Texans-Centric Preview of the 2020 NFL Combine

Patrick D. Starr

The Houston Texans embark on uncharted territory entering the 2020 NFL Combine with head coach Bill O'Brien running the football direction and vision. O'Brien was named the general manager of the Texans in late January giving him complete control of the team. 

Every move for the Texans officially has O'Brien's seal of approval with no one standing in his way to makes moves he sees fit. O'Brien, as the general manager, got off to a solid start last season when the team moved on from Brian Gaine trading for multiple players in an attempt to improve the 53-man roster. 

The issue is the cost that O'Brien and his group of thinkers were willing to move at the time to land players they thought were important to the organization. The deal with the Miami Dolphins to land both Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Still cost the Texans to most draft capital leaving them without a first-round selection this upcoming draft. 

O'Brien and company will have their work cut out for them trying to find fits for their roster in 2020 and will need to be precise with their scouting to land players with solid value in the process. 

2019 Season in Review

The Houston Texans continue to put together wins under Bill O'Brien winning their fourth AFC South crown in the past five seasons with a record of 10-6. The past two seasons, the Texans have combined for 21 wins and putting themselves in the playoff hunt. With O'Brien taking the reins as head of the general manager group, he pulled off multiple trades to bring in essential players to the roster before and during the season.

The Texans' offense was a volatile unit based on the play of budding superstar Deshaun Watson. His game dictated the success of the offense, which led 34 total touchdowns on the season for Watson. DeAndre Hopkins paced the passing attack with another 1,000 plus season receiving while Carlos Hyde also eclipsed the 1,000 yard plateau for the first time in his career.

As for the defense, losing J.J. Watt for the bulk of the season due to a torn pectoral, the pass rush disappeared. Adding secondary players during the year in Gareon Conley and Vernon Hargreaves, III allowed the defense to adust on the run. Not one of the most sound groups in recent Texans history, but the play of Zach Cunningham led the AFC in tackles should not go unnoticed. Also, Benardrick McKinney and D.J. Reader helped pace a strong inside trio of the defense.

Texans Combine Focus: Cornerbacks | Pass Rush | Running Backs | Wide Receivers 

2020 Draft Position

The Texans are without a first-round selection due to trading it away to the Miami Dolphins in a package to land both Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills. Heading into the draft, the Texans will need to get creative, and they will pick up a few more picks after the NFL passes out compensatory selections.

Here are the early draft picks for the Texans. 

Round
Selection

2nd

57th Overall 

3rd

90th Overall

4th (From Miami)

TBD

4th

TBD

5th

TBD

7th

TBD

*Compensatory Selections 

TBD

Help Wanted, Help Needed

The Texans have plenty of spots to address and they will have their feelers out for everything on the table. The Texans mantra remains to look at the entire roster and possibly upgrade where needed. 

The Texans have to find key answers at critical positions. Finding help with the pass rush, another wide receiver and running back could be high on their shopping list heading into the Combine. 

Other key roles the Texans should be monitoring is safety especially one that has the versatility to bump and cover slot wide receivers when needed. Also, find more help at cornerback and possible competition at right guard could be welcomed by the Texans. 

Five to Watch for the Texans at the Combine

  1. CB, Lamar Jackson, Nebraska: In 2019 season, earning second-team All-Big Ten and Nebraska Defensive MVP honors after recording 40 tackles, four for loss, three interceptions and 12 pass breakups
  2. CB, Jeff Gladney TCU: First-team All-Big XII after posting 31 tackles, 1.5 for loss, an interception, and a conference-high 14 pass breakups in 12 starts.
  3. Edge, Curtis Weaver, Boise State- Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, Weaver led Boise State and finished among the national leaders with 18.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks.
  4. WR, K.J. Hamler, Penn State- Hamler in 2019 caught 56 passes for 904 yards while averaging 16.1 yards per catch with eight touchdowns.
  5. WR, John Hightower, Boise State- Led the Broncos in receiving yards (51-953-18.5, eight touchdowns while also contributing to the run game with 16 rushes for 154 yards and was the team's primary kick returner.

Who Makes The Call on Draft Night 

This will be the first draft solely directed by head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien. O'Brien has had heavy input on personnel before during drafts and one example was him being adamant they draft Will Fuller in the 2016 NFL Draft over Josh Doctson. O'Brien was the lone voice that wanted Fuller while the consensus wanted to land Doctson. 

In other cases, then general manager Rick Smith was the one that traded up for Deshaun Watson on his own in the 2017 NFL Draft without any direction from O'Brien. 

Those are just two recent examples of how the draft night has gone for the Texans but now all sights will be set on how O'Brien will navigate the draft this off-season. 

Recent Draft Hits and Misses

The Texans last draft surprised everyone and sat still in the first round to draft Alabama State offensive tackle Tytus Howard. With Washington State's Andre Dillard falling down the draft board, many draft analysts were critical of the Texans not moving up to draft Dillard. 

The Texans had the last laugh at the end of the 2019 season with Howard playing much better than Dillard. The story is not even close to being written but Howard's start to his career has been a good development for the Texans. 

As for the biggest miss for the Texans, the failure of former 2015 first-round selection Kevin Johnson to stay healthy and live up to his 16th overall selection. Johnson could not beat the injury bug and his play suffered because of it. He did not get the chance to play out his 5th year deal with the Texans due to the team cutting him before the start of the 2019 season. Johnson is the only first-round selection by the Texans in the last decade to not live up to his draft slot. 

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