The Houston Texans hired general manager Nick Caserio and head coach David Culley earlier this offseason. The new lead men in Houston knew they joined an organization lacking draft capital and All-Pro talent. They didn’t know that superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson planned to demand a trade or that he’d become embroiled in over a dozen sexual assault cases.
Caserio and Culley have no way of stabilizing Houston as a franchise, especially with Watson’s availability and commitment in doubt. Even the draft, which usually offers struggling teams hope for the future, doesn’t benefit Houston much. The Texans have no picks in the first two rounds and only one selection in the top 100.
Considering Houston’s predicament, the only thing Caserio and Culley can do is draft the best player available with every selection and hope for some high-character additions along the way.
I used The Draft Network’s mock draft machine and Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator to justify each of my decisions. At least one website had the chosen players available at their listed picks over several simulations. I didn’t orchestrate any trades and included an “ideal pick” after every selection for optimistic fans.
Round 3 (No. 67): Nico Collins, WR Michigan
The Texans have plenty of needs. Wide receiver isn’t their biggest concern considering issues on the defense, but several talented pass catchers should fall to the third-round. Houston already has Brandin Cooks, who just posted his fifth career 1,000-yard season, and Randall Cobb in the slot. However, the team wants a complementary piece opposite of Cooks.
Collins’ official measurements at Michigan’s pro day came out to 6-4, 215 lbs. with 34-inch arms. He’s the classic “X” receiver that showed an optimistic amount of vertical potential in 2019. Collins ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds, and most of that speed translates to his game.
The primary concerns around Collins center on his inability to create separation, especially on intermediate routes. His release and cuts aren’t sudden enough to give his quarterback an ideal target.
Depending on what the new regime thinks of Marcus Cannon and Tytus Howard, Houston could look at Spencer Brown, Brady Christensen, or Stone Forsythe at this spot.
Ideal pick: Milton Williams, IDL Louisiana Tech
Round 4 (No. 109): Kendrick Green, IOL Illinois
This selection means Houston doesn’t get a defensive player in the first four rounds. I’m not in love with the move, but the Texans can’t trot their current offensive line out in Week 1 and expect to get far. They have some intriguing pieces in Justin Britt, Max Scharping, and Lane Taylor, but I expect more from Green in the long run than any of those players.
Green has experience at center and guard. He’s an explosive lineman that creates movement in the running game and didn’t allow a sack last year, according to PFF. Green’s three-year run at Illinois demonstrated his willingness to improve, and there’s still more room for him to grow.
Ideal pick: Paulson Adebo, CB Stanford
Round 5 (No. 147): Rashad Weaver, EDGE Pittsburgh
Weaver consistently reached the fifth-round for TDN. He’ll probably go higher in the draft, but Houston should jump on the Pittsburgh product if he makes it to 147. Weaver is a powerful, 6-4, 259 lb. defensive end with 33.5-inch arms. He missed the 2019 season with a torn ACL but rebounded by logging 14 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles in his nine appearances this past year.
J.J. Watt’s departure and Lovie Smith’s arrival make Houston an ideal plug-and-play situation for Weaver. The 23-year-old doesn’t have much speed or twitch, but his powerful moves and counters create opportunities as a pass rusher. At worst, Weaver is an above-average run defender capable of setting the edge.
Ideal pick: Andre Cisco, S Syracuse
Round 5 (No. 158): Tay Gowan, CB UCF
The Texans have some serious concerns at cornerback. I originally had Wisconsin’s Rachad Wildgoose Jr. coming off the board here, but he projects as a slot corner. Desmond King only signed a one-year deal with Houston this offseason, but that likely means they’ll only target outside corners in the draft.
Gowan was a one-year starter at UCF and opted out of the 2020 season. During his breakout campaign, the 6-1 corner intercepted two passes and batted away eight more. PFF claims Gowan only allowed a 54.9 passer rating when targeted. There are some concerns about his speed after a bumpy pro day.
Ideal pick: Seth Williams, WR Auburn
Round 6 (No. 195): Tre’ McKitty, TE Georgia
McKitty transferred from Florida St. to Georgia this past season, where he made six receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown in four games. He won’t steal starting snaps from Jordan Akins, but McKitty could solidify Houston’s depth at tight end. He’s an athletic pass catcher capable of creating yards after the catch and providing some value as a run blocker.
Ideal pick: Thomas Graham Jr., CB Oregon
Round 6 (No. 203): Christian Uphoff, S Illinois St.
Uphoff checked in at 6-0, 195 lbs. at his pro day and ran a disappointing 4.64 40-yard dash. However, speed was never Uphoff’s game in the FCS. Instead, he used his fluid hips, footwork, and quickness to make plays in coverage. The Texans have several options at safety right now, but Uphoff could start his career on special teams and eventually battle for playing time.
Ideal pick: Dazz Newsome, WR North Carolina
Round 6 (No. 212): Jonathan Marshall, IDL Arkansas
Marshall didn’t become a starter for Arkansas until 2020, and he never made a sizeable statistical impact. Luckily, an impressive pro day from the 6-3, 310 lb. defensive tackle drew more attention. Marshall has a special first step and burst coming off the line of scrimmage that pairs well with his bull rush. However, he doesn’t have any counters in his arsenal and looked tired down the stretch in games.
Ideal pick: Shakur Brown, CB Michigan St.
Round 7 (No. 233): Mike Strachan, WR Charleston
The Texans make this selection based entirely on traits. Strachan never faced any big-time competition at his small school, but the 6-5, 226 lb. receiver hauled in 126 passes for 2,326 yards and 27 touchdowns in 22 games over his final two collegiate seasons. He carries several of the concerns associated with larger late-round receivers, such as poor separation, undeveloped short and intermediate route running, and a reliance on jump balls.
Ideal pick: Paris Ford, S Pittsburgh