So I will be acutely watching the draft that Thursday night — likely at the team's draft party at Miller Outdoor Theatre in the Museum District — and so should you. Part of the fun of watching the first round of the draft, whether your team has picks or not, is watching the drafted players who are actually AT the draft get selected. Watching them stroll up onto the stage and awkwardly hug
Here is the list of the 21 players who have accepted invitations to be in attendance in Las Vegas at the draft:
Okay, I have a lot of questions about this list, both Texans-related and general questions, as I'm sure you do, as well. Let's dive in, shall we?
21 prospects will attend the 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas. pic.twitter.com/mKuesyBCDJ— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 14, 2022
Who are the most prominent players that WILL NOT be attending?
Before we even go through the names, your first sub-question to this may be the same as mine — who turns down a free trip to Vegas? Well, evidently, I think it's safe to say that three who did for sure were Georgia linebacker Travon Walker, LSU cornerback Derek Stingley, Jr., and Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett. They are ranked 5th, 10th, and 16th on the composite mock draft tracker, which means all three are firmly inside the top 21 prospects in the country. Other players who may have been invited and said "no thanks, we'd rather watch at home on our couch," would be Northern Iowa tackle Trevor Penning (18th), Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie (21st), Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks (22nd), and Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum (23rd).
So which of the guys attending should we expect to see strut onto the stage when the Texans pick at number three overall?
Right now, most of the mock drafts have the Texans selecting one of the two elite tackles in this draft — either Alabama's Evan Neal or North Carolina State's Ikem Okwonu. Both are excellent players, but each would probably start their careers as a guard, given that the Texans return both left tackle Laremy Tunsil and presumed right tackle Tytus Howard in 2022. Charlie Heck was the starter at right tackle for a large chunk of 2021, and he returns this season, as well. Cornerback Sauce Gardner from Cincinnati seems to have emerged as a possibility, and safety Kyle Hamilton, whose stock has slipped a bit since his Pro Day, is still someone who I think can help transform a defense. If the Texans decide to draft an edge rusher, it's unlikely Aidan Hutchinson is there at three, but Kayvon Thibodeaux should be (more on him in a moment).
And how about at thirteen overall?
Myself, I would like to see the Texans use this pick on a wide receiver to make a more dangerous offense in 2022. New offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has said that he would like to take more deep shots with Davis Mills, so Alabama's Jameson Williams, who is coming off an ACL tear, would be ideal, if fully healthy, but I would be fine with Drake London out of USC, Chris Olave or Garrett Wilson out of Ohio State, really any of the receivers who are in Vegas for this thing. They'd each be a great addition to the Texans. Maybe you get somebody sliding who was thought to be a top five pick, but teams are questioning SOMETHING about him (again, more on that in a moment).
And who should we expect the Texans to not even look at on this list?
Malik Willis and Matt Corral, for sure. I would be shocked if the Texans selected a quarterback with each of these picks, based on (1) comments Lovie Smith has made about his confidence in Mills, (2) Mills' actual performance in the second half of last season, and (3) the questions surrounding this particular group of quarterbacks. It is not thought to be a good class, and Nick Caserio does NOT strike me as the type to reach on a player, if the value is not there.
Which prospect is most likely to suffer the dreaded Green Room Slide?
OK, now what we are all here for — which player or players end up on camera looking miserable in the green room, because they're watching millions of dollars slip away with each passing pick. These players fall into two categories, really. The first is the guy who thought he was going top five, but is sliding into the mid teens. For that, Thibodeaux and Hamilton are easy choices. Thibodeaux has the dreaded questions about his "motor" (i.e. does he LOVE playing football?), and Hamilton ran a very slow 40 yard dash at this Pro Day. To some of these scouts, you'd be better off robbing a bank than running a slow 40 yard dash.
The second category of player that slides in the draft is the guy who shows up at the draft because he was happy to be invited, but is praying he's still not sitting there at the end of the first round Thursday night, and then has to wait until Friday to go in the second round. The most likely in that category, according to the composite mock draft tracker, would be Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean (26th), Boston College guard Zion Johnson (28th), Corral (34th), and Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon (39th).
The first round of the NFL Draft is on Thursday, April 28, and begins at 7 p.m. Coverage is on ESPN, the NFL Network, and locally on the radio on SportsRadio 610.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.