- The biggest need, the hidden need and what else the Texans should be looking for in the 2019 draft.
Two weeks ahead of the NFL draft, Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling are breaking down draft needs for all 32 teams. You can also see every team in a single post here.
Biggest Need: Offensive tackle
Deshaun Watson took far, far too many hits and sacks (62) last season. The problem stemmed from up front—specifically, the edges. Bill O’Brien didn’t trust his offensive tackles, even after the line stabilized a bit once coaches settled on Julie’n Davenport at left tackle and Kendall Lamm at right tackle. (The original starting right tackle, Seantrel Henderson, broke his ankle on the 12th snap of the season. Henderson is back now and Lamm is gone, but that represents only a mild upgrade at best.) So, O’Brien’s response was to keep backs and tight ends in to help pass protect. This, however, removed options for Watson downfield and invited defenses to blitz. And because play designs with six- and seven-man protections have deeper routes, Watson had to wait on Houston’s receiving corps, which lacked speed after Will Fuller’s October ACL injury. It was a bad formula, and a discussion could be had about whether the Texans would have been wiser to hide their offensive tackles with quick throws and misdirection designs, rather than help them with extra bodies. Even better than having that difficult discussion would be to avoid it altogether by bringing in some offensive tackles who can be trusted one-on-one. They’re hoping Matt Kalil can, but he was never trustworthy one-on-one even before last season’s knee injury.
Hidden Need: Edge
Jadeveon Clowney’s athletic combustibility and instincts are greatly admired within that building, but there have been whispered questions about his work ethic and obvious questions about his durability. Hence, his being franchise-tagged instead of inked to a long-term deal. Even if the Texans decide after this season to sign Clowney long-term, they might need a replacement for Whitney Mercilus, who is in a contract year and, after being relegated to less glamorous duties, was invisible on film last season. If the Texans weren’t flush with cap space, they probably would have taken the $6.25 million savings and cut Mercilus this spring.
Also Looking For: Cornerback
2014 first-round pick Bradley Roby was signed, but to a lesser deal (one year, $10 million) than what his predecessor, Kareem Jackson, got from Roby’s former team in Denver (three years, $33 million). Which means many expect this move to downgrade Houston’s right corner spot. The Texans might not, since they chose to let Jackson leave, but Roby for sure is a downgrade as a tackler (Jackson is one of football’s best) and Roby had even more extreme highs and lows in coverage last year than Jackson did. Houston’s big 2018 free agent corner acquisition, Aaron Colvin, was perplexingly absent from many personnel packages, and incumbent Johnathan Joseph, 35 years old and shrewd, can barely run (though that’s been true for years now). The point: Houston has a lot of questions at cornerback, both this year and moving forward.
Who They Can Get
Washington State OT Andre Dillard is the best pure left tackle prospect in this class, and there's a chance he's on the board at 23 (the Texans, with two second-round picks, also have the ammo to move up and ensure they get him). Otherwise, they might be looking at the likes of Kansas State's Dalton Risner, Oklahoma's Cody Ford or possibly Alabama's Jonah Williams, all of whom probably translate better inside. The cornerback options would be interesting, as both Georgia's Deandre Baker and Washington's Byron Murphy would seem to fit well in Houston's Cover-4 scheme.
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