The 2019 NFL draft is two weeks away beginning Thursday, April 25, and will be broadcast live from Nashville. The draft is like Christmas for NFL franchises. Teams have made a list (draft board) and they’re checking it twice. They’re trying to determine what players have been naughty (draft value sliding) or nice (ascending in value).
Locally, Texan GM Brian Gaine prepares for his second draft as Texans general manager. Last year, the Texans didn’t have a draft pick until the third round due to the Deshaun Watson trade.
This season, they have the 23rdselection in the first round and two picks, No. 54 and No. 55, in the second round. They also have a third-round selection (86thoverall). With four picks in the top 100, Gaine and the Texans have a very good chance of filling some key personnel needs.
The Texans are coming off an impressive 11-5 season in 2018 that saw them roll off nine consecutive wins en route to capturing the AFC South division title. They underperformed and were embarrassed at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Indianapolis Colts 21-7.
Heading into this offseason the Texans have some noticeable needs that must be addressed in order to stay in contention with the upper echelon teams in the AFC. The most glaring weakness is in the offensive line. Quarterback Watson was sacked a league-leading 62 times in 2018. Clearly there’s a need for improvement there.
The Texans signed free agent left tackle Matt Kalil to a one year deal. Kalil, is a former Pro Bowl performer who comes with an impressive resume. He was a former fourth pick overall by the Minnesota Vikings and has been a starter in 82 games. He missed the 2018 season due to a knee injury and the Texans are hoping that at 29, Kalil can return to his Pro Bowl form.
Fortunately for the Texans, the 2019 draft class is loaded with quality offensive linemen. Expect the team to draft at least one and possibly two offensive linemen. Watson is a franchise quarterback but his effectiveness will be minimized if he’s constantly running for his life or picking himself up off the turf. As an added bonus, improvement in the offensive line improves the rushing game for Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman.
Names to watch for potential draft choices include: Dalton Risner, Kansas State OT; Cody Ford, Oklahoma OT; Kaleb McGary, Washington OT and Tytus Howard, Alabama State OT.
The second most glaring need the Texans hope to address in the draft is in the secondary. The Texans lost safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson to free agency. Oft-injured former first-round selection cornerback Kevin Johnson was released. The team signed former Jaguar starting safety Tashaun Gipson. In three seasons with Jacksonville, Gipson, 28, started all 48 of his games.
The Texans signed two cornerbacks in free agency to one-year deals. Former Denver standout Bradley Roby, 26, is expected to start opposite Johnathan Joseph. Former Cleveland corner Briean Boddy-Calhoun was brought in for depth at the position.
Don’t be surprised if the Texans draft two cornerbacks. Names to watch include: Andraez “Greedy” Williams, LSU; Deandre Baker, Georgia; Tayvon Mullen, Clemson and Kendall Sheffield (from Fort Bend Marshall), Ohio State.
The Texans are woefully thin at receiver. Will Fuller has yet to complete a full season in the three years he has been on the roster. Names like speedster Mecole Hardman, Georgia and Auburn’s Darius Slayton could be on the list as late selections.
The Texans have needs and NFL Christmas comes in two weeks. They hope to find players to fill their needs.