How did the front office do in the first three rounds?
With the first two days of the NFL Draft now complete, it’s a good time to break down the Texans’ selections so far. Through a series of trades, the team only drafted at two original spots in three rounds, moving both back and forward to acquire some impressive talent. After I’ve talked about each pick, I’ll give an overall grade on the team’s choices up to this point, which reflects whether or not they made the “right” decisions.
1.3 – Derek Stingley Jr, CB, LSU
In my seven-round mock from a few days ago, I said the Texans would be taking Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. While they ultimately used this pick on a cornerback, it was one they felt like had more upside. Stingley dealt with injuries that kept him off the field multiple times over the past two seasons, but when he did play, he made his case for being the best cornerback in all of college football. Stingley stood out the most during LSU’s championship run in 2019, recording 21 pass deflections and 6 interceptions as a freshman starter. Although viewed as a first-round pick, many analysts didn’t project him inside the top ten until his pro day, when he put up great numbers and attracted even more hype. Gardner may have been a safer choice here, but if Stingley can stay healthy as a pro, the rest of the league better watch out.
1.15 – Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M
The Texans moved back two spots from 13 to take a homegrown offensive lineman, who was a five-star recruit coming out of Atascocita High School. Green brings a lot of versatility to the team, which is likely why he went higher than where most assumed he would go (picks 20-30). I had Trevor Penning being selected here, who went just four picks later to the Saints at 19. Penning is a bit of a controversial topic, but I came to realize that Green was truly the better pick for what this team needs. I also viewed Zion Johnson (IOL, Boston College) as someone the Texans could trade back for, but it made sense to take a kid who grew up just outside of the Houston city limits. Green would likely start from day one, while Penning could take a year or more to develop (at guard or tackle). I wouldn’t call this pick a reach, but rather a higher evaluation that adds up given the circumstances.
2.37 – Jalen Pitre, S, Baylor
Pitre was generally viewed as the third best safety in this class, which is exactly what he ended up being in terms of selection (Kyle Hamilton and Daxton Hill were taken before him). Although I had the Texans waiting to take a safety, it was known that Lovie Smith valued defensive backs higher than most coaches going into the draft, so it didn’t shock me at all to see Pitre go off the board at 37. It also shows how big of a loss Justin Reid really was, but Pitre has the skills to easily replace him or become an overall better player with time. He’s also somewhat of a local talent, which could have been a factor in this choice (just like Green). Pitre had his best season as a senior last year, which was his fifth with the Baylor Bears. He recorded 75 total tackles, 7 pass deflections, 3.5 sacks, and 2 interceptions, all of which helped him win the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award. Pitre brings plenty of experience to this Texans team, and can once again be labeled as an immediate contributor.
2.44 – John Metchie III, WR, Alabama
Had Metchie not torn his ACL in the SEC championship game, he would have likely been a late first-round pick. He was clearly the Crimson Tide’s WR2 behind Jameson Williams, but on a team of that caliber, even the fifth man on the depth chart could be viewed as one of the best in the nation. Metchie didn’t play a role in the offense until 2020, although you wouldn’t have known that if you only watched him in 2021. Last season, he caught 96 passes for 1,142 yards and 8 touchdowns, looking like a veteran or fifth-year senior in the process. Metchie’s rise towards the top happened very quickly, and it’s also somewhat unexpected. The 21-year-old was born in Taiwan before spending time in both Ghana and Canada. He eventually came to Maryland for high school, where football started to play a larger role in his life. Even after suffering such a substantial injury, some doctors have claimed Metchie could be ready for training camp, which would be great news if true. The Texans needed help at receiver, and they didn’t have to use a first rounder to get one of the better prospects in a deeper-than-usual class.
3.75 – Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
Harris is another established player with tons of upside, and will be reunited with former college teammate John Metchie. Despite not playing linebacker in high school, Harris caught on to the position very quickly, and became a solid role player over three seasons. While his 2021 stats are an improvement from 2020, many believe he “plateaued” and overall progress slowed down. There could be a debate on how accurate this is, but regardless, Harris is a welcome addition to the linebacker room. He’s not someone who will dominate right away, but can be respected within the rotation. Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean was still on the board at the time, but after injury concerns were revealed, it appears Caserio wanted someone who would play immediately.
Overall Grade: A-
This was the first time Texans fans got to see what GM Nick Caserio could do with true draft capital, and so far, it’s been very well-rounded. I would have given the class an A or A+, but the only thing lacking is a selection at running back in the first two days. The ground game was at one of its worst points in franchise history last year, so going the first two days without welcoming a new member of the backfield was a bit concerning. Fortunately, they addressed the running back situation in day three, but that’s a post for another day.