The Rotoworld Football crew’s Ian Hartitz, Nick Mensio, John Daigle and Hayden Winks are breaking down every team's biggest needs, division by division, and Josh Norris offers potential solutions in this month's NFL Draft.
For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.
QB: Deshaun Watson
RB: David Johnson
FB: Cullen Gillaspia
WR1: Will Fuller
WR2: Kenny Stills
SLWR: Randall Cobb
TE: Darren Fells
LT: Laremy Tunsil
LG: Max Scharping
C: Nick Martin
RG: Zach Fulton
RT: Tytus Howard
RE: Angelo Blackson
LE: J.J. Watt
NT: Timmy Jernigan
MLB: Benardrick McKinney
MLB: Brennan Scarlett
WLB: Zach Cunningham
SLB: Whitney Mercilus
LCB: Vernon Hargreaves
RCB: Bradley Roby
SLCB: Lonnie Johnson
FS: Justin Reid
SS: Tashaun Gipson
Receiver(s): While most organizations scramble to maximize winning if fortunate enough to stumble into a blossoming quarterback’s rookie-deal window, Bill ‘Thanos’ O’Brien took it upon himself to strip Deshaun Watson of perennial All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins, filling the void with veteran slot receiver Randall Cobb in free agency. Will Fuller, who’s missed 20 out of a possible 48 games the past three seasons, is entering the final year of his contract, and Darren Fells, 34 in April, hadn’t mustered any more than 21 catches prior to 2019’s surprising breakout (34/341/7). With Cobb shoring up the middle of the field, third-year slot speedster Keke Coutee might as well send his resume to Walmart. Watson previously leaned on Hopkins in Fuller’s absences whereas he’ll now find himself forcing throws to Kenny Stills and Cobb in the event the former goes down.
Nose Tackle/3-Technique: D.J. Reader, who has since signed with the Bengals on a four-year, $53 million deal, lacked the counting stats (23 tackles, two sacks) in his final year in Houston but arguably had proprietary rights to any success the team garnered in containing opposing running backs the past four years. He joins Jadeveon Clowney as the second stud down lineman to exit Houston in as many seasons, leaving Angelo Blackson and former Eagles DT Timmy Jernigan with big shoes to fill. Barring substantial upgrades, the Texans project to finish with similar marks in sacks (31, 27th-overall) and pressure rate (27.6%, 26th) in back-to-back campaigns.
Cornerback: The team allowed 35-year-old Johnathan Joseph to walk this offseason (and rightfully so), leaving behind Bradley Roby, former Bucs castoff Vernon Hargreaves and second-year slot corner Lonnie Johnson — all three of whom return this upcoming season — to improve on last year’s No. 26 pass defense DVOA. That unit also notably allowed the league’s fourth-most passing yards (4,276) to boot. Jack-of-all-trades DB Jaylen Watkins, who finished as Pro Football Focus’ No. 79 safety among 90 qualifiers, was the only significant addition to Houston’s secondary via the open market.
Texans’ Draft Picks
2 (40). WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State – Daigle covered it, but trading away a receiver for a pick that you “hope” develops into the same quality of player. Aiyuk has areas where he wins immediately – explosion, fluidity and yards after catch capability. But he is not the complete product that he is expected to replace in this scenario. How much will that gap in talent impact a playoff-caliber team?
2 (57). iDL Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M – While the defensive tackle talent might drop off after the top one or two names, there will be a number of solid pros selected afterward. Madubuike can be one of those, possessing the length, size, anchor and movement to win from multiple alignments. Watch his game against Ole Miss to see the former Aggie at his best.
3 (90). CB Bryce Hall, Virginia - If last year’s cornerback selection in Lonnie Johnson is any indication, the Texans might be trending towards athletic corners with size and length. Hall fits that mold in this class. His receiver background shows up when making plays on the ball.
4 (111). iDL James Lynch, Baylor - Another versatile piece along the defensive line. Lynch played most outside of the tackle, but also spent an even number of snaps adjacent to the guard and over top of the tackle. Per PFF, Lynch played the most snaps in the country at his position.
5 (171). EDGE Bradlee Anae, Utah - An effort pass rusher, Anae will make his mark chasing down disruption to pick up production. Yes, that’s three picks along the defensive line. The Texans must make more of an impact on that side of the ball this season.
7 (240). WR James Proche, SMU - This is a slot receiver hedge, as Randall Cobb and Keke Coutee certainly haven’t been beacons of health.
7 (248). OL Calvin Throckmorton, Oregon - Throckmorton basically played every spot along the offensive line during his time at Oregon. A true utility player.
7 (250). S Daniel Thomas, Auburn - A big nickel prospect who contributed his best work near the box, undercutting passes or attacking runs on the edge.
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