The draft is not for a while and we all know how little mock drafts matter this early in the season but let’s go ahead and do something we’ll regret later when we look back on it. For the sake of argument we’ll give the Texans the 32nd overall pick and countdown the players that should be considered when April’s draft comes around.
1. Star Lotulelei
He is Scouts Inc.’s top prospect and would fill a need for the Texans. Shaun Cody is a phenomenal locker room presence but his play on the field could be greatly improved upon by the University of Utah standout. I don’t have him as the top player in the draft but because he fills the biggest hole on the team he would be the best pick the Texans could make.
2. Manti Te’o
I have Te’o as the top player in college football and probably the best inside linebacker to come out in the draft since Patrick Willis. Not only is he a Heisman candidate as a defensive player, he plays linebacker in the 3-4 scheme meaning he would come in to the perfect situation in Houston and get to learn under Brian Cushing.
3. Jarvis Jones
Jarvis Jones would only make sense here assuming that the Texans don’t re-sign Connor Barwin. I think that is unlikely if they have the funds to do so, and the fact that he is having a down year means that they could get him for peanuts, but if he does leave it would stand to reason that the Texans would spend an early pick on a pass rusher. Jarvis Jones is another 3-4 college player and the fact that he played outside linebacker in college means there would be almost no learning curve coming in and doing it in the NFL unlike is 4-3 defensive end counterparts.
4. Luke Joeckel
Offensive tackle was one of the Texans biggest needs last year and there were a plethora of good options available to them when they took Mercilus. They chose to go in a different direction and have filled the need admirably but if someone like Joeckel falls to the Texans it is unlikely that he would fall beyond them.
5. Alec Ogletree
Ogletree is not on the same planet as Te’o but he would be the top inside linebacker just about any draft that didn’t include Te’o. He is similar in the fact that he also plays in the 3-4 resulting in a smaller learning curve, and he would be a dramatic upgrade from Bradie James.
6. Robert Woods
Robert Woods is the prototype that the Texans covet in a wide receiver. He is a possession guy that can go up and get the jump ball and has managed to put up decent numbers in a pro style offense in his time at USC. The Texans should recognize that wide receiver is a huge area of need and that need wasn’t addressed sufficiently by spending a third round pick on it last year. Robert Woods could easily become a similar player to Julio Jones in our offense and it would almost certainly take a similar trade to get him, but if they did he would have an immediate impact on the offense.
7. Kenny Vaccaro
Vaccaro is a playmaker that the Texans have never had at safety before. It is likely that Glover Quin Jr. will walk in free agency this summer as the team only has so much money to offer and if he does this pick makes even more sense. Vaccaro is probably the most likely player listed thus far that could fall to the Texans without having to trade up but if he puts up impressive numbers at the combine he could very easily become a mid-first-round pick.
8. Keenan Allen
Keenan Allen hasn’t impressed me much this season but that’s because he is a possession receiver in an offense that doesn’t have much skill at the quarterback position. Much like Woods he won’t put up ridiculous numbers but the Texans haven’t looked for a guy to take the top off of the defense since Andre Davis and it more than likely won’t change now especially considering they think they have that in Keshawn Martin.
9. Barrett Jones
Barrett Jones has fallen off of people’s radar this year which could easily be a blessing in disguise for the Texans. Jones is the reigning Outland Trophy winner and has the skill set to play anywhere on the offensive line meaning he could fill the void of our swing lineman that Brandon Brooks was expected to do. Jones would make tons of sense and would be a steal in the late first round.
10. Matt Barkley
I’m going to catch some flack for this one but it makes sense. If the Texans are sitting at 32 and the hands down best quarterback in this year’s draft class falls to them they would be dumb not to draft him. The Packers reached and drafted a quarterback at 24 when they had a Hall of Famer on the roster and he turned in to Aaron Rodgers. I would certainly be content with seeing the Texans draft a quarterback if it was a steal like that.