Texans 2021 Top 5 Draft Needs: Help the D
After six games, the Houston Texans are 1-5, and the front office is already looking ahead to 2021 (and if they’re not, they should be). In specific, they’re trying to figure out position groups will be worth their time in the draft.
Now, it’s hard to say what players might be available when the Texans are on the clock next April; in fact, we don't even know who the Houston GM and coach will be to help do the picking. But we can start looking ahead to the Texans Top 5 draft needs with one-third of the season complete. And you can bet this could change in the coming once we see which players the Texans might decide to part with via trade before the deadline.
Notes — the Texans do not have a first-round or second-round pick as part of the Laremy Tunsil trade with Miami. The Texans do have an additional fourth-round pick from the Cardinals in the DeAndre Hopkins trade, and an additional sixth-round pick from the Tunsil trade.
Vernon Hargreaves III is a free agent after this season, as are a couple of Texans that are banged up but playing depth roles. With Bradley Roby under contract through the 2022 season, even if Hargreaves returns, finding a corner that can make an impact is a priority. That’s a hard order when you don’t have a first- or second-round pick. But it’s possible if you luck into the right player. The Texans have to be sure it’s a player that can help right away and has upside to grow into a starter, which probably means taking him with their first pick.
Worth noting: Houston seemed to think it had a cornerback to help in second-round guy Lonnie Johnson ... but now he seems to be a safety. So, yeah, cornerback tops the list.
2. Defensive line/ Left defensive end
The Texans need help up front, and one shouldn’t assume that there is anyone above replacement, and that would include J.J. Watt.
READ MORE: Are Texans Trying To Trade J.J. Watt?
And, frankly, trading or releasing Watt would basically mean the Texans are resetting the roster, anyway. The Texans don’t have a backup behind Watt on the depth chart, but the issue is bigger than one player. The Texans need more push up front and that means going after a defensive lineman that can make an impact in 2021, whether Watt is on the roster or not.
I’m betting Watt will be on the roster, if we’re taking bets. But this is about making sure Houston is thinking outside the box in all ways.
Additionally, while Houston has tried to replace D.J. Reader in the middle, it hasn't happened yet. So add interior D-line to the wish list, too.
3. Wide receiver
This is really about free agency before it's about the draft.
Kenny Stills and Will Fuller are unrestricted free agents. If both leave, Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb are under contract, but Cooks has been an injury risk and Cobb will be entering Year 10 of his career. So acquiring a wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft should be somewhere on the list.
The good news is there are plenty of good options once you get to the third round. With the receivers under contract, the Texans need a No. 3 option and one that has upside to grow into a compelling No. 1 or No. 2 down the line. With DeShaun Watson under a long-term deal, getting him more weapons is a priority.
Four linebackers are free agents in 2021, including starters Tyrell Adams and Brennan Scarlett. With Whitney Mercilus and Zach Cunningham locked up long-term, now is the time for the Texans to find some inexpensive options to play alongside them, once that can contribute immediately and has room to develop.
5. Tight end
The starter, Jordan Akins, is under contract for at least one more season and is coming off a 36-catch season, but he’s currently on the injured reserve. The backup, Darren Fells, had a career-best 34 catches in 2019. He is also under contract through next season. But if a future security blanket for Watson pops up on the third day of the draft, the Texans shouldn’t be opposed to taking him.
Maybe Houston already has that guy in former third-round pick Kahale Warring. It'd be nice to find that out before it's time to start picking again.