Grading Texans 2021 NFL Draft: Trades And Value Are Key

Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio stuck to his philosophy of building competition at every position with their selections in the 2021 NFL Draft
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And ... breathe ... 

The 2021 NFL Draft is over, and the Houston Texans selected a total of five players from round three onward. 

This draft reaffirmed general manager Nick Caserio's stance that their goal this offseason is to create competition at every single position. As such, rather than selecting players of 'need' they opted to go for who they felt represented the best value relative to their big board and picks in the draft. 

"You don't really ever go into it (The draft) and say, 'We need X, we need Y," said Caserio on Friday.

READ MORE: Texans Undrafted Free Agency Begins On Offense; NFL Draft Tracker

With this in mind, in order to find the best value, Caserio spent two days essentially playing a game of chess with the draft board, making three trades to whittle their seven picks down, moving up each time.

"We were actively just trying to look at maneuvering around and trying to see if we could put ourselves in the position that we felt we could actually pick a player that we liked as opposed to just picking a player for another reason just to pick a player," said Caserio after the draft.

In the end, Houston ended up with three offensive players and two on defense. At the time of writing this, they have since added a further four undrafted free agents, all of whom are offensive players.

The following grades will be based purely on the value at the pick relative to their talent and potential, less on need at their position - as that clearly wasn't in Houston's mind this year.

Pick 67 - David Mills, QB, Stanford

Using your most valuable pick at a position where you already have Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor, and Ryan Finley under contract frustrated and confused many watching. It smacks a little of having given up on any chance of convincing Watson to rescind his trade request once the legal process surrounding his ongoing lawsuits has played out. 

That being said, Mills does have the potential to be developed into an NFL starter. And if Watson has played his last down in Houston, they need a long-term plan, or at least an insurance policy as Taylor and Finley are both on short-term deals.

The Texans also have QB coach Pep Hamilton as somewhat of a secret weapon. Renowned for developing QBs such as Andrew Luck and Justin Herbert in recent years, his time and ties at Stanford will surely have helped influence their decision to gamble on the relatively inexperienced Mills. 

Hamilton has shown in the past what he can do with young quarterbacks, with a year backing up Taylor, Mills could turn into the next long-term starter for the Texans.

Here's what Caserio had to say about Mills on Friday:

"(Mills) played in a good offensive system, played for a good coach (David Shaw), has pretty good size, fairly accurate with the ball, smart, makes fairly good decisions."

Grade: B-

READ MORE: Deshaun Done With Texans? Mills Might Seal the Deal

Pick 89 - Nico Collins, WR, Michigan

They gave up a good amount to trade up for Collins, but his tape will show you exactly why. Collins will add size and physicality that Houston's wide receiver corps had little of. A deep threat, he could potentially take over this particular role from Will Fuller, who now plies his trade with the Miami Dolphins. 

Chances are Brandin Cooks and potentially Chris Conley will start with Randall Cobb in the slot. Collins should look to take on Conley's outside role as the season progresses.

Here's what Caserio had to say about Collins on Friday:

"He's got good size, he runs well, he's got good hands, so he catches the ball well. He's got good playing strength."

Grade: A

Pick 147 - Bevin Jordan, TE, Miami

Again, the Texans went for a value pick rather than a position of need. 

They may already have six tight ends on the roster, but given that Jordan was the NFL Draft Bible's fourth highest-ranked tight end and predicted to go in the third round, the Texans may have gotten a steal here at 147.

Jordan is more of an all-round receiver than strictly a tight end, he has the potential to be a tough matchup and a dangerous weapon. He'll likely compete for the backup tight end role behind Jordan Akins, with Kahale Warring his biggest competition given their similar skill sets.

Here's what Caserio had to say about Jordan on Saturday:

"Played since his freshman year at Miami. He started a number of games, productive player in the passing game. Decent with the ball in his hands, runs hard, has some straight-line speed. Again, had pretty good production as a pass catcher."

Grade: A

Pick 170 - Garret Wallow, LB, TCU

The 13th linebacker currently on Houston's roster, Wallow adds versatility and energy. Having previously played safety, in theory, Wallow should be a great fit for Lovie Smith's 4-3 Tampa 2 defense which requires its linebackers to be able to help in pass coverage. 

In total, they did trade four picks to get Wallow. However, given his productivity in college and the fact he's one of the few linebackers Houston will have on a longer deal, he should pay dividends. It seems most likely he'll compete for a backup spot and core special teams role, in a similar mold to Dylan Cole who left this offseason.

Grade: B+

Here's what Caserio had to say about Wallow on Saturday:

"(Garret) Wallow played for a good defensive coach in Coach (Gary) Patterson. They've been known for defense for a long time, and the way they're constructed defensively, specifically to Garret – now, he was in the box a little bit, he played detached from the formation. Instinctive player, runs well, can close space, is a decent tackler, A-plus football makeup and character, which that's important to what we're trying to do, like we talked about last night."

Pick 195 - Roy Lopez, DT, Arizona

The first word that came to mind watching Lopez's tape was 'mauler.' At 6'1" he's not as tall as you'd usually want in your defensive tackle, but he brings strength, power, and aggression to the front line. 

A grad transfer from New Mexico State, Lopez gets after the quarterback with tenacity and a surprising level of agility for a player of his size. He'll have a good shot at a backup role behind Maliek Collins and Ross Blacklock, battling against Brandon Dunn, Vincent Taylor and Jaleel Johnson. His best shot may be on the practice squad to start out.

Here's what Caserio had to say about Lopez on Saturday:

"High school wrestler. Really strong. He's 6-foot-1 and change, 305. I think he did like 36 bench presses or something like that, so has good playing strength. Tough as nails. Again, high football character and make up, which is important to the overall development of the player."

Grade: B-

READ MORE: NFL Draft: Teams 'Cash In' On Texans Tunsil Trade

Undrafted Free Agents

- Damon Hazelton, WR, Missouri

- Marlon Williams, WR, Central Florida

- Carson Green, OT, Texas A&M

- Ryan McCollum, C, Texas A&M

Summary

After the initial shock at the Texans not addressing glaring needs like cornerback, when you sit back and look at it objectively, Caserio appears to have had a solid draft.

Ultimately, the Texans may not have addressed specific positions of real need such as defensive backs or defensive end, but the players they selected did represent good value at their respective picks. 

Mills, Collins and Jordan all have starting potential. Wallow could be a mainstay on special teams and capable backup, while Lopez has potential and could eventually give them the depth they lacked at the position in 2020. 

Overall Grade: B+

CONTINUE READING: From Davis To Deshaun: QB Mills Buys Texans Time In Watson Trade