Yes, the 2020 NFL season isn’t even over for the Houston Texans, but I want to take a super early look at the 2021 NFL Draft Class, to see how we can improve this roster. The Texans aren’t stocked with premium capital, so finding mid-late round gems will be a high priority. Let’s look at who the media experts have the Texans drafting in the 3rd round, plus 3 of my favorite prospects who I think fit nicely for the future of this team.
Potential Houston Texans Draft Prospects: A Super Early Look
Before we get into who I think the Texans should be looking at, I wanted to see what the “experts” believe our needs are. There aren’t many 3-round mock drafts out there at the moment, but the three most well renowned mocks I found, all had us prioritizing defense.
First, I looked at Joe Marino of The Draft Network’s Mock and he has the Texans taking EDGE Ali Gaye, from LSU. He’s recorded 15 tackles, 6.5 TFLS, 1 sack and 5 PBUs in 5 games for the Tigers. At 6’6, 262 lbs, Gaye certainly has freaky athletic measurements. He pairs that size with long arms that allow him to strike the offensive linemen before they can. He’s a well-rounded EDGE prospect who plays the run, but also offers pass rushing capability. He has a power to his game, which allows him to collapse the pocket with ease.
His athletic testing numbers will be interesting for me, because by watching him, he doesn’t have stellar burst off the snap, or bend around the edge. Those are two critical traits I look for when scouting EDGE defenders. I am also a bit hesitant about his hand technique, as it seems like he mainly relies on his power and length. Gaye should definitely be a name to continue to monitor, as he is being projected to be drafted in the 2nd-3rd rounds.
Next, let’s take a look at AJ Schulte of Pro Football Network’s Mock, where he sends CB Trill Williams to the Texans. CB is definitely a position to look at over the offseason. I really like Roby, and hopefully Conley is healthy enough to be resigned to a reasonable deal, but the nickel position still needs major work, as the Texans play nickel near 70% of the game.
Trill Williams has intriguing size at 6’2, 198 lbs and offers positional versatility, playing boundary and nickel CB for Syracuse. He’s a junior who has really improved over his career. In 5 games this season he has a 90-yard pick six and 4 PBUs. Scouts rave about his speed and I think he’s a fairly fluid mover, at his size. I think he would be better as a boundary CB, however, seeing as there just aren’t many nickels who succeed in the NFL, at 6’2. Trill has opted out of the rest of the season and declared for the 2021 draft, so we won’t get to see more of him, unfortunately.
This wouldn’t be my favorite pick, as I think we should be drafting BPA and Trill is projected to come off the board around the 5th or 6th round. His game has a lot of Lonnie Johnson to it, so it would be paramount that if drafted, we have patience with Trill and let him develop at CB.
The last mock I want to look at was from Draftsite – where they mocked DT Jay Tufele from USC, to the Texans. This is my favorite pick so far, as Tufele is a STUD, and would be a STEAL in the 3rd round. The biggest issue for the Texans defense is their run defense. If they can’t stop the run, it makes stopping the pass so much harder. Getting a big body to pair with Ross Blacklock in the middle of our DL should be a major priority, and Tufele would be a great start.
He’s got great size to play all across the interior, measuring in at 6’3, 315 lbs. He’s shown the ability to stuff the run as a 1-tech, using his low pad level to generate power and not allow any push by offensive linemen. He’s got great length and strong hands which allows him to dominate his gap. He also shows promise as a pass rusher in the 3-tech role. When he’s given the opportunity to rush 1-on-1, he shows the potential to be an extremely disruptive player. I don’t think he would be available for the Texans in the 3rd round (graded as TDN’s 25th overall prospect and #1 DT) but this year will be extremely hard to predict. Prospects will rise and fall more than ever, but one thing is certain, if Tufele is there when the Texans pick, he would be a no brainer.
Matching Needs with Prospects
I like that these mock drafts are focusing defense heavy for the Texans. While it is a very talented and deep class in terms of offensive skill positions (WR, RB), we need to take the best player available. If that is a defender, perfect, because we certainly need more of them. So, what do I think are the Texans biggest positions of need going into the offseason?
I do think the EDGE position will have a ton of turnover in the offseason. While the Texans would never make it public, they do need to trade JJ Watt. I also think getting off of Whitney Mercilus’ contract should be a major priority. With that being said, the Texans could very well be without their two starting EDGE defenders and in my opinion, your defense starts in the trenches. Retooling here as a must, and I’ll have more prospects for y’all to look out for later in the season, but this freak is my favorite so far.
Chris Rumph II – My top draft prospect for the Texans, regardless of position. Rumph is the son of Texans OLB coach Chris Rumph, so the connection is already there. That’s not even really why I want him on my team though, rather that he is of the rare breed of EDGE rushers who can rush from the EDGE or interior. Even if we don’t get rid of JJ Watt or Whitney Mercilus, Rumph can come in and scare offenses to death, by lining up in the A Gaps and wrecking havoc.
The 6’3, 235 lbs prospect out of Duke may look a bit undersized on paper, but you would never think so when watching him on the field. He plays with a great level of physicality, never backing down from a bigger offensive lineman. I love his burst off the snap and willingness to punch offensive linemen first. He’s got long arms and powerful hands. His bend around the corner though is what is really special. He can flip his hips and demolish QB’s within seconds.
He’s a decent run defender from the edge and interior, and is someone who realizes that, and is looking to improve. What really blows me away with Rumph is how his game resembles Jadeveon Clowney and Za’Darius Smith. Both defenders are able to hover around the A Gaps and take on interior offensive linemen. They use quick swipe and club moves to instantly get pressure on the QB. Rumph is the same, shoving aside IOL like they are statues.
The versatility of Rumph excites me, especially when adding him to Jacob the GOAT Martin and Jonathan Greenard. His draft value is a bit all over the place at the moment, ranging from the 2nd-5th rounds. If the Texans can manage to get their hands on him, I would be screaming for joy.
2018-2019 Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMm0M2x_xBk
2019 Film vs Wake Forest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULDn5fgagi8
2020 Film vs Boston College: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDDdVp4DPqA
Other names: Patrick Jones II (Pittsburgh), Shaka Toney (Penn State), Xavier Thomas (Clemson)
Interior Defensive Line
The second biggest need for the Texans in my opinion is interior defensive line. As of right now, Ross Blacklock is the only lock to remain with the team going forward with the new regime. Charles Omenihu and PJ Hall have showed promise, but neither are guaranteed to be liked by the new coaching staff. I think Charles deserves to be a part of the future, but depending on the scheme we run, he could be phased out. Either way, we need more bodies on the interior, to improve a bottom of the league run defense and also bring a pass rush. The 2021 NFL Draft Class isn’t very deep in terms of IDL, I do think we should look to sign a veteran free agent here instead. However, one of the most intriguing prospects to come out of college over the past few years would be a home run pick, if available to the Texans.
Jalen Twyman – He’s going to get tons of Aaron Donald comparisons, which will be a blessing and a curse for his career. At 6’2, 290 lbs, the Pitt product certainly looks the part of Donald’s clone. When you turn on the tape, you see more and more similarities. His squatty frame allows for low pad level which generates natural power in his game. However, it’s his quickness and explosiveness that really screams Donald. He’s a natural as a pass rusher from the 3-tech position. The dude’s hands are crazy quick, mastering push-pull and swim moves. The best defenses have a 3-tech who can dominate his 1-on-1 blocks and generate interior pressure. I’m not saying he’s going to be as good as Donald, day 1, he isn’t as consistent yet. However, it’s extremely rare to find a player with his traits.
The Texans have seemingly never had this type of player, but Twyman can be a complete game changer. He’s projected to be a mid 2nd round pick, so the Texans may have to trade up for him. Stocked with three 4th rounders and three 6th rounders, I think it would be worth it for us to pull the trigger on Twyman’s talent. His skillset doesn’t come around every year, and pairing his pass rush ability with Blacklock’s run stuffing would be a perfect fit.
2019 highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4hu8GCDj4A
2019 Film vs Boston College: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rda5sfGCZGo
Other names: Marvin Wilson (FSU), Christian Barmore (Alabama), Levi Onwuzurike (Washington)
Interior Offensive Linemen
While there are other needs on the defensive side of the ball, I think IOL takes priority as it has utterly destroyed our chances to be a top offense this year. Nick Martin and Zach Fulton are having arguably the worst seasons of their careers, and the benching of Max Scharping still blows my mind. I hope the new coaching staff believes in Scharping, but he could be on the outs. There’s a lot of question marks here, so finding at least one new starter on the interior is a must. So, who do I like?
Deonte Brown – The dude is a mountain of a man at 6’4, 338 lbs. He’s the biggest guy on the field for Alabama and plays the nastiest too. He might be the most physical prospect I’ve every scouted. What made me fall in love with his game was how he man handled DT Derrick Brown from Auburn last year. He was the only guard prospect I saw hold their own against the consensus Top 5-10 pick. Check out that matchup if you have the time, as it really showcases his valuable traits. His power is his best quality, hands down. He can move grown men off their spots and out of their gaps. He fits perfectly for a power/gap running scheme, where he can make great drive blocks but also smash heads as a puller.
He’s not the most nimble on his feet, but he’s pretty damn good for his size. I think if he gets some of the “baby fat” off of him, which naturally comes with NFL strength and conditioning, he would be fine in a zone scheme as well. Brown is solid in pass protection, defensive linemen aren’t just going to run through him and out-power him. He can lose vs quickness occasionally, but he would instantly be the best IOL on the team. Brown’s draft projection is in the 2nd-3rd round and he could be a smart pick in the 3rd.
Film vs Missouri 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pGfFhLhEZo
Other names: Alec Lindstrom (Boston College), Ben Cleveland (Georgia), Trey Hill (Georgia)
Let me know what you think of the prospects I named, watch their film that I linked and make your own judgements! The Texans will also have major needs at CB (nickel), RB and WR, but let me know if you enjoy this article and I will dive into prospects at those positions as well. Plus, once we start to get rumors of who the Texans are interested in, I will be doing full film breakdowns on some of our top options. Man I'm excited for the draft.
Remember though, this is super early in the NFL Draft process, many names will rise and fall up and down draft boards from now until April. This draft will be a major test for the new GM, with limited draft capital, what would you do as the imaginary Texans GM. Trade up and land a stud? Trade down and accumulate more shots at decent players? Or just stand pat and take the best player available on your board? Let me know!