HOUSTON -- Unless Nick Caserio can make a court case disappear and 22 allegations float away, Deshaun Watson will not be traded before the 2021 NFL Draft. If that's the case, the Houston Texans will not have a first-round pick for the third time in four years.
Barring a trade up in the late second round, the Texans will patiently wait to pick at No. 67. Caserio has proved he’s not afraid of making deals, letting the best player win the starting job in camp. Entering April, Houston had added 35 players via trades or free agency.
With the Watson news taking center stage, Caserio must take the negative spotlight off NRG Stadium come draft weekend. Houston currently has eight picks, but don't be surprised to see Caserio — a New England Patriot alum — trade down for more selections.
Houston could start at No. 67. They could move back for two or three picks later own. It doesn't matter when. The first pick Houston makes needs to be on defense.
If possible, it should be at cornerback.
The Texans have more needs than answers on both sides of the ball for David Culley's first first season. The defense, which finished dead last against the run, is switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 under new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith.
In a Tampa 2 system, Houston needs players who can fit the Cover 2 and Cover 3 set. Houston signed Desmond King to man the nickel corner role. They're hopeful Bradley Roby can rebound entering the second year of his three-year extension.
Houston is known for taking top level talent that slips in their range. Back in 2018. former GM Brian Gaine was patient when the draft clock started Round 3. Instead of moving up, he waited for the best player available to fall in his lap at No. 68.
It did. The guy? Safety Justin Reid. Entering his fourth season, he is expected to be one of the faces of the franchise moving beyond 2021.
Caserio's gameplan should be simple: take the best player available at the position of need and be done with it. If looking for a man coverage player, Georgia's Tyson Campbell might the best option.
Looking for zone? Syracuse's Ifeatu Melifonwu needs to be the selection.
Say both players are off the board. Are they set with the pass-rushers on the roster? Will they be willing to add competition at defensive end of a hybrid linebacker?
If so, names like Houston's Peyton Turner or UAB's Jordan Smith fit the bill. Interior defensive line? Iowa's Daviyon Nixon or USC's Jay Tufele make sense as well.
Reid will command either the free or strong safety role. The Tampa 2 scheme though will have Houston looking for rangy safeties at both roles and ones who can play down low.
Is Lonnie Johnson the guy after a season of learning the position? How about Eric Murray?
Should Houston miss on a cornerback, names like Oregon's Jevon Holland would be a Reid draft steal 2.0. Others such as UCF's Richie Grant or Indiana's Jamar Johnson would do well under Smith's style.
Caserio must also consider adding a quarterback with the Watson allegations at full blast. However, the QB class isn't one of stability beyond the top five — some even have doubts past Clemson's Trevor Lawrence on several names.
Names like Texas A&M's Kellen Mond, Stanford's Davis Mills or Florida's Kyle Trask makes sense as projected players with starter upside.
At No. 67 with this many defensive holes? Hard pass.
There's needs offensively to say the least. Houston must find a vertical threat to replace Will Fuller. A tight end could be essential following the release of Darren Fells. One can never have too much depth in the trenches, right?
All that's fine, but defense wins championships. For Houston, winning more than two games would be an equivalent of hoisting a Lombardi in 2021.
Despite missing a first- and second-round pick, Caserio and Co. have an interesting draft night. This will be the first draft he's making the calls. It'll be the first draft Culley can make his mark as a head coach.
Most of all? It could be the first in the post-Watson era.
There's lots of first for the new Texans team on April 30. The most important first though?
Draft a defender to set the mark and tone of a new style of play.
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