6 Prospects at positions of need for the Houston Texans

Texans still have holes to fill

Composite photo by Jack Brame

The 2020 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away. The Houston Texans need to replenish several positions with quality prospects. Houston isn't scheduled to select in the draft until the 40th overall selection, which they acquired via trade from the Arizona Cardinals for DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans just sent their other second rounder, the 57th overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams for wide receiver, Brandin Cooks and a fourth round pick in the year of our Lord 2022.

Brandin Cooks is a different article. While Houston may still invest in the position, it would seem unlikely that they would do so with their top selection. The wide receiver position falls down the ranks among positions of needs.

Biggest Needs

  • EDGE rusher
  • Cornerback
Houston needs to add an offensive guard, running back, wide receiver and defensive lineman, along with the previously mentioned positions but they aren't as glaring of needs.

There's several different ways that the Texans' General Manager, Bill O'Brien could attack the draft.

  • Trade Up - Look to solidify one of the positions with the best player they could acquire
  • Trade Down - Look to accumilate more picks in this draft or replenish the 2021 draft
  • Trade Player - Houston could trade a player on the roster, like a Benardrick McKinney to acquire more picks
  • Make selections as is based on best player available at any position
  • Make selections as is based on best player available at position of need
O'Brien has the luxury of a draft filled with talented cornerback prospects. Unfortunately, for Houston, the edge class is lacking in top-end talent. O'Brien has three picks inside the first 111 and as you may have heard, isn't afraid to make a deal.

When day two of the draft starts with pick #33 overall, those first several picks will be a premium as teams wake up to day two of the draft surprised by a handful of prospects that are still available. While Houston needs to replenish talent for 2020, O'Brien would have to listen to trade offers that could help him either pick up additional picks in 2021, while sliding further back in the 2020 draft or trade back in the 2020 draft just to add more top 100 picks. I wouldn't be surprised by either move with the caveat being who the prospects are that are available.

When evaluating the NFL Draft, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My draft evaluations are independent and don't always follow the consensus of what's being reported in the media. This has led to me making some great finds where others were wrong i.e. George Kittle, David Johnson, etc but also it's left me with egg on my face at times, as was the case with Patrick Mahomes, Michael Thomas, etc.

No evaluators are going to be perfect and I'll own my blunders but I'll still trust my eyes and relay what I see in hopes to make the draft process a little more enjoyable. You're welcome to shrug off my evals or buy in. I mention this as full disclosure as some of the prospects that I mention below, I'll either be a lot "higher" on than consensus, while other names that you don't see mention may be due to my personal evaluation not being as flattering as what's the general belief. On some of these prospects, I will even have them graded a few rounds higher or lower than what you may be accustomed to seeing. Don't get too caught up in this as their are 32 teams and their personal evaluations vary across the board on prospects and there isn't a general consensus as you would believe from looking at social media and broadcasts.

What the Texans Should Do

Before I get into listing three prospects at cornerback and edge that Houston should look at selecting with their pick in the second round, I want to list some other options that could be available to them.

EDGE - AJ Epenesa - In a less than stellar edge class, Epenesa is the value pick. It's a pipe dream to hope that he would last to the 40th pick overall. I couldn't blame Houston for trading up to select Epenesa, who reminds me of a poor man's JJ Watt. If they do make the move up, it would leave them chasing at the receiver and cornerback positions. While they could still land contributors at both positions, it'd be extremely difficult to get the early difference makers that they need at multiple positions of need. It's still worth considering based off the falloff at the edge position after Epenesa and the depth at the cornerback.

Now, lets get to the two positions with the biggest needs and three guys that I believe Houston should target there in the second round.

Cornerbacks

Noah Igbinoghene - Auburn - He doesn't fit the new NFL standard of 6'1-6'2 but at 5'10 and with arms that are almost 32 inches, Houston would be wise to go outside of their positional parameters to sign this corner that reminds me of Janoris Jenkins. He mirrors and is aggressive. He fights to shed receivers and will come up and tackle. To me, he's the second best corner in this class.

Michael Ojemudia - Iowa - Let me go ahead and tell you that I'm putting my balls out there with this one. Go ahead and google him...yep, that's right, most people have him as a late day three pick. I love his game and believe he'll be a stud at the next level. Standing 6'1 200 pounds with 32 1/4" arms and speed in the mid 4.4s with a 36" vertical to boot. All of those measurements should mesh with O'Brien's parameters, but it's the potential of the tape that I love. Loose hips, wrap-up form tackling, good C.O.D., doesn't over react to jukes/fakes and comfortable in off, press and zone.

Cameron Dantzler - Mississippi State - I don't think I'm going to win anyone over with these last two cornerbacks of Ojemudia and Dantzler. While Dantzler has the height of 6'2, he's rail thin at 188 and only has 30 5/8" arms with 4.64 speed. Those that live and die by combines, pro days, etc, have already thrown him to the wolves. His film shows a great tackler and uses his wiry frame as a dynamic rusher with unique edge bend for a corner. Throw out the numbers, he'll be a solid pro.

EDGE

We don't need to leave the state of Florida for this group of pass rushers. Any of the three would make sense in round two for Houston.

Jonathan Greenard - Flordia - At 6'3 263 pounds and with massive arms that almost reach 35", Anthony Weaver could mold this young man. He plays with leverage and is good in pursuit. He's similar to a Shaq Lawson type.

Jabari Zuniga - Florida - 6'3 264 pounds has him similar in size to his former Gator teammate, but his arms are two inches shorter. What he lacks in length, he makes up for with quickness and speed. He's fast and explosive, engages with leverage and has a deadly long arm. Imagine a situational pass rush of Jacob Martin and Zuniga with Watt and Mercilus.

Jonathan Garvin - Miami - 6'4 263 pounds with 34" arms. He sheds with length, sets the edge and has the ability to flatten with strength and balance. Surprising C.O.D. for his size. I thought Houston could add an aging Everson Griffin for cheap. Garvin will remind you of Griffin with traits in his game.

It's O'Brien's first draft, so I have no clue what will happen, but I'd expect some surprises from Bungling Bill.

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J.J. Watt, the Houston Texans all-time leader in sacks (96.0), is entering his ninth season with the franchise ahead of what will certainly be an anomaly year for the NFL. Due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, there is serious doubt that the NFL will be able to play a full 16-game schedule, while others express their concern with the league's inability to play any form of football come the fall of 2020.

There are a lot of uncertainties surrounding the league this coming season, which is becoming a theme for Watt's future in Houston.

The 31-year-old defensive end has two years remaining on his six-year, $100 million contract extension he signed in September of 2014. But as he prepares to embark on another year with the Texans through Zoom meetings with his teammates, a new contract is not on Watt's priority list.

"No, I don't think that's necessary," Watt told Houston reporters on Wednesday. "I fully understand and respect the situation that I'm in at the moment, and what's happened in the past few years, so I'm not gonna sit here and demand anything. I think if I went back and asked for an extension or more money, I think that would be the wrong move. I am just going out there to prove my worth and to help this team win games."

As of now, it is unsure what the future holds for Watt's career with the Texans. Should management re-sign the three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner (2012, 2014 & 2015), the question becomes: How much is Watt worth as he enters the twilight of his career? It's the subject that will be the driving force when discussing Watt's future with the team, and the segment that sparked a trade rumor of his departure to the Chicago Bears.

Although his on-field production remains extremely valuable, Watt has had a difficult time trying to stay healthy. Since 2016, he has missed 32 out of a possible 64 games due to an abundance of injuries. In 2019, Watt missed half of the season after suffering a torn pectoral during the Texans' 27-24 victory over the then-Oakland Raiders.

"My goal for every season is to do whatever possible to help this team win, and number one, that means staying healthy," he said. "You have to be on the field in order to help the team win, and then it is to play at the peak physical level I am capable of. It is just making sure I am in the best possible shape to perform that way."

Contract and injuries aside, the five-time Pro-Bowler is excited about his opportunity to play under new defensive coordinator, Anthony Weaver. During his introductory press conference two weeks ago, Weaver said Watt will remain the focal point for the Texans' defense in 2020, but acknowledged getting the future Hall of Famer through 16 games remains a hurdle.

After four seasons serving as Houston's defensive line coach, the Texans promoted Weaver to defensive coordinator in January to replace Romeo Crennel.

"I love [Anthony] Weaver... I think that he has a great mixture of knowledge of the game, experience, but also personality to be able to handle the players in the room," Watt said. "To be able to inject some fun and excitement into meetings, practice and everything, all while bringing the knowledge necessary to run a good defense."

Under the guidance of a new defensive coordinator, Weaver may be just the coach to help Watt rekindle the potential that made him an All-Pro defensive end. Regardless of the uncertainties surrounding his future at the conclusion of his contract, Watt is hoping he will have the opportunity to finish his career where it started — in Houston.

"That is a goal of mine, and this city [Houston] has been incredible to me since I got here," Watt said. "I don't know what's going to happen in the future, but I certainly hope that's the case."

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