For the Houston Texans, the 2022 NFL Draft is a chance to start again with a clean slate and rebuild a fractured franchise. With the Deshaun Watson saga in the rearview mirror, General Manager Nick Caserio has a wagonload of picks and a depleted roster to fill. Here are how things might go for the Texans in Las Vegas:
Pick No. 4: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
Even with Laremy Tunsil on the roster, drafting Evan Neal with the fourth overall selection would be a no-brainer for the Texans. Neal could slide to the right tackle position where he played during the 2020 season for Alabama and would bookend with Tunsil to form one of the best tackle pairings in the NFL. Neal did allow two sacks last season, but few doubt he is a Pro Bowl talent in the making and one of the safest picks of this class.
Pick No. 13: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
If Trent McDuffie is still around, the Texans can’t afford to pass on him. He is the best zone corner in the draft and should fit perfectly into Lovie Smith’s defense. McDuffie didn’t allow a single score last season and although he is a little small for a cornerback, there is little doubt he is an elite talent who will provide immediate improvement to a Texans secondary in desperate need of playmakers.
Pick No. 37: WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
It is once again a deep class at the wide receiver position, with first round talents dropping into Day Two. Dotson is a borderline first round pick and the best slot receiver in the class. He would provide a quality target for Davis Mills and will start immediately for Houston.
Pick No. 68: EDGE Drake Jackson, USC
The Texans have struggled with their pass rush since J.J. Watt left for Arizona. The Texans could address this far earlier in the draft, but in a deep class, they can afford to wait until the top of third round. Drake Jackson has a fantastic bend and does have the prototype frame for an NFL EDGE rusher. However, he was inconsistent at USC and needs more coaching to unlock his potential.
Pick No. 80: S Kerby Joseph, Illinois
There are bigger needs on the Texans roster than the addition of a safety, but Kerby Joseph would be hard to pass up in the middle of the third round. He has played just one full season for Illinois, which will hurt his draft stock, but picked up five interceptions last season and earned an exceptional PFF coverage of 90.6. He will require some seasoning at the next level, but his upside is worth investing in at this point.
Pick No. 107: TE Greg Dulcich, UCLA
The cupboard looks bare at the tight end position in Houston, so the Texans will need to pick up a prospect in the later rounds. Greg Dulcich is coming off an impressive season at UCLA, amassing 725 yards and five touchdowns. He isn’t the best blocker, but he is a legitimate receiving threat and should start in his rookie season.
Pick No. 108: OL Luke Fortner, Kentucky
The interior portion of the offensive line is weak for the Houston Texans, who are forced to face both DeForest Buckner and Jefferey Simmons twice a season. Luke Fortner has played all three positions on the interior line at Kentucky and would likely plug in at the guard position in his rookie season and could develop into a long-term starter at the center position.
Pick No. 183: RB Zonovan Knight, NC State
Having signed Marlon Mack in free agency, the running back position isn’t the Texans’ biggest need. However, this late in the draft, it would be a smart investment. Knight amassed 900 yards from scrimmage last season at North Dakota State and averaged 5.4 yards per attempt.
Pick No. 205: LB Jeremiah Moon, Florida
Adding some assistance on the second level would be another smart investment for Houston. Jeremiah Moon was an EDGE rusher converted over to linebacker last season at Florida. His athletic profile is impressive, but will be a project player on defense and special teams during his first season.
Pick No. 207: OL Josh Rivas, Kansas State
Josh Rivas is an under-the-radar prospect who impressed over three seasons as the starting left guard at Kansas State. Although he didn’t give up a sack in his senior year, Rivas’ pass protection is a work in progress. He excelled as a run blocker, posting a PFF run-blocking grade of 81.0.
Pick No. 245: DE Carson Wells, Colorado
Taking a player with a defined strength is a solid strategy in the seventh round. Wells excelled as a run defender at Colorado and would be a useful option. He has some pass-rush skills as well, totaling six sacks in each of his final two seasons. Still, he may struggle to do that against NFL tackles.