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No One Is Talking About The Texans’ Top Five Draft Class

Entering the 2022 NFL Draft, no team had more picks to work with than the Houston Texans. And, with two of these selections being in the first round, many analysts expected the Texans to play a significant role in shaping the outcome of the entire draft.

Well, Houston’s GM Nick Cesario did not disappoint, taking nine players by the end of the weekend with multiple trades along the way. However, many biased voices in the national media have been quick to criticize a number of Texans’ choices. But a closer look at the team from a fan perspective tells a much different story:

A Lockdown Corner Back At Three

The goal of any sports draft is simple: fill positions of need on your team. Nothing more. Nothing less. The Texans did exactly that in the first round of this year’s NFL draft. First, was the highly anticipated third overall pick, which ended up being LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. Stingley is a former all-American and was the leader of the 2019 national championship-winning Tiger defense.

At the conclusion of the 2019 season, Stingley was viewed as a future all-pro, shutdown NFL cornerback, drawing comparisons to the likes of Jalen Ramsey. In fact, Stingley was even projected to go first overall in this year’s class at one point. However, multiple injury-riddled seasons have tanked Stingley’s draft stock, which is why many analysts view him as a reach for the Texans at third overall.

Nonetheless, Stingley’s potential to be a once-in-a-generation type cornerback cannot be underscored, as long as he stays healthy. Additionally, Stingley fits perfectly into the defensive scheme Texans’ head coach Lovie Smith would like to run, which calls for ball-hawking cornerbacks. This is Stingley’s specialty as most of his highlights come from unreal, acrobatic interceptions. This (likely) explains why he was Houston’s selection instead of the more highly touted cornerback, Ahmad Gardner out of Cinncinati.

Most importantly, by selecting Stingley, Nick Cesario was able to fill the team’s most pressing need. Since the departure of Johnathan Joeseph in 2019 (and even before), the Texans have lacked a true shutdown cornerback, constantly getting torched by the league’s leading receivers.

Last season, things reached an all-time low with a washed-up Desmond King and the formerly undrafted Tavierre Thomas sitting atop the depth chart. As a result, Stefon Diggs, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Lockett, and others all had some of their best games of the season against Houston. Clearly, Stingley provides a much-needed boost to this defensive unit.

Loading The Trenches At 15

Perhaps the most intriguing pick Houston held entering the draft was the 13th overall selection acquired from Cleveland as part of the Deshaun Watson trade. Many expected the Texans to maneuver with the pick and either trade into the top 10 or trade back and gain more capital for the future. Ultimately, Nick Cesario made a deal with the Eagles, moving back just two spots to pick 15, where he took interior offensive lineman Kenyon Green out of Texas A&M.

Green is a big, physical athlete standing at 6’4” and weighing in at just over 324 pounds. Although average as a pass blocker, Green was the best run-blocking offensive lineman in the entire draft. His work in the trenches propelled Texas A&M to the 3rd best rushing attack in the SEC (yards per attempt).

Once again, many in the national media have categorized Houston’s selection of Green as a reach, as they viewed him as a late first to early second-rounder. Additionally, most analysts would have preferred the Texans make a “flashier” move by either trading up to select a top-end receiver or staying at 13 to take (arguably) a top-five prospect in safety Kyle Hamilton.

However, what all of these pundits fail to consider is the fact that the Texans have had the worst ranked rush offense in the NFL in each of the past two seasons. And, although the NFL has transformed into a pass-heavy league, establishing the run is still essential to have an even functional offense. Thus, Cesario is completely justified in taking Green with the 15th pick. It may have been a reach for another team, but the Texans were desperate for a consistent, dependable run blocker, making Green too good to pass up.

Additionally, as it would soon be found out, all hope was not lost for the Texans at positions like safety and receiver. Cesario simply played the waiting game in round one, taking advantage of the depth available at these positions in round two. And, his trade with the Eagles would prove pivotal in achieving this goal.

Stealing The Draft On Days Two And Three

What often defines a successful draft is not a team’s initial picks, but the value gained past the first round. The Texans excelled in this aspect, drafting multiple potential starters well into the late rounds of the draft. First was Houston’s selection of safety Jalen Pitre out of Baylor with their first pick in the second round (37th overall). The reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Pitre is an extremely versatile safety who excels at all three levels.

At Baylor, he primarily played in the slot with man coverage being his greatest strength. But, he is also comfortable covering the backend or blitzing from near the line of scrimmage. Similar to Stingley, Pitre is a secure tackler and ballhawk who should also fit beautifully into Lovie Smith’s scheme. Again, this duo transforms Houston’s secondary from mediocre into a potential top-end unit in the league down the road. Thus, while Cesario didn’t spend a pick on Kyle Hamilton, he got the clear next best option in Pitre.

Soon after taking Pitre, the Texans traded back up into the early second round to select receiver John Metchie III out of Alabama. The deal was made with Cleveland and it’s important to note that a fourth pick the Texans received in their first-round trade with the Eagles was essential to making this move possible. By drafting Metchie, Houston finally answered the cries for them to take a pass catcher. Metchie fits the mold of a prototypical Alabama receiver, doing a number of things from catching to route running well.

However, while Metchie does not have any glaring holes in his game, he also is not exceptionally gifted in any area, largely due to his small build. Nonetheless, he will bring a level of consistency to the Houston offense that is severely lacking and should be a solid number two option for quarterback Davis Mills alongside Brandin Cooks. That is, as soon as he recovers from an ACL tear suffered in the SEC championship game.

The final significant pick Nick Cesario made came on day three when he took Florida running back Dameon Pierce near the top of the fourth round. Pierce is exactly the type of strong, physical runner the Texans need in their backfield. He possesses incredible balance and toughness that allows him to bounce off defenders before breaking free into open space. He uses his stocky 5’10” frame to his advantage by running low to the ground and punishing would-be tacklers.

The real concern with Pierce is the fact that he was not heavily utilized at Florida, leaving scouts unsure of his ability to handle an NFL workload. But, given that Pierce will face zero competition in Houston’s backfield if he can develop his pass-catching and blocking abilities, he could easily turn into the Texans’ every-down back. In fact, Pierce has the potential to be the best rookie running back, solely because of the sheer volume he will receive in the Houston offense.

Future Expectations

Overall, Nick Cesario did exactly what he needed to do in this year’s draft. While the big, splash-moves analysts and fans like to judge a draft by were limited, Cesario addressed almost every major area of need on the team. Another common theme amongst the players Houston added is their experience in the SEC or with other big-name schools. This makes them seem well prepared for NFL game speed and competition, meaning almost every player the Texans’ drafted into round four could be a day one starter. Again, with the number of holes on Houston’s roster, having pro-ready prospects is crucial.

As anticipation for the 2022 NFL season builds, the Texans should have two major goals in mind. The first is to get each rookie drafted as much playing time as possible. While no one should be rushed into a starting role, Houston has nothing to lose by playing the younger, more inexperienced players on the team, as playoffs are still a long way out.

The second is to fully invest in the development of Davis Mills. Cesario did this by taking offensive weapons and defensive players that can force turnovers in the draft. Now it’s up to Mills to prove himself and take the next step with the continued support of the front office and coaching staff. Otherwise, Houston’s first pick of the 2023 draft will almost certainly be a quarterback.

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