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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
I'll guesstimate about 90% of you reading this have driven a vehicle before. Most of you have probably experienced a vehicle that isn't properly aligned. You're driving down the road, let go of the wheel, and it pulls to the right or left a bit. Or, you have to hold the wheel a little tilted one way or the other in order for the car to drive straight. Definite signs you need an alignment. Driving a vehicle that way will wear your tires faster and start to cause other issues.
In baseball terms, the vehicle has four wheels: owner, general manager, manager, scouting/front office. While some may say the GM and scouting/front office are technically one wheel, I'd argue that by pointing out the many times a scouting department and GM have differed on players. It happens in every sport. In order for an organization to truly move in lockstep, they must all be on the same page as far as a common goal and how to get there.
I've often felt the Astros have not always been fully aligned. Going all the way back to the Drayton McClane era, I'm trying to remember when all four tires of the Astros vehicle were perfectly aligned. Gerry Hunsicker was there for about 10 years before growing tired of Uncle Drayton's crap. McClane went through nine different managers and three GMs in his tenure as the owner from 1993-2011.
When Jim Crane bought the team after the 2011 season, he himself has already gone through six managers and three GMs so far. Now he's on the verge of hiring a seventh manager. Crane's original dream team of Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch would still be the GM and manager, respectively, had the sign stealing scandal not been blown out of proportion. He hired Luhnow to come in and reshape the franchise and they burned through a few managers while the team struggled. Hinch was brought in to finish the job. He and Luhnow did that by winning the 2017 World Series and starting a dynasty.
When Crane decided to fire them both after the scandal, it left a void. Crane wasn't always pleased with the way things were run, but he was happy with the results. Enter James Click and Dusty Baker. Why Crane thought an analytics guy like Click and an old school baseball guy like Dusty would work, I'm not sure. But it did. They brought Crane the 2022 World Series title. Click was not brought back because of his philosophical differences with Crane. Dusty came back for this past season and retired. Dana Brown was brought in to replace Click. Now he and Crane are looking for another manager.
Joe Espada seems to be the simplest choice. He was Dusty's right-hand man all these years and the players seem to love him. Brad Ausmus is another candidate, but he doesn't have the qualifications, as he hasn't won or done anything significant outside being a former Astro. Craig Counsel has been mentioned as well. His .531 winning percentage in Milwaukee doesn't strike me as someone who'll get the fans excited. Others mentioned have been Buck Showalter, Rodney Linares, Mark Kotsay, and Ron Washington.
No matter who they hire, he needs to be fully aligned with the other three wheels. Every one of the wheels needs to know their lanes and operate within them. Crane needs to be the one who ensures these guys are all on the same page. He also needs to be the one to allow them to do their jobs without his interference. Personally, I'd like to see Ron Washington hired. “Uncle Ron” may be 71 years old, a few years younger than Dusty, but he's a guy players love. If not him, Espada is the clear choice, according to Ken Hoffman.
Whenever you get a new tire, you need an alignment and to balance them. This helps ensure a smooth ride. The Astros have a window that'll remain open the next couple of years at least. I'd hate for them to spend those years veering one way or the other and unnecessarily wearing out the tires. I wonder if Crane will opt for the road hazard protection warranty when he buys the new tire? Hopefully, he has run-flats, just in case.