Texans NFL Tracker: No. 1 Safety In Draft Falls To Houston?

The Houston Texans have plenty of needs to fill and few picks to fill them within 2021, and it's time to take a look at who TexansDaily.com suggests the franchise should select. ... and what the rest of the NFL world thinks, too
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HOUSTON - Due to the ongoing pandemic, the 2020 NFL Draft promises to be a draft like no other … besides last year’s. The Houston Texans enter with numerous pressing needs and only eight picks to fill them with, so general manager Nick Caserio will need to bring his A-game.

We'll keep you plugged in with boots-on-the-ground coverage of the Texans, who of course do not have picks in the first and second rounds ... but still can, and must, get this right ...

FEB 24: A SAFETY STEAL? Names mocked to Houston in Round 3 don't offer the same fun as is being experienced in other NFL cities ... unless a steal awaits at No. 67.

The San Diego Union Tribune foresees just that, as it mocks Richie Grant, S, Central Florida, to the Texans.

The paper's author writes:

"The Texans entire defense needs to be overhauled, but their defensive backfield especially needs an influx of talent. Grant’s ball skills are impressive — 10 interceptions, five forced fumbles and four fumbles recovered in three seasons as a starter — and he was a standout during Senior Bowl week. He’s one of the top prospects in an underrated safety class.''

A Dane Brugler suggests, the author is right - he's a top prospect. Most experts think he's the second-best safety in the draft, and likely a second-round pick. 

Houston could use a break. Richie Grant in Round 3 represents that break.

TUESDAY FEB. 23: FREE AGENCY KICKING OFF General manager Nick Caserio has begun to put together his 2021 roster, first by re-signing running back Dontrell Hilliard on Monday, followed by fellow back Buddy Howell and cornerback Cornell Armstrong on Tuesday. 

READ MORE: Texans Re-Sign Hilliard As Return Job Opens Up

All three were signed to one-year deals, with each likely looking at fighting for special teams/backup spots for next season. Hilliard and Armstrong both signed $1.25 million contracts, with the specifics of Howell's currently unknown.

The Texans also released two veterans on Tuesday in guard Senio Kelemete and linebacker Peter Kalambayi.

READ MORE: Texans Cleaning House, Release Two Vets - 'Just The Beginning'?

SATURDAY FEB. 20: SHORING UP THE DEFENSIVE LINE: Anthony Wood of Texans Daily brings you our latest 2021 Mock Draft...

67 - Elijah Molden - Cornerback, Washington

The Texans need starters at cornerback and Molden is as sure a thing as any in this draft. An All-Pac-12 first team member in both 2019 and 2020, Molden has allowed just two touchdowns in four seasons in Washington, per PFF. Primarily a slot corner with excellent agility and a strong ability to read the game, Molden’s arrival would allow the Texans to leave primary corner Bradley Roby on the outside where they need him most.

107 - Daelin Hayes - Defensive Lineman, Notre Dame

With J.J. Watt gone the Texans need bodies on the defensive line. And while Hayes is not the finished article, he would be a solid rotational option alongside a veteran acquisition. At 6-3, 258 pounds Hayes has the size and speed to succeed and shows a good initial burst of pace and strong hands he could prove useful rushing the outside in lieu of Watt.

120 - Tedarrell Slaton - Defensive Tackle, Florida

A bruising run stuffer whose presence is always felt in the middle, Slaton is reminiscent of former Texans defensive tackle D.J. Reader in build and power. Aggressive and persistent, he would be a smart addition to Houston’s front four, who would allow fellow defensive tackle Ross Blacklock to focus his game on his own strength of pass rushing. That being said, Slaton is more than capable of chipping in here also.

146 - Rhamondre Stevenson - Running Back, Oklahoma

A powerful downhill rusher, Stevenson is surprisingly shifty and extremely hard to bring down on first contact. The Texans have struggled to block on the interior in recent years, and a relentless power back might go some way to churning out the tougher yards when finesse won’t cut it. Not the flashiest back, but you can guarantee his toughness will translate well to the NFL.

184 - Shi Smith - Wide Receiver, South Carolina

A Senior Bowl standout, Smith isn’t the tallest of receivers at 5-10 but what he lacks in height he more than makes up for in agility and aerial ability. Impressive across the field, particularly in contested passes, Smith would offer the Texans depth at a position where there remain question marks going forward.

199 - Paddy Fisher - Linebacker, Northwestern

A sideline to sideline linebacker, Fisher’s game is fast and aggressive. A tackling machine, the Katy, Texas native looks another safe bet and good value in the sixth round. At 6-4, Fisher is an imposing figure who would fit in well alongside Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham.

208 - Robert Jones - Offensive Lineman, Middle Tennessee

At 6-5 330 pounds, Jones has experience playing both guard and tackle. Versatility is key in the league, but particularly so in late-round picks. The Texans need options at guard, and the powerful Jones would be a solid one.

227 - Damar Hamlin - Safety, Pittsburgh

Patience and productivity jump to mind when it comes to our final pick. Hamlin would be a smart selection here, giving them depth behind Lonnie Johnson. Consistently productive, particularly over the past three seasons at Pitt he looks a good value pick.

FEB 10: A PATS TE The Houston Texans don't like the concept of "Patriots South,'' so we won't make too much of an issue of the fact that they've signed tight end Paul Quessenberry ... who spent time on the Patriots’ practice squad last year.

Quessenberry, more notably, is a 6-2, 250-pound Navy man and the brother of former Texans offensive lineman and cancer survivor David Quessenberry.

THURSDAY FEB. 4: DEFENSIVE DEPTH AND A HOUSTONIAN RECEIVER Our Anthony Wood with a Texans NFL Mock Draft, starting with pick No. 67 - Houston's first ...

67 - Jay Tufele - Defensive Tackle, USC 

Houston struggled last season after losing star defensive tackle D.J. Reader in free agency. At 6-3 305 pounds, Tufele could be just the guy they need to plug that gap. With the size and build of a more prototypical nose tackle a-la Reader, Tufele is surprisingly quick and athletic. More than capable of getting after the quarterback, his powerful run stuffing ability should appeal to the Texans.

107 - Adetokunbo Ogundeji - Defensive End, Notre Dame

A relentless defensive end with pace and power, Ogundeji's range and persistence were on full display at the recent Senior Bowl. Reminiscent of Texans defensive lineman Charles Omenihu, Ogundeji would be a solid rotational option at a position of need. 

120 - Quinn Meinertz - Guard, Wisconsin-Whitewater

Easily one of the winners of the Senior Bowl, Meinertz caught the eye with his strength, aggression, and questionable fashion sense. Coming from division III there will undoubtedly be questions about how he will perform when facing tougher opposition, but his skillset and ability to plow through defenders cannot be questioned. The Texans need options at guard, and Meinertz looks a gamble worth taking.

146 - Reed Blankenship - Safety, Middle Tennessee

A real jack of all trades. He can blitz, defend the pass and stop the run. Blankenship brings energy, a great eye for the ball, and a certain tenacity that should help him succeed at the next level. Throw in his ability as a returner, and the Texans would be smart to pick up a versatile defensive back, especially given their lack of depth at the position.

184 - Robert Rochell - Cornerback, Central Arkansas

Houston's need for cornerbacks is no secret, and Rochell looks like a potential steal. His ability to adjust to the ball mid air and aggressive tackling style are impressive enough, but his glue-like approach to man coverage is particularly fun to watch. 

199 - Jaelon Darden - Wide Receiver, North Texas

If you want to know about this Houston native's productivity with the Mean Green, look no further than his bio: "Ranked second in the nation in receiving touchdowns (19), third in receiving yards (1,190) and fourth in receptions (74) during the 2020 season - as of 1/4/2021." Watching Darden, it almost seemed unfair at times on whatever poor defensive backs were tasked with covering him that day, almost like watching a man amongst children. Not the tallest target, but what he lacks in height he makes up for in juice and elusiveness. 

208 - Garret Wallow - Linebacker, TCU

Houston need options at linebacker and Wallow would be a great fit. The first-team All-Big 12 member is a versatile playmaker who can produce both in the box and the backfield, he has a good eye for how the play is going to develop. And perhaps bringing in another Horned Frog will help get the best out of former TCU teammate and current Texans DT Ross Blacklock.

227 - Chris Evans - Running Back, Michigan

Had this been written up following the 2018 season, Evans would have far further up the board. However, having been suspended for the 2019 season and a relative non-entity in 2020 for the Wolverines, Evans is a hard one to predict. But there is talent there if coached correctly. His evasiveness and dual-threat ability should earn him a second chance in the NFL, and the Texans could use a strong returner.

Anthony Wood, Texans Daily.

TUESDAY, JAN. 26: DON'T GIVE UP ON ROSS BLACKLOCK just yet Texans fans. The first pick by the Texans and one of the two key pieces in the DeAndre Hopkins trade didn't have a stellar rookie year, but there are things to be excited about. 

SI NFL Draft: "Although he started just one game and was inconsistent during his time on the field, Blacklock displayed potential during his first professional season. The rookie is an incredible athlete; however, he must add nuance and technique to his game. With additional coaching and experience, the TCU product may be able to refine his game. Furthermore, the rookie can, for the first time, look forward to a complete offseason with the team. If the Houston Texans’ new coaching staff uses Blacklock situationally as a defensive end on run downs and a nose tackle on passing downs, they will be able to capitalize on his athleticism and talent while he develops into a complete interior defensive lineman."

Not a bad outlook when you consider the struggle to get Blacklock on the field last season. The new coaching staff will hopefully trust him more than the previous staff did, which was not at all. 

MONDAY, JAN. 25: POSTINS ON SENIOR BOWL The Texans, along with the rest of the NFL, should descend on the Senior Bowl, still expected to be played on Jan. 30 in Mobile, Alabama. The run-up to the game will surely be different, in terms of COVID-19 protocols. But, the Texans will be plugged in, looking at dozens of players that could be potential draft picks in April.

In fact, with the NFL Scouting Combine now basically canceled, the Senior Bowl may be the last chance NFL scouts get to get real, in-person face time with dozens of potential draft picks in one place before the draft.

Who do I think is worth watching - especially if I've seen the prospect play in person? Here are five players to keep an eye on this week in Mobile. (And by the way, TexansDaily.com has virtual credentials to the Senior Bowl, so keep us dialed up here!)

DB Tre Brown, Oklahoma: He'd be a big-play guy for a Texans defense that is sorely lacking there. I’ve had the chance to see the Sooner in person several times throughout his college career, and his game has grown nicely during his time in Norman. But he showed a knack for making big plays at key times, especially in Big 12 Championship games. He wrapped up his OU career with a game-ending interception of Iowa State’s Brock Purdy.

He’s on the small side (5-foot-10), but he has 4.5 speed and is considered a Top 20 corner in this draft, which means he could be had in the fourth round. That’s good value,

LB Jabril Cox, LSU: I saw Cox when he played at North Dakota State (he transferred to LSU before the 2020 season) and even then he was already primed for the NFL. At 6-foot-3, 229 pounds, he may be undersized. But he proved this year at LSU that he can make plays at the Power 5 level, and I’m betting he can do the same in the NFL. Could he be a third-round pick?

DL Tarron Jackson, Coastal Carolina: The 6-foot-2, 260-pound edge rusher from the little-known Sun Belt Conference school impressed everyone this year while the Chanticleers were trying to worm their way into the College Football Playoff. The Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year had 8.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss in 2020.

Some scouts will downgrade him for not playing at a Power 5 school. Watch the film. The guy can make plays. And he won’t cost you a first-round pick, for sure. Does he fit whatever Houston plans to do on D?

OL Alex Leatherwood, Alabama: Leatherwood projects as a Top 100 player in this draft, but he’s not going to end up going the first round. He can play guard or tackle, and taking Leatherwood in the third round doesn’t feel like a stretch.

OL Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater: A Division III prospect that I’ve seen in person a couple of times. Division III deferred its season to the spring, and the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference canceled football entirely, so that allowed Meinerz to prepare to impress scouts this week in Mobile. He’s still a developmental player at the NFL level, but he has all the raw materials you’re looking for to take a late-draft flier, or even snag as an undrafted free agent. - Matthew Postins

FRIDAY JAN. 22: DEFENSIVE NEED With defense in mind, Anthony Wood and Cody Stoots of TexansDaily.com have put together their first of many upcoming mock drafts.

READ MORE: Deshaun Trade Rumors: What Texans Fans Deserve

Anthony Wood

67 - Paulson Adebo - Cornerback, Stanford

Our first Texas native, Adebo opted out of the 2020 season, but his stats from 2018 and 2019 speak for themselves. Over the course of 22 appearances, Adebo notched eight interceptions and 38 defended passes and was named All-Pac-12 both seasons. At 6-1 and 190 pounds, he’s a lengthy ballhawk with good speed and strength in man coverage. And given Houston only really has Bradley Roby to rely on at cornerback, Adebo fills an instant need.

107 - Trey Sermon - Running Back, Ohio State

Duke and David Johnson aren’t the long-term answers at running back for the Texans, Sermon could be. A consistently productive rusher during his three years at Oklahoma and one as a Buckeye, the 6-1 215 pound back is surprisingly evasive for his size. He finished his senior season with 877 rushing yards in eight games, 331 of which came in one outing against Northwestern. With impressive lateral quickness and an ability to find space, he should be able to make the best of an inconsistent Texans offensive line.

120 - Joe Tryon - Outside Linebacker, Washington

Another player who opted out of this past season, Tryon would fill an immediate position of need. At 6-5 and 262 pounds, he’s a rangy rusher with good speed and strength. Between 2018 and 2019, the Washington native recorded nine sacks and 61 combined tackles, also being named second-team All-Pac-12 in ’19. A one-two punch of Tryon and defensive end Charles Omenihu on the right of Houston’s front seven could go a long way to solving their lackluster pass-rushing issues.

146 - David Moore - Guard, Grambling State

The Texans' offensive line has come a long way in the last two years, but the uncertainty around their guards remains an issue. Moore has the size and build of a prototypical NFL guard. At 6-3 and 320 pounds, Moore is another target who has spent 2020 out of football. The Grambling state product stands his ground well and can be dominant in one-on-one power battles. Moore is a bully on the line with good upper body strength and strong hands, as such he has plenty of potential and would be a smart acquisition.

184 - Divine Deablo - Safety, Virginia Tech

A strong tackler whose effective in the blitz, Deablo was a consistent producer throughout his five seasons at Virginia Tech. A team captain in 2020, the 6-3 226 pound senior recorded 206 total tackles in 51 appearances. His hard-nosed approach to tackling would be warmly welcomed in a Texans secondary that has been abused by opponents the last two seasons, and that still desperately needs depth at safety behind Justin Reid and Lonnie Johnson.

199 - Austin Watkins - Wide Receiver, UAB

Fresh off of a 1,642-yard season, Watkins looked like a man playing a children’s game at times over at UAB. At 6-3 210 pounds, he’s a big target with good footwork and straight-line speed to match. He’s a sleeper pick who could give the Texans depth on the outside, someone they could’ve leaned on heavily after Will Fuller was suspended in 2020.

208 - Carlo Kemp - Defensive Lineman, Michigan

A 6-3 286 pound defensive lineman who could fit well alongside Ross Blacklock, Kemp is similar to both Blacklock and Omenihu in his versatility and size. As such, this Michigan team captain would work well as a rotational option on the Texans’ line. An academic All-Big 10 honoree his final three years, Kemp would be a smart late pick.

227 - Ambry Thomas - Cornerback, Michigan

Who doesn’t like versatility? A cornerback with experience as a returner, the 6-0 182-pound Wolverine opted out of the 2020 season after three years and 39 appearances for Michigan. With solid ball awareness and agility, he’d be a solid depth option for the Texans.

READ MORE: Texans' McNair Privately Apologizes To Deshaun

Cody Stoots

67 - Asante Samuel Jr. - Cornerback, Florida State

How about some lineage in the secondary? His dad was a four-time All-Pro and played in New England. Nick Caserio obviously was in New England when Samuel was there, so there's a deep connection here. Samuel Jr. is very good in his own right. He was first-team All-ACC in 2020 for a disappointing Florida State team. He fits a man defense and could play right away for the Texans. The team desperately needs help in the secondary and with free agent misses and poor draft picks, the Texans look to turn that around here.

107 - Jonathan Cooper - Edge, Ohio State

Ohio State is almost "Pass Rush University" at this point. They have churned out player after player who is highly touted but it isn't just the Chase Young and Nick Bosas of the world. Tyquan Lewis (Colts) and Sam Hubbard (Bengals) have been mid-round hits from Ohio State. Cooper is a pass rush specialist so he might need to work his way into a role initially, but he can get after the quarterback. This might be too narrow of a focus for this selection, but the Texans need someone who can rush the passer with Whitney Mercilus having declined.

120 - Marvin Wilson - Defensive Lineman, Florida State

Back to the Seminoles for the Texans here. There are far too many questions along the defensive line, and it stands to reason some players are set to exit the team. Wilson can play inside and outside in a variety of roles. He can fill a need from the start if he is healthy and has a good camp. The Texans need some different depth and if Ross Blacklock came around he could pair with Wilson in two years to form a solid portion of the defensive line. If Blacklock doesn't turn out, Wilson will be there to take his snaps.

146 - Patrick Johnson - Edge, Tulane

Johnson tied for the second-most sacks in all of college football. The team will have to project a position for him as most scouting reports drop that nasty word "tweener" on him but he's another deep option for the Texans who, again, couldn't rush the passer. Perhaps his status as a tweener could be turned into versatility for the Texans. Another investment in one of the league's worst defenses.

184 - Josh Sills - Guard, Oklahoma State

This mullet-sporting mauler is something the Texans could use in their offensive line room. There should be some different veterans competing for the guard spots so sliding Sills in behind them and hoping he can overtake them in a year or two is a solid plan. There isn't a lot of depth at guard, so this helps add to one of the weaker spots on the offensive line for the Texans.

199 - Khalil Herbert - Running Back, Virginia Tech

Herbert was college football's fifth-leading rusher for a Hokies team that disappointed. He's a cut-and-go running back that can take almost any carry to the end zone. He won't be a feature back, probably better suited in a rotation or a duo, but he's a skilled offensive player the Texans can trust to just get upfield. Far too often we watched David Johnson dance and fail to gain any real yards. Herbert won't be doing that in Houston.

208 - Myles Jones - Cornerback, Texas A&M

This is a selection purely on athletic profile and the competition he played against. He's tall and long and played in the SEC against some solid wideouts. He isn't amazing at many things but he can help on special teams and hopefully, this lottery ticket can be a starter down the road.

227 - LeBryan Ray - Defensive Lineman, Alabama

Ray is a stout and effective run stuffer for the Crimson Tide. The Texans couldn't stop the run. He is a late-round flier from a top program in college football. That has served the Texans well in the past and is how the team found D.J. Reader and Carlos Watkins. 

READ MORE: Deshaun Texans Trade For 3 First-Round Picks? 'Scary' & 'Stupid'