Welcome to my annual Houston Texans draft takeaways, this year there was much more to talk about with more draft picks! Most importantly having a 1st and 2nd draft after a drought, due in part because of the previous regime.
Houston Texans 2022 NFL Draft Takeaways
Texans viewing Derek Stingley Jr. as CB1 wasn't a surprise
Hypothetical: If #Texans go CB at 3, I find it hard to pass up Stingley.— Jair Lopez (@JRLTU) April 22, 2022
Texans upgraded secondary with two of their first three picks
There is no way to beat around the bush, Derek Stingley Jr.'s best football came in his 2019 freshman season, but his coverage and ball skills were evident in his college tape to warrant being the first CB off the board. There are tangible reasons why he is viewed as the top CB prospect in high school, he was playing WR and CB for his high school football team, and he possesses ball skills that don't come around very often and that is something the Texans covet from their cornerbacks.
Texans have only 3 cornerbacks returning next season and they have special teams return ability in their background, Tavierre Thomas, Tremon Smith, and Desmond King. Their ability to make plays on the football was on display last season and Stingley Jr. will join that group as the fourth cornerback with special teams ability as he was LSU's punt returner.
All of the production or additional attributes that Stingley brings to the table shouldn't be seen as a knock on Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, who played well in the biggest game of his college career against Alabama, to his credit you can only play who is in front of you in the AAC. However, Stingley Jr. faced a much steeper level of competition at QB/WR through his time in college and it wasn't close.
Stingley faced Trevor Lawrence, Jalen Hurts, Mac Jones, Tua Tagovoila, Jordan Love, Jake Fromm, Kyle Trask, Kellen Mond, Jake Ehlingher, Matt Corral, and Joe Burrow in LSU practices. Not to mention the likes of Kyle Pitts, Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, George Pickens, and LSU receivers (Ja'Marr Chase & Justin Jefferson) in practice.
Stingley has the football pedigree that Texans preach they want from their football players. He was raised around the game of football, his grandfather, Darryl Stingley, played receiver for the New England Patriots until an unfortunate neck injury ended his football career prematurely. However, his love for the game continued through his father, Derek Stingley, who played arena football and was one of Stingley Jr.'s HS football coaches.
Stingley Jr. was awarded #7 at LSU as one of the best playmakers and leaders on the team. In an interview with Mad Rabbit, his father disclosed that Stingley Jr. suffered a Lisfranc injury on the first day of practice in his Junior year. However, he still played 3 games before deciding to shut it down. No one can blame him if he would've opted for surgery earlier but that doesn't sound like a player who was looking in his own best interest despite having his NFL future ahead of him.
ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported on draft day that the Texans held some interest in moving up from 13 to the Top 10 and connecting the dots from that report, Stingley made a lot of sense if the Texans decided to go DE or OL at 3.
The Texans were not the only team making calls to move up, Panthers GM Scott Fitterer was transparent that teams were calling at 6 before the draft started but it went silent after Stingley and Sauce were off the board.
How much trade action did the #Panthers have at pick #6??— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) May 2, 2022
GM Scott Fitterer "There were several team's that wanted to come up, thought we had 3 really good offers"
Also, talks about a possible trade into the 2nd for a QB
🏈👇 Audio #KeepPounding pic.twitter.com/wJlK2BtW5x
There was a drop-off after Stingley and Sauce were drafted as the next cornerbacks drafted in the 1st were Trent McDuffie (Chiefs at 21) and Kaiir Elam (Bills at 23). Only 4 CB were taken in the 1st round of the 2022 draft, which is a lower number than the last few drafts, 5 in 2021, and 6 in 2020.
Texans also drafted Baylor's versatile defensive back and Texas native, Jalen Pitre, in the 2nd round. Texans GM Nick Caserio was present for Baylor's Pro Day and was complimentary of the work Dave Aranda has done with the program since taking over in the Texans post-draft presser.
Pitre is a swiss army knife that doesn't have a definite position. He tested well at the NFL Combine and his Pro Day, and he isn't afraid to tackle, which can't be said about most defensive backs. The Texans have had some solid defensive backs that can tackle in the past like Justin Reid or Tavierre Thomas, no offense to those guys, but they have missed having a player like Kareem Jackson that can set the tone as a tackler.
Pitre has that energy you want from your secondary and if Thomas can build from what he showed in 2021, the Texans could start having some semblance of a good secondary.
It is also fair to note the Texans came away from the 2022 draft with two former defensive backs coached by Dave Aranda, Pitre (Baylor), and Stingley Jr. (LSU). Might be a coincidence or something to keep an eye for the future.
Addressing the OL
Kenyon Green was a solid pick after the Texans traded from 13 to 15 and got 2 4th and a 5th in return from the Philadelphia Eagles. Caserio disclosed that they had an offer on the table to trade back to the Steelers, who owned the 20th pick, but they decided to stay put.
It turned out to be the right choice as the Chargers were interested in drafting a guard as well, the Texans ended up getting their guard of choice and the Chargers drafted Zion Johnson at 17.
Choosing Green as the top prospect wasn't a surprise with Nick Caserio's track record of offensive linemen since taking the Texans' job as GM. Kenyon Green will be the 4th Texas A&M offensive lineman since 2021. The other ones are Cedric Ogbuehi, Carson Green, and Ryan McCollum (Lions signed him off the Texans practice squad).
Texans also drafted Austin Deculus with their 6th-round pick. Deculus is a solid pick for being a durable starter in LSU for 4 years and in one of the stronger football conferences in the SEC. Funny enough, Houston ended up with two LSU players after drafting Stingley Jr, with their first pick and Deculus with their final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Going Alabama in Day 2
Texans drafted two Alabama players in this draft, John Metchie and Christian Harris. Houston traded up for both players. Both picks came before the Ravens were on the clock, who notably have an affection for Alabama players. When the pick was in for Metchie, Ian Rapoport reported the Ravens intended to draft Metchie before the Texans moved up to get him.
Metchie is the 2nd receiver drafted since Pep was hired on the Texans staff last year. Metchie revealed that Pep recruited him heavily in high school. He will now join Nico Collins, who played for Michigan while Pep was coaching there.
Metchie and Collins will join Brandon Cooks as the Texans hope to get some much-needed production from their receiver group. Another interesting name that will be with Pep on the Texans is Phillip Dorsett, who was drafted by the Colts while Pep was the Offensive Coordinator. Pep was fired in the midst of Dorsett's rookie season but the Texans have surrounded Pep with a lot of familiar faces as the Texans OC.
Offense starting to reflect Pep Hamilton's vision
Pep is having a strong say in how the offense is built. Another player the Texans drafted on offense was Teagan Quitoriano. Mostly known as a solid blocking Y tight end, he was voted as an honorable mention all-conference by the Pac-12 coaches. Coincidentally Pep's close friend, Stanford HC David Shaw saw Quitoriano quite a bit in the Pac-12.
Pep mentioned that he spoke with Shaw through the draft process before the Texans selected Davis Mills in 2021. It probably wouldn't be a stretch to say that Pep probably had some good resources to know what Quitoriano brought to the table from an opposing coach and close friend.
Caserio also mentioned in the post-draft press conference that the Texans' offensive coaching staff was ecstatic when they drafted Quitoriano on Day 3.
Texans have Gone Stanford in back to back drafts
Speaking of Pac-12 players, the Texans drafted Thomas Booker in the 5th round from Stanford. Booker tested remarkably well in the NFL combine and he checks every box as a player on and off the field. Booker is probably my favorite pick in Day 3 and it's hard not to see why after coming across his interview on Brett Kollman's YouTube Channel, Bootleg Football Clip.
I know It's hard to get excited about drafting a defensive lineman that likely won't be a Year 1 starter but Booker could benefit from learning the 3 technique position behind Maliek Collins, who will be a free agent in 2024.
Over the past two years, Houston has shown strong connections with Stanford as they also signed Stanford wide receiver Connor Wedington and quarterback Kevin Hogan, who Pep recruited coming out of high school and coached as Stanford's OC. Pep also hired another former Stanford QB he coached in Robbie Picazo to form part of his staff on offense.
Texans address RB
With several talented backs left on the board on Day 3, the Houston Texans drafted Dameon Pierce early in the 4th round. Which was pretty notable with the likes of Isaiah Spiller (Texas A&M) and Zamir White (Georgia) still on the board.
Pierce isn't the fastest back and it showed when running a 4.59 in his 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine but history has shown a 40 isn't the best indication of success for a running back.
Arian Foster ran 4.69 (Pro Day)
Carlos Hyde ran 4.66 (Combine)
Mark Ingram ran 4.66 (Combine)
Le'Veon Bell ran a 4.6 (Combine)
Devonta Freeman ran a 4.58 (Combine)
Jay Ajayi ran 4.57 (Combine)
LeGarrette Blount ran 4.74 at the Combine, and 4.59 in Pro Day
Pierce shows enough athleticism at the running back position and his physicality will help him at the next level. He showed good pass pro in the Senior Bowl and showed enough promise to contribute as a receiver in the passing game.
Dameon Pierce showing RB’s everywhere that pass pro doesn’t have to be passive good LORD pic.twitter.com/GNAKUlTF33— Mike Golic Jr (@mikegolicjr) December 24, 2021
Florida RB Dameon Pierce put in a shift on Day 2 of the Senior Bowl. His toughness and effort in pass protection was really impressive pic.twitter.com/BIiAL0wWAu— Jack Brentnall (@Jack_Brentnall) February 3, 2022
Me, every show for 2 weeks: “you’re going to see Dameon Pierce putting defensive linemen on their asses at the Senior Bowl.”— Christian Williams (@CWilliamsNFL) February 2, 2022
Dameon Pierce: pic.twitter.com/HwqexF8wM2
Pass pro is extremely hard for most running backs at the college level and it doesn't get any easier in the NFL. Pierce has shown willingness to run the football, be a receiver, and the ability to stay on 3rd downs as another blocker.
It is honestly surprising he didn't have a bigger role in Florida's offense. The best thing for Texans fans is that he doesn't have a lot of tread on his tires compared to other backs in this draft. He still finished the 2021 season with 100 touches for 574 yards, 5.7 yards per carry, 13 rushing TD, and 3 TD receptions.
It is hard to gauge Pierce's ceiling at the NFL level but he could be a better player than what he was in college.
Houston Texans draft tendecies under GM Nick Caserio
2021 NFL Draft:
Davis Mills Stanford
Nico Collins Michigan (traded up)
Garrett Wallow TCU (traded up)
Brevin Jordan Miami
Roy Lopez Arizona
2022 NFL Draft:
Derek Stingley LSU
Kenyon Green Texas A&M
Jalen Pitre Baylor
John Metchie Alabama (traded up)
Christian Harris Alabama (traded up)
Dameon Pierce Florida
Thomas Booker Stanford (traded up)
Teagan Quitoriano Oregon State (traded up)
Austin Deculus LSU
Oregon State, Arizona, Miami, TCU, Michigan, Texas A&M, Florida, Baylor: 1
Total players drafted: 14
SEC players drafted: 6
Pac-12 players drafted: 4
Big 12 players drafted: 2
ACC players drafted: 1
Big 10 players drafted: 1
Despite Caserio's reported willingness in finding good football players no matter the conference, it is safe to say he is more than comfortable finding talent within the Power 5 conferences. This isn't a knock but noticeable, to say the least.
Caserio has also seem to take an interest on promising high school recruits. Davis Mills (#1 Pro Style QB in 2017), Brevin Jordan (#1 TE in 2018), Derek Stingley Jr. (#1 CB in 2019). Kenyon Green, Austin Deculus, Christian Harris, Thomas Booker and Dameon Pierce were highly recruited prospects coming out of high school, who went to some of the better known college football programs to export NFL players.
Another tendecy shown early on in Caserio's tenure has been trading up for players. Almost half of the Texans draft selections (6/14) have been the Texans moving up for them, and a part of it has to with having a smaller draft board than most teams across the league
NIck Caserio said Texans have roughly 80 to 100 players team would regard as players they would draft.— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) April 21, 2022
This isn't something new, Caserio and the Patriots Scouting department held a similar practice in New England.
Fifty-to-75? Nick Caserio acknowledges that the Patriots have a draft board that is typically smaller than the norm. https://t.co/qNW543Y4T5— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) April 18, 2017
Now it doesn't mean the Texans scouting department does less work than other teams around the league, but they have a stricter criteria on who makes the final cut for a draftable grade on their board. If the Texans believe certain players won't be around when they are on the clock they might feel a stronger conviction to trade up for their guy.
The same can be said if a team wants to trade up from where Houston is picking, they can decide to stand pat instead of moving back if they believe their group of target players won't be there when they are on the clock again.
It's been fascinating to track some of Caserio's tendencies when the draft comes around, and there will be more data to draw from once next year comes around.