The Texans address key needs in multiple ways with this draft

Texans 7-round mock draft

The Texans have seven picks in the upcoming draft as it stands right now. The way I approached this is rankings to assess how likely these players are available where the Texans pick, guesses on what some other teams would do, and my runs through a couple of mock draft simulators. I also weighed anything I have heard myself about various picks/players a little heavier than rumors.

First Round - 23rd Overall - Andre Dillard OT Washington State

I have been pushing Dillard for the Texans for a while now. They need some help for him or Oklahoma's Cody Ford to get here. The lust for quarterbacks helps them in this quest. Teams will likely be moving up for the three or four quarterbacks so that helps push offensive linemen down the board. Any pass rusher, tight end, or wideout helps the Texans get to this point. If there is no Dillard or Ford, a trade back a few spots with Dalton Riser from Kansas State and Kaleb McGary from Washington as the targets.

Second Round - 54th Overall - Julian Love CB Notre Dame

This guy feels like a Texans style of cornerback. He had a ton of impact at Notre Dame and the Irish defense fell apart without him in the college football playoff. He feels a little like a Johnathan Joseph in that his physical ability isn't going to blow you away but you trust the smarts and intelligence to get him near the ball. One NFL comparison for him was Ronde Barber. Love isn't the top corner on anyone's board, but he should be available for the Texans.

Second Round - 55th Overall - Tytus Howard OT Alabama State

I was tempted to put Texas A&M's Erik McCoy here but ultimately adding Howard as the team's swing tackle and future right tackle is too attractive to pass up. Likely an "overdraft" but there should be other tackles coming off the board forcing the Texans into this spot. This pick is hard to peg because it is unknown how the Texans are stacking the tackle board. I would guess tackle is a safe bet and if not tackle perhaps another spot on the offensive line.

Third Round - 86th Overall - Darrell Henderson RB Memphis

The Texans have checked in on Henderson a couple of times. He's a home run hitter and was amazing for Memphis this past season. He would push D'Onta Foreman and would take over for Lamar Miller at the end of the season. There could be other positions addressed but they could be reaches at this spot. Why not help solidify a position that has lacked talent recently.

Fifth Round - 161 Overall - Kingsley Keke DL Texas A&M

It seems likely Keke would be here but regardless of he is or not the Texans should shoot for another late-round defensive lineman success a la D.J. Reader. Maybe a safety here as well but let's look for the replacement for Christian Covington.

Sixth Round - 195th Overall - Ryan Bates OG Penn State

You know how much the Texans love versatility. Well, how about a former college tackle who will likely play guard and maybe center in the NFL? You can do a lot worse than someone to push the current offensive line at this spot.

Seventh Round - 220 Overall - Xavier Crawford CB Central Michigan

He might not be here in the seventh round as I have seen him as high as a fifth rounder but if he is, snatch him up. He was a standout on the worst team in college football. Literally one of the few bright spots. He would add some solid competition to the cornerback room.

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Lance McCullers won't be ready for Opening Day. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Lance McCullers Jr. will not be ready to go for the Houston Astros on Opening Day. The veteran starting pitcher said on Wednesday he underwent an MRI and it revealed a small muscle strain that will sideline him for several weeks.

After undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2018, which forced him to miss the entire 2019 season, and then missing most of Houston’s 2021 postseason run and a majority of the 2022 season with a strained flexor muscle, McCullers’ latest issue is considered to be minor, and should not hamper him from being in the rotation long-term, he said on Wednesday.

Regardless of the severity of the injury, McCullers’ muscle strain will cause the Astros to have to shake things up with their starting rotation, at least to begin the season. Here is what it could look like.

Even before McCullers’ injury, Framber Valdez was likely going to be the Opening Day starter for the Astros. The questions begin behind him.

McCullers could have been Houston’s day two starter. The Astros still have plenty of options to choose from, but the edge could go to Cristian Javier, who recently signed his five-year extension earlier this month.

Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy, two players that have started games in the past for Houston, likely have locked down their positions as well. With McCullers’ injury, it likely also secures a spot for Hunter Brown in the starting rotation.

Prior to McCullers’ injuries, there were questions about whether Brown would be in the rotation, if Houston potentially went with a six-man starting rotation, or if the Astros moved Brown or another pitcher to the bullpen. That is no longer a question.

In what could be a silver lining, the injury likely means it will be a trial by fire for Brown, who started two regular season games for the Astros in 2022.

It also opens up an opportunity for other pitchers, including Forrest Whitley, who has yet to pitch a single inning in the majors, J.P. France, Shawn Dubin, and Brandon Bielak. All four players have a chance to be on Houston’s major league roster while McCullers is out.

All four players also started games in 2022 for the Astros’ Triple A affiliate, the Sugar Land Space Cowboys.

That is something worth noting because on Houston’s current roster, only Ryne Stanek, Rafael Montero and Brandon Bielak are pitchers outside of Valdez, Javier, Urquidy, Garcia and Brown that have experience starting multiple games in a season at the MLB level.

For Stanek, they came in 2018 and 2019 for the Tampa Bay Rays, who were known for their bullpen games. Montero last started a game in 2017 for the New York Mets.

Losing a starting pitcher the caliber of McCullers to start the season is a significant loss, and in the pitcher’s own words, a frustrating one.

For now, the Astros have enough depth to absorb it for the start of the season. The biggest storyline to keep an eye on in the coming weeks is if it truly is just a minor injury for McCullers.

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