Photo via: LSU football/Facebook
With all the action in free agency, it's time to update my mock draft because many teams have filled their needs with free agents. The Houston Texans have the 23rd pick, so let's take a look at how the draft board might stack up.
1. Arizona Cardinals- Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray
Murray should be a great fit in Kingsbury's offense.Composite photo by Brandon Strange
Nothing changes for the Cardinals after free agency. I still think they take Murray and move on from Josh Rosen.
2. San Francisco 49ers- Alabama DL Quinnen Williams
With the 49ers trading for Dee Ford, they pass on Bosa and draft Quinnen Williams.
3. New York Jets- Ohio State DE Nick Bosa
I had the Jets taking DE Josh Allen in Mock 1.0, but with Bosa available this time around, they'll draft him instead of Allen.
4. Oakland Raiders- Kentucky Edge Josh Allen
The Raiders get a pass rusher to replace Khalil Mack.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Michigan DE Rashan Gary
Their defense was horrible last year, so they improve the pass rush with Gary.
6. New York Giants- Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins
It certainly looks like the Giants are rebuilding, and getting a QB has to be a priority.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars- Washington State OT Andre Dillard
With offensive tackle Cam Robinson coming off an ACL injury, the Jags add a tackle to protect their new QB, Nick Foles.
8. Detriot Lions- Mississippi State DE Montez Sweat
Guys that can sack the QB are hard to find.
9. Buffalo Bills- Florida OT Jawaan Taylor
The Bills have one of the worst offensive lines in the league, so they address their weakness with Taylor.
10. Denver Broncos- LSU LB Devin White
I had the Broncos drafting o-line in my first mock. Now that they added some players in free agency, I think they go defense and add a big time playmaker at linebacker. Is 4.42 a good forty time for a linebacker? I thought so.
11. Cincinnati Bengals- Alabama OL Jonah Williams
12. Green Bay Packers- Clemson DL Christian Wilkins
13. Miami Dolphins- Oklahoma OT Cody Ford
14. Atlanta Falcons- Houston DL Ed Oliver
15. Washington Redskins- Missouri QB Drew Lock
16. Carolina Panthers- Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson
17. New York Giants- Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf
18. Minnesota Vikings- Michigan LB Devin Bush
19. Tennessee Titans- Iowa TE Noah Fant
20. Pittsburgh Steelers- Oklahoma WR Marquise Brown
21. Seattle Seahawks- Clemson Edge Clelin Ferrell
22. Baltimore Ravens- Florida Edge Jachai Polite
23. Houston Texans- Ole Miss OT Greg Little
I had the Texans selecting LSU corner Greedy Williams in my first mock, and he's still on the board. The Texans would get better value with Williams, but they have to get a young tackle to develop and eventually protect Deshaun Watson. As of March 19th, the Texans still haven't signed any tackles, so drafting a tackle is a MUST. Little may take some time to develop, just like former Texan Duane Brown, but he should be an improvement over Houston's linemen on their roster currently. Also, his poor Combine performance has his value down a bit, but I don't think he'll be on the board if the Texans wait until the second round to draft a tackle. The fact that Little doesn't have his own Pro Football Focus prospect video says a lot. If he does have one, I couldn't find it. He's still under-the-radar for many talent evaluators and people putting mock drafts together. I think he'll become a quality tackle, but it may take some time.
24. Oakland Raiders (via Bears)- Florida State Edge Brian Burns
25. Philadelphia Eagles- LSU CB Greedy Williams
26. Indianapolis Colts- Mississippi State S Johnathan Abram
27. Oakland Raiders (via Cowboys)- Alabama RB Josh Jacobs
28. Los Angeles Chargers- Clemson DL Dexter Lawrence
29. Kansas City Chiefs- Washington CB Byron Murphy
30. Green Bay Packers (via Saints)- Alabama TE Irv Smith Jr.
31. Los Angeles Rams- Georgia CB Deandre Baker
32. New England Patriots- Kansas State OL Dalton Risner
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.