Despite having a number of good corners, the safety position still needs to be addressed. Here is why the Texans should address it in round one.
Looking over the secondary, there is a lot to like about the corners. Some experienced players in Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson with a young talent in Kevin Johnson. But the safety position is lacking considerably.
What’s left on the back end is Eddie Pleasant, Corey Moore, Kurtis Drummond, Lonnie Ballentine and former Jet Antonio Allen, brought in this offseason. Charles James and Robert Nelson are also back there in the secondary, going to compete for time. There are certainly no world beaters on that list.
In a division with a good crop of young quarterbacks in Andrew Luck, Blake Bortles and Marcus Mariota as well as receivers like T.Y. Hilton and Allen Robinson, among others, the safety spots need to be shored up or teams will go to town throwing deep on the Texans next year. While offensive line issues around the division prevented as many deep shots from being taken as there could have been, sportingcharts.com shows that the Jaguars and Colts were both top ten in passing plays over 25 yards.
The NFL has increasingly become a passing league, and secondaries are going to have to keep up. Joseph and Jackson are both getting up there in years, and might not have the legs to keep up with the young receivers much longer. That security blanket over the top is needed, particularly with Luck going to be healthy heading into 2016 and the Jaguars and Titans both shoring up their offensive lines.
The crop of safeties is not very deep this year. After Jalen Ramsey, a hybrid corner/safety, there are a few guys that could be late first round picks but are more likely to be second round material. They are Karl Joseph from West Virginia, Keanu Neal from Florida and Vonn Bell from Ohio State.
Joseph was leading the nation with five interceptions before a knee injury ended his season after four games. At 5-9 and 205 pounds he isn’t the biggest safety, but still plays tough in the run game. Neal is bigger at 6′ and 211, and he is a big hitter at safety. His coverage skills could use work, so I think the Texans should not pick him. Bell is an interesting prospect because he has 12 interceptions over the past two seasons and at 5-11 and 205 he has decent size and can also play some nickel corner.
It’s arguable that Joseph has the most upside and coverage skills of that group. I wouldn’t read too much into his high interception count because those games at the start of the year were against inferior competition and some Big 12 opponents, where defenders get more chances to make interceptions. Still, that does not take away from his talent–however the injury report will determine if he will be a viable first round option or not.
While it might be a bit of a reach to get one of these safeties in the first round, the Texans will need to be able to slow down the young and explosive passing games of their AFC South opponents.