Relevance in the NFL Draft each year is not necessarily something NFL teams strive for. If you're relevant on draft weekend, it probably means that the 18 weekends that comprise the NFL regular season didn't go all that well for you. In the case of the Houston Texans' draft relevance in 2022, their first pick in the first round, 3rd overall, is a product of their own doing (Read: 4-13 record in 2021), and their second pick in the first round, 13th overall, is from the Deshaun Watson trade.
Whatever the case, for the first time in forever, this April ramp up to the draft feels kind of fun around here, the first few steps of hope that Texan fans have been able to cautiously execute in quite some time. With that said, less than four weeks away from the Texans restocking the shelves with good, young players, here are four storylines that seem to be developing in the first round of this draft, and all of them affect the Texans in some way:
4. Malik Willis is rising fast, and "QB Desperation SZN" is underway!
You could see this coming, right? It's already a draft that is perceived to be lacking top level quarterback talent especially compared to last year's class, so when Liberty QB Malik Willis wowed scouts at his Pro Day with some impressive throws (albeit against AIR, not actual human defenders), you could see the imagery of the green, upward stock arrows mythically forming around his person. So now Willis appears to have separated himself from the pack.
Here's where this makes things fun for the Texans, assuming Willis' stock continues to rise. One of three things is going to happen. One, the Lions (or a trade partner for the Lions) jump on Willis with the second overall pick, pushing one of the top two non-QBs to the Texans. Two, Willis is there at three, and the Texans start getting phone calls about trading back (and accumulating even MORE picks). Or, three, and this is a HUGE long shot, Nick Caserio says "Screw it" and drafts Malik Willis. I think that is highly unlikely, but wow, what a curveball that would be!
3. There is gonna be a wide receiver flurry right around where the Texans pick at 13th overall.
I think, in a perfect world, Caserio wouldn't mind trading back with either of his first round picks, and accumulating more picks for either this year or future years' drafts. Willis likely give him the best chance to so it with the 3rd overall pick. With the 13th overall pick, acquired as part of the package for Deshaun Watson, the best chance to move back might be if/when a run on wide receivers gets some steam. Right now, the 8th overall pick (Atlanta) is where wide receivers are coming off the boar din mock drafts. There are some WR-needy teams throughout the first round, and if names like Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Treylon Burks start flying off the board, maybe a team gets desperate and calls the Texans. Particularly, keep an eye on the Packers and Chiefs, two GOOD teams with multiple first round picks that they acquired in trades where they sent OUT a marquee WR (Davante Adams in Green Bay, and Tyreek Hill in Kansas City). If Green Bay came calling with the 22nd and 28th overall picks to snag, say, Wilson or London at 13th overall, would Caserio pull the trigger on that deal? I think he might.
2. Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is falling.
We have made it through NFL Combine season, and now we are onto the individual school Pro Days for all of the top draft prospects. For Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, someone who draft experts see as having some very freakish size and skill qualities, the combine and pro day process were not all that kind to him, due largely to underwhelming times in his 40 yard dashes. Hamilton ran a 4.59 forty at the combine, and followed that up with two runs in the low 4.7's. For a safety, this is not great, however, my counter to that would be "Watch Kyle Hamilton's film at Notre Dame, and ask yourself if there was ever a time where you watched him and you even remotely thought his speed was a problem." The good news here for Texans fans is that perhaps Hamilton is still on the board, even after a trade back with the Panthers or the Falcons for the 6th or 8th overall pick.
1. Georgia defensive end Travon Walker is rising.
Going the opposite way of Hamilton, and doing so at breakneck speed, is Walker, one of several elite cogs in a Georgia defensive machine that was an historic college defense in 2021. Walker ran a 4.51 forty yard dash at the combine, and since then, he has seen his name rise to the top of many a mock draft. In fact, it's hard to find a mock draft these days that has Walker making it past the fifth overall pick. In several mock drafts, he forecasted to become a Houston Texan. This would be a scary one for me, if the Texans chose to make Walker the 3rd overall pick. Combine risers, as a general rule, scare me as players, and there are some areas where Walker needs to improve (i.e. pass rush moves and techniques) that are areas that he needs to come into the league doing well already, if you're going to select him THAT high.
In the end, more than anything else, all of these storylines play into one overriding theme with the Houston Texans' 2022 draft, and that's Nick Caserio's desire to move back and stock up on more picks, and likely some of those would be in 2023 and 2024, so that the roster isn't overflowing with rookies in 2022. The desirability of the positions and players listed above factor directly into the liquidity of the draft currency market.
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