HOUSTON -- For any struggling franchise in the NFL, it's never too early to look ahead to next year's draft. The Houston Texans qualify.
The Texans returned veteran starter Tyrod Taylor last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. He was slightly better than rookie Davis Mills on the road, throwing for 240 yards in South Beach.
Oh, he also tossed three interceptions in a 17-9 loss. Taylor also completed a mere 55.8 percent of his passes and the Texans are now on 16 quarters away from NRG Stadium without scoring a touchdown.
It's no grand admission: Houston is in rebuild mode, Taylor isn't going to solve the problems, and April 28 of 2022 has become a whole lot more interesting.
Barring a dramatic turnaround in the coming weeks, the 1-8 Texans will continue to lose and will secure a top-five pick in next year's draft. At this point, fans should be chanting to land to the No. 1 selection, but the winless Detroit Lions (0-8) must grab two victories in their next nine games to give Houston that good fortune.
Impossible? No. Improbable? Yup.
Oh, and Houston must lose. They must tank. They must invite "rock-bottom.''
There is a simple formula for first-year general manager Nick Caserio to follow should Houston land the No. 1 pick (or any spot right behind there.) It's the same formula this franchise used back in 2006 and 2014 following a 2-14 season.
Draft the best player available.
In 2006, that was defensive end Mario Williams. In 2014, it was Jadeveon Clowney.
New year, new record, same position to address. The easy choice should Houston have the No. 1 pick would be Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux, the defensive end who looks to be the consensus top option.
Houston needs pass-rush help. Second-year standout Jonathan Greenard leads the team with seven sacks. The remaining Texans combined have nine, with only defensive end Jacob Martin having more than 1.5.
A pair up of Thibodeaux on one side and Greenard on the other would be a reminiscent of the later days of Williams and J.J. Watt or the early times of Watt and Clowney coming off the edge.
For now, the Lions own the No. 1 pick. Unless they fall in love with a quarterback, Thibodeaux is likely headed to the Motor City.
Should that be the case, Caserio has options.
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The Texans need an upgrade at cornerback. Stingley has been one of the nation's best since his freshman season with the Tigers in 2019. Hamilton would be able to replace and perhaps upgrade the vacant spot left by veteran Justin Reid, who enters the final year of his rookie deal.
Hutchinson, whom several scouts consider to be "Watt-esque", has terrorized Big 10 quarterbacks all season.
Despite Pro Bowler Laremy Tunsil locking down left tackle, stabilizing the offensive is a priority for the future. Should Tytus Howard remain at guard, Houston needs a long-term right tackle.
Before the 2021 season, Neal started for two years at right tackle for Nick Saban at 'Bama. In that span, he allowed one sack.
Both sides of the football need help, but quarterbacks can have more success behind a stable offensive line. When hired, Texans coach David Culley brought in long-time offensive line coach James Campen to help re-establish some consistency in the trenches.
So far, the results are mixed. Houston has allowed 26 sacks this season, fifth-most in the league. The run offense, however, remains a problem. Only the Dolphins are averaging less yards (73.6) than the Texans (75.8).
Unlike in year's past, the offensive line class is deep. Houston very well could find starters on Day 2 at both tackle and on the interior.
Keep in mind that with the likelihood of a Deshaun Watson trade following the season's conclusion, Houston hopefully will hold multiple first-round picks on Day 1. If Caserio wants to build the O-line? Neal could be an option at No. 2 and say, Iowa center Tyler Lindenbaum be another pick.
Fixed offensive line? It's a start.
Mills and Taylor likely aren't the answers for the Texans at quarterback. For now, there isn't an option to take with the No. 2 selection, either. Separation between the five or six prospects who are considered to be in the running for the title of QB1 is limited.
Unless Houston falls in love with a passer via the draft process (as often happens), could someone worth taking at No. 2 could very well be on the board as say No. 15? No. 20? No. 34 when Houston picks in the second round?
The bottom line is Caserio doesn't need to be set on "one" player. Heck, he has a multitude of avenues to go down.
That alone should have Texans fans excited for the future. At least in theory.