Sean Pendergast

NFL Announces 17 Prospects Invited to NFL Draft

C.J. Stroud has a great chance of being the next Houston Texan introduced live at the NFL Draft.
C.J. Stroud has a great chance of being the next Houston Texan introduced live at the NFL Draft. Screen grab from YouTube
On paper, the NFL Draft serves a functional purpose to the 32 NFL franchises, as the preferred mechanism to import talent and build a championship roster. However, the NFL has evolved into more than just a sports league. It's an entertainment vessel, made for television, so now in 2023, at its core, the NFL Draft is one of the key junctures on the episodic drama that is the NFL season.

As such, draft night should be (and usually is) a roller coaster of emotions, with very high highs and painful-to-watch lows. Over the last couple decades, one of the biggest topics going into each NFL Draft's first night is "Which first round prospects start siding down the board, and get largely ignored, particularly prospects who thought they'd be gone by, say, the 10th pick?"

Well, until we know who's invited to attend the draft, we can't begin to guess. Fortunately, the NFL announced late last week who the 17 names will be that will attend the festivities Thursday night, April 27. Here they are:
Some good familiar names, particularly to Texan fans who have been following the draft process and following which of these names the Texans have show in interest in. Now, these are the 17 attendees, but that doesn't mean they are the top 17 prospects overall. There may be a few prospects who chose to RSVP "NO" to attending the draft in person. So, as far as these 17 names, here they are, in order of where they stack up on the Mock Draft Consensus website, as of Sunday morning:
34. K. WHITE
 Okay, now for three questions that likely matter to you about this list:

For which players are we most likely to hear "the Houston Texans select"....
Well, by the numbers above from the Mock Draft compilation website, it would be Stroud and his Ohio State teammate Smith-Njigba, who are both the most frequently mock drafted players to the Texans at 2nd overall and 12th overall. Bryce Young would be the player on this list whose name most Texans would LIKE to hear attached to their team on draft night. As for other players with a chance to be introduced as a new Houston Texan, Anderson and Wilson are names that have been mentioned if the Texans choose to pass on Stroud. The other two wide receivers on the list, Flowers and Addison, are also likely targets, if the Texans move back from the 12th overall pick in a trade.

Who are the players most likely to sit around a while unexpectedly?
Typically, it would be a quarterback who would fill this role. The most famous examples of this phenomenon are probably Aaron Rodgers in 2005, Brady Quinn in 2007, and Johnny Manziel in 2014. The league got it right on two of those three, in letting them slide down the board. In the case of Manziel, he should have slid entirely off the board and into the ocean. Will Levis is the obvious choice here, as he's been mock drafted high in the first round quite often, and yet every evaluation of Levis is littered with concerns. Additionally, Tennessee's Hendon Hooker is moving up many draft boards quickly, as his torn ACL becomes healthier and healthier.

Who are the most glaring absences from this list?
Here are the highest mock drafted names that will not be in Kansas City for the draft:

10. Lukas Van Ness
13. Broderick Jones
15. Dalton Kincaid
17. Darnell Wright
18. Calijah Kancey
19. Myles Murphy
20. Nolan Smith
21. Quentin Johnston

There are a few interesting things about this list and the folks who will NOT be attending. The only two edge rushers who are attending are Anderson and Wilson. You see names like Van Ness, Murphy, and Nolan Smith. Those three guys are all considered guys who could either go Top 10, or slide deep into the first round. Kincaid's name here highlights an interesting fact — there are ZERO tight ends who will attend the draft, despite the fact that this is considered a great class of tight ends. Finally, Johnston reportedly was not invited at all, which is fascinating, when you consider that Flowers and Smith-Njigba are the only two wide receivers being mock drafted higher than Johnston.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast