HOUSTON -- For the Houston Texans, 2022 feels like the time where contending is back on the table.
The Texans will be starting fresh with a new a quarterback, new coach and a multitude of new players following a 4-12 2020 season. The main goal, of course, no matter how unlikely, is for coach David Culley to shock the world with an AFC South title.
Proving that rookie QB Davis Mills is the future of the franchise though isn't a terrible consolation prize.
But the smarter guess: the Texans are projected to finish with a top-five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft next April: most believe that Houston will pick in the top two slots. If Mills looks to be the right answer under center, this makes general manager Nick Caserio's job easy when on the clock.
Take Oregon defender Kayvon Thibodeaux and never look back.
The rising junior is already penciled in as the next great pass-rusher to enter the league. With names like Myles Garrett, Nick Bosa and Chase Young all becoming building blocks as a No. 1 or No. 2 pick, Thibodeaux fits a similar criteria.
As the college football season approaches, early scouting reports will be filed. According to NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah, Thibodeaux could be a clone of Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos retired stud DeMarcus Ware.
There isn’t a perfect comparison for Thibodeaux, but I see a lot of similarities to Ware when I evaluated him coming out of Troy in 2005. They have the same long, wiry build and they both have an explosive first step. I would give Ware the edge as a pure bender at the top of his rush, while I see a little more power from Thibodeaux at the same point in their development. Ware had a Hall of Fame-caliber NFL career and Thibodeaux has the potential to become a similar player. Ware became a pass-rush student and constantly added to his game, improving along the way. That will be the challenge for Thibodeaux. If he puts in the work, the sky is the limit. - Daniel Jeremiah
Thibodeaux's impact for the Ducks has not gone unnoticed despite "Pac 12 after dark'' (ah, those West Coast TV kickoffs) being overlooked in 2020. In just seven games, the California native recorded 38 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and three pass breakups.
Can Scottie Help Texans be ‘Special’?
Texans' Scottie Phillips was active for special-teams reasons
When Can Ka'imi Kick?
In four NFL seasons, Fairbairn has made 104 of 123 field goals (84.6 percent) and 148 of 161 extra points (91.9 percent).
For his career, Thibodeaux has tallied 12 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss in 21 career games.
Since the team's inauguration in 2022, the Texans have held the No. 1 pick three times. Twice, Houston elected to take a pass-rusher over a quarterback with Mario Williams in 2006 and Jadeveon Clowney in 2014.
Could Thibodeaux be next?
Houston is hopeful this year's pass rush will be able to replace the production of veteran J.J. Watt, who mutually agreed to part ways with the organization this offseason. The team added Shaq Lawson from Miami and is expecting big things from third-year defensive end Charles Omenihu.
If both struggle - or even if they perform well - adding pass-rusher to the laundry list of needs for Houston come next offseason isn't the worst idea.
Mills winning the starting role and proving he's the franchise guy helps Houston in more way than one. Ultimately, it provides the opportunity to the team to draft an explosive edge player who wins most one-on-one battles against offensive lineman and terrorizes quarterbacks every Saturday.
If Jeremiah believes Thibodeaux can be a replica of Ware, Houston should be listening. In 12 seasons, Ware recorded 138.5 total sacks on his way to becoming a nine-time Pro Bowler and seven-time All-Pro linebacker.
Half of that production for a player of Thibodeaux's potential would be considered a win for the future at NRG Stadium.
CONTINUE READING: Is Texans QB Tyrod Taylor Set To Fail In 2021?