3 draft needs for the Houston Texans
For a team that just traded away its starting quarterback, the Houston Texans have been relatively quiet so far this offseason. They’ve allowed several of their own players to be signed away by other teams and have yet to land a single free agent of their own, leaving several roster holes unfilled heading into the draft. They’ll return one of the top defenses in the league and have some talented playmakers on offense, but the Texans have some significant needs they’ll have to address through this year’s draft.
The Brock Osweiler experiment was ultimately a disaster, so much so that the Texans shipped him (and a second-round pick) to the Browns after just one season in Houston. The Texans were supposedly ready to hand over the reins to Tony Romo, but with his surprise retirement they find themselves back to square one. Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden are the only QBs currently on the roster, and no quarterbacks still available in free agency would be considered long-term answers at the position. Bill O’Brien and staff will likely have to turn to this year’s draft to address their need under center, but with their first pick at No. 25 overall, they may have to get creative to land one of this year’s top prospects.
Early-round target: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Mahomes is one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft. His arm talent, athleticism, and ability to improvise allow him to make plays that other QBs can’t. That being said, his inconsistent mechanics and tendency to play undisciplined at times raise some serious questions about his ability to successfully transition to the NFL. The fact that Mahomes was top-three in the nation last season in both big-time throws and turnover-worthy plays clearly highlights the dichotomy to his game. Mahomes could be the playmaker the Texans have been searching for at QB, but they’ll likely have to be patient as he acclimates to the NFL game.
Mid- or late-round target: Nathan Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh
If the Texans can’t land a quarterback in the first round, Pitt’s Peterman would be a solid option for them later in the draft. While he may not have the upside of a player like Mahomes, Peterman’s skillset could fit in nicely in O’Brien’s system. His pocket discipline, quick release, and ability to get through his progressions all bode well for his chances of success at the next level. Peterman showed good placement on short to intermediate routes, but also has the ability to air it out and ranked third in the nation last season with a 125.5 QB Rating on deep pass attempts.
Need: Offensive tackle
Starting right tackle Derek Newton tore both patella tendons last year, making his availability for the 2017 season uncertain at best. Newton’s replacement, Chris Clark, struggled to hold his own and surrendered 73 total pressures on the year, the most in the league. Suffice to say, the Texans are in need of a new right tackle. With all the top tackle options in free agency already accounted for, Houston will have to sift through this year’s draft pool to fill the void on their line.
Early-round target: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
Only the Carolina Panthers have run the ball more times than the Texans over the last three seasons. With that sort of commitment to the run game, Utah’s Bolles may be the perfect prospect to fill Houston’s need at right tackle. Bolles is one of the most physical linemen in the draft and ranked second among his peers with his 83.9 run-blocking grade. He’s also shown very quick feet and the ability to block on the move. He has some room to improve as a pass protector, but overall would be a great fit on Houston’s offensive line.
Mid- or late-round target: Justin Senior, OT, Mississippi State
Senior may be more of a project than Day 1 starter, but his physical tools and high ceiling make him worthy of a mid-round selection in this draft. At 6-foot-5 and 331 pounds, Senior has a great frame and is able to utilize his long reach to gain an advantage over defenders. He’s one of the more athletic tackles in the draft and was at his best as a zone blocker in college. His technique may not be up to par at times, but Senior graded consistently well last season and significantly improved his grades in each of his three years at Mississippi State.
Unfortunately for the Texans, safety Quintin Demps cashed in on his career year, signing with the Chicago Bears this offseason and leaving Houston with a void on the backend of their secondary. While returning starter Andre Hal is coming off a solid campaign of his own with three interceptions and four pass breakups, the Texans are still lacking an impact player at the position. This year’s draft is fairly deep at safety, so the Texans should have plenty of good options to consider when they find themselves on the clock.
Early-round target: Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M
Evans was one of the nation’s top coverage safeties in 2016, giving up an average of just 8.3 yards per reception and ranking second in coverage grade (90.2). He has outstanding range on the back end and is able to finish plays with his excellent ball skills, collecting four interceptions and eight pass breakups last season. Evans is a highly aggressive player, going full speed in nearly everything he does, which can lead to him playing himself out of position at times. He missed 23 tackles in 2016, third-most among safeties, which is something he’ll clearly have to clean up at the next level. He certainly has a boom-or-bust nature to his game, but Evans is the kind of aggressive playmaker that would instantly upgrade the backend of the Texans defense.
Mid- or late-round target: Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado
The only safety to post a better coverage grade than Evans last season was Colorado’s Thompson. His seven interceptions were tied for most in the nation in 2016, and opposing QBs had a rating of just 21.3 when throwing into his coverage. Thompson also proved to be a sure tackler, earning the highest tackling efficiency in the passing game among all safeties in this draft class. He lacks top-end speed which may push him down some draft boards, but he’d provide great value for the Texans should he be available in the fourth or fifth round.