With Senior Bowl practices wrapped up I wanted to provide the future NFL players I thought stood out the most and would fit the Houston Texans needs - there's a lot of them!
Winners of the 2022 Senior Bowl and Houston Texans Fits
Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College
The top player at the event, Johnson was a first-round talent before this week and continued to impress scouts as he took reps at center for the first time ever. He's played left tackle and left guard at BC and looked good doing it, plus stayed late after every Senior Bowl practice to master snapping the ball. Johnson stood out as a run blocker during team periods and was the best pass protector in 1on1s as well.
This rep from Zion Johnson has everything. Strong base and good lateral athleticism, great leverage, brisk hand replacement. Flawlessly absorbs Travis Jones’ power.— Ian Cummings (@ian_cummings_9) February 4, 2022
Johnson was spectacular at times in Mobile. This might’ve been his finest moment. pic.twitter.com/2bZyXZhrNp
His commitment to play wherever is necessary and refine his craft will attract every NFL team his way. I had hoped Johnson would be available for the Texans second pick at the top of the 2nd round but he's trending towards a top 20 pick. If we gain a second 1st round pick after trading Deshaun Watson, Johnson would be someone I pound the table for.
Interior offensive line is arguably the Texans biggest need as we need to improve our league worst run defense and protect Davis Mills, or whoever wins the QB1 spot.
Perrion Winfrey, IDL, Oklahoma
Another player with a high pedigree going into the week, Winfrey solidified his strong tape and showcased how he can impact the run and pass game. During team drills, he consistently beat solo blocks and penetrated into the backfield to blow up runs. During 1on1s, he displayed explosive get-off and well-planned and timed pass rush moves.
With his size, athleticism and playing style, Winfrey projects favorably to a 3-tech defensive tackle position in a 4-3 so that he can take advantage of solo blocks and shoot gaps. This is a role Maliek Collins thrived in this season for the Texans and is a good player comparison for Winfrey.
Collins might have played his way out of Houston, but if Winfrey is available at the top of the 2nd round, there wouldn't be many other players I would value over him.
Cole Strange, IOL, Chatanooga
The small school prospect, Strange had a lot to gain this week and he answered the bell. While he wasn't perfect, he moved from guard to center and won plenty of reps, rising to the competition levels he hadn't faced at Chatanooga.
With Zion Johnson being an unlikely addition, Strange would be a round 3 option to bolster the interior of the Texans offensive line. He offers mauling power as a run blocker and the anchor to hold his own in pass protection. While he may not start right away - improving his hand variety and timing will be big - Strange could grow into a good starter for a decade.
Reasons to draft @ColeStrange2— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) February 4, 2022
1) Wears 69
2) Constantly refits his hands to find anchor with great hip drive.
3) Nimble feet that move independently with a wide base.
4) Named Cole Strange. pic.twitter.com/MbgqOoUKCf
Jesse Luketa, EDGE/LB, Penn State
The Canadian defender played a lot of linebacker for the Nittany Lions but was at EDGE all week in Mobile. He won a ton of 1on1s, displaying the lower body twitch to sell an outside rush and counter inside to rack up a would-be sack.
Jesse Luketa has had Daniel Faalele’s number multiple times this week - superb inside counter pic.twitter.com/NEGkl9mwfC— Luke Carr (TD4LC) (@LukeCarrNFL) February 4, 2022
Furthermore, Luketa confirmed the physical run defense he showed on tape. One of the top highlights of the entire week occured when he set the edge and put six-foot-eight, 387 pound Daniel Faalele in the dirt.
Penn State’s Jesse Luketa vs 6-foot-8, 387-pound OT Daniel Faalele 🔥— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) February 2, 2022
Luketa is bringing it today at the @seniorbowl. pic.twitter.com/zRZcFwBamI
Luketa would fit nicely in a 4-3 or 3-4 system, playing the SAM role where he can thrive near the line of scrimmage as a run defender, pass rusher and coverage man. He reaffirmed the day 2 grade I gave him before this week and would be an ideal 3rd round pick for the Texans.
Dameon Pierce, RB, Florida
I really wanted to list Missouri Tyler Badie here, as he was electric all week. The RB who fits better for the Texans though is Pierce, who stood out with his pass protection, receiving skills and contact balance as a runner.
Without knowing the exact offensive system the Texans plan to run, it's difficult to project a RB like the aforementioned Badie who has lackluster size at five-foot-seven and 199 pounds. Whereas the bigger Pierce, who measured in at five-foot-nine and 220 pounds is a scheme diverse talent.
His tough between-the-tackles running and dependability on passing downs makes him one of the best RBs to bet on during the early rounds of day 3.
I’m force feeding the TL Dameon Pierce pass pro. He didn’t allow a single pressure the entire 2021 season. pic.twitter.com/ziJBUR196k— King of Phinland🐬👑 (@KingOfPhinland) February 3, 2022
Mario Goodrich, CB, Clemson
The cornerback who surprised me the most, Goodrich looked extremely sticky in his 1on1s and team periods all week long. I say he surprised me because I thought his tape was decent but not spectacular.
However, he was put in a ton of man coverage reps this week and showed off his route-mirroring and stop-start ability. Goodrich is a twitchy athlete with the length to finish off reps with a PBU.
It has been DB day here at @seniorbowl practice. Both groups of DBs have been giving WRs fits.— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) February 1, 2022
Here’s a good look at @ClemsonFB CB Mario Goodrich on lockdown pic.twitter.com/f9r9g1VEyC
With Desmond King entering free agency and Terrance Mitchell being a below average CB, the Texans have a big need at the position which Goodrich could fill late day 2/early day 3.
Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota
While there were many EDGE defenders who stood out this week, most of them are projected to go late round 1 or early round 2. Mafe provides plenty of upside as a mid/late round pick, ideally around round 4 for me.
Mafe made Bruce Feldman's "Freak List" for his reported 40 ½” vertical jump, 4.57 40-yard-dash, 1.58 10-yard-split and ability to squat 653 pounds. That athleticism was on full display during 1on1s as Mafe consistently used his speed to win the corner.
So Boye Mafe is damn explosive, extremely quick and twitchy and he shows it on this rep. pic.twitter.com/tCdGtrxDlt— Ben Glassmire (@BenGlassmireNFL) February 2, 2022
With Jacob Martin entering free agency and dare I say it, he does not return to the Texans, Mafe would provide a similar archetype of player who wins with explosiveness and a hot motor.
Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA
I'll be honest, if there was one position I spent the least amount of time watching, it was the TEs. That being said, every time I turned my attention to them, Dulcich was making a great catch and gaining YAC afterwards.
The former WR really took advantage of his background and regularly separated with ease in the 1on1s and team periods. His blend of size, speed and sharp routes gave every linebacker fits.
Dulcich's tape at UCLA also showed a physical blocker with the frame and quickness to be an effective run blocker in a zone scheme. He would be a nice complement to Brevin Jordan, providing another elusive receiving weapon with even higher potential as a blocker.
.@UCLAFootball TE Greg Dulcich showed out today and I was most impressed with his blocking. Climbs up to the safety and blocks through the whistle. He has taken strides with his blocking from day one to day two of the #SeniorBowl. pic.twitter.com/VtF32O6Vpb— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) February 3, 2022
Dulcich would be a great pickup in the 4th or 5th round and would really excel in any scheme as he played in-line at a run-first scheme with UCLA, but also possesses the movement skills and route running savvy to be flexed into the slot at a west coast spread scheme.
Oh and he was also a really great dude to interview.
#UCLA TE Greg Dulcich was a great interview!— Jordan (@Texans_Thoughts) February 2, 2022
We talked about how his transition from WR to TE has helped him in the receiving game with releases and coverages, plus much more 🔊 pic.twitter.com/H8GCeYRFvz
Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
The best LB in my eyes was the former QB from Montana State - Andersen didn't get reps on offense this week but his athletic ability shined at LB. He had his best moments during 1on1s when covering RBs and TEs in man coverage. Andersen showcased exceptional recovery speed and the hand-eye coordination to consistently breakup passes at the catch point.
Love the recovery here from #MontanaState LB Troy Andersen.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 4, 2022
He’s still learning, but this is why you bet on those athletic traits. pic.twitter.com/hQRJWjzg17
Linebackers with three-down value are tough to come by and Andersen's blend of size at six-foot-three, 242 pounds, football instincts and range provide a strong ceiling. He'd be a great day 3 pick to develop behind some veterans and potentially grow into a starting role.
Velus Jones Jr., WR, Tennessee
While I was extremely tempted to list NDSU Christian Watson as a standout WR, I think his skillset is a bit too similar to Nico Collins and there were other WRs who provided different elements which could balance out our WR room.
Thus, closing out this article is Jones Jr. who was a prolific kick/punt returner in his six collegiate years. The Texans could certainly use a dynamic threat to flip field position but Jones Jr. also displayed the improved route running I was hoping to see.
He got more and more comfortable every day this week and was virtually unguardable during the 1on1 sessions on day 3. From his variety of release packages to how he attacked CBs leverage to throw them off the scent of his route, Jones Jr. displayed the route salesmanship and twitch needed to help the Texans out as a slot weapon.
Okay, Velus Jones is the clear winner of Day 3 1-on-1s. Filthy route running 🔥 pic.twitter.com/hT0TAbrdLD— Luke Carr (TD4LC) (@LukeCarrNFL) February 4, 2022
Velus Jones gets the better of Roger McCreary again on a perfect fade route - using his inside arm to keep distance between himself and McCreary before grabbing the contested catch pic.twitter.com/wSNPGMpjUi— Luke Carr (TD4LC) (@LukeCarrNFL) February 4, 2022