal takes care of the RT position, and slides into LT once Tunsil’s contract is up. They do not have their franchise CB, but they have multiple first round picks in the coming years to address that, and Lovie Smith’s MO is that his pass defense does not require a shutdown corner.
I do not like Burks as much as some, but he would provide a significant upgrade to the current WR corps, and presents Davis Mills with a 50/50 ball pass catcher when the play design does not create separation. Tytus Howard can continue to hold down the guard position, and “maulers” are always available later in the draft, if the Texans are not looking for swift feet. With Burks and Neal, Mills will have enough help for the Texans to determine if he is a franchise QB.
Ojabo is a possible franchise edge, and his injury does not affect the long-term plans since the Texans do not expect to win now anyways. A delay in his availability may present enough losses to improve their draft slot next year, to obtain a franchise CB.
Travis Jones is Vita Vea light, and combines pass rushing ability with a run-stuffing mountain that has shockingly agile feet. His fall indicates an injury, but the Texans are in a position to take on temporarily injured players with high upside. The same can be said for Nakobe Dean, who is a franchise linebacker that immediately diagnoses plays and coordinates the team. His relatively short statute and a temporary pectoral issue are the only reason he is still available. When I found out that his drop was not due to a career-threatening injury, I jotted down that he is the next pick.
The next pick is Daniel Faalele, who is listed as an OT but profiles as a smothering guard. He is 6’8 and 380 pounds. He has below average feet, but the Kenyon Green pick suggests they are seeking a mauler, independent of agility. McCollum has generational traits. At 6’4, he ran a 4.3 forty, and posted elite lateral and turning quickness numbers. He is a small-school gamble that has a ceiling as high as Stingley or Gardner, but with much more risk.
Salyer doubles up with Faalele to shore up the OG position. Salyer was expected to go in the 2nd round, but appears to have fallen due to injury concerns. Without knowing what those concerns were, it was difficult to pick him any earlier than this. However, at 185, the risk is warranted.
Austin and Toure both have lateral and turning quickness. Though their 40 times are just above-average, their “last 30” times are well above average, and that is an accurate measure of long speed. Toure has had a three-hundred-yard receiving game, and Austin’s agility at 6’2 profile as a No. 2 WR. Both present a “route runner” option opposite to Burks, who is more of a Deebo Samuel.
Pacheco is a burst RB, who ran a 4.38 forty. I prefer Ty Chandler or D’vonta Price, but both were taken by this point. He will need to clean up his pass blocking to get his toe in as a third-down back. But, his strength, burst and lateral quickness present the ceiling of an Austin Ekler.
At worst, this draft is five solid starters, and it allows you to determine if Mills is your guy before next year’s QB-rich draft. At best, you have you have multiple pro-bowlers out of five positions, and possible stars at CB, with solid contributors at RB, WR and OL.