The Houston Texans draft should prioritize selecting a defense during the 2020 NFL Draft.
With the first round of the NFL Draft concluding late Thursday night, the Houston Texans draft should be taking note of the emphasis on drafting a dominate defense. J.J. Watt serves as the staple name on the Texans defense and has had an impressive NFL career as a five-time Pro Bowl selection and three times has won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
Watt can’t do it alone though, and the Texans draft needs to prioritize drafting a defense to join the elite edge rusher with the limited picks the team does have this year.
On the offensive side of the ball, Houston has been working to iron out their plans with Deshaun Watson, while adding headline names to their roster like Randall Cobb, Brandin Cooks, and David Johnson. With an emphasis on spreading the ball around and utilizing more of their offensive weapons, the Texans defense will be charged with securing leads, and minimizing opponent scoring opportunities.
Defensive end Chase Young from Ohio State was the second name to be called in the 2020 NFL Draft, selected No. 2 overall by the Washington Redskins, who have used a first round pick on a defensive player four years in a row. The other three players were Jonathan Allen (17th overall, 2017), Da’Ron Payne (13th overall, 2018), Montez Sweat (26th overall, 2019).
Young was the first of 13 defensive players to be drafted in the first round. That’s nearly half the selections, and with ESPN’s second round predictions including a hefty sampling of defensive players, the Texans are going to need to prioritize defense.
The Texans are already starting to add to their defensive roster by signing Houston native and free agent safety Michael Thomas. The acquisition of the 2018 Pro Bowl defensive back indicates that the Texans are putting an emphasis on acquiring top talent in their secondary.
Even with addition of the veteran Thomas, the Texans ranked 28th in total yards allowed in 2019 — a stat they’re surely focusing on improving on moving forward. While Houston also ranked 28th for passing touchdowns allowed, the teams run defense actually placed Top 10 (coming in at No. 9) in terms of running touchdowns allowed. This needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as the Texans still placed 25th in rushing yards allowed, giving up 1,937 yards on the ground through the ’19 season.
Taking into consideration the high-potential offense that the Texans boast, and the fact that they have won the AFC South four of the last five seasons, the Texans could put themselves in a position to make a serious playoff run in 2020 by drafting a defense and bolstering their secondary.
Owning the 40th overall pick (the eighth pick of the second round), there are still six impactful defensive players that the Texans could realistically target.
A.J. Epenesa boasted 32 solo tackles in the ’19 season, and 11.5 sacks. The Iowa prospect was passed on in the first round with attention being called to his ability to change direction. Make no mistake, as a bull-rusher, the edge rusher looks to have an impactful rookie season.
Yetur Gross-Matos is another defensive end that the Texans could seriously gain value from adding to the roster. With 35 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks in two years starting, the Penn State prospect could add some much needed pressure. Praised for his ability to read the play in the back field, Yetur’s sure to be an asset on any team.
Zack Baun and Marlon Davidson are the other developing edge-talents to be considered, the former being a versatile linebacker and aggressive run-stopper, while the latter seems to be more suited to enter the league as a backup. Drafting Epenesa, Gross-Matos, or Baun would all solidify Houston’s defensive front, and help significantly with defending the run.
In the same vein, if Houston is looking for talent inside the tackles, TCU Ross Blacklock has significant potential. Although his hand work comes under criticism, and he needs to keep his feet more consistently.
The agile defensive tackle is elite when it comes to finding gaps and has potential to develop into a superior pass-rusher. The Texans could use some muscle at the position, and Blacklock could be the answer.
Finally, if the Texans want to follow suit with themselves in drafting a defense, they could instead target another secondary to join the ranks with newly signed Michael Thomas. Alabama safety Xavier McKinney offers a versatile set of skills in coverage, and is known for above average football intelligence. Teams around the league are looking for versatility in their defensive backs, and McKinney offers that in volume.
The Texans have a rounded out their offense, and with a second round pick just hours away, they are poised to select top future-talent to add to the ranks of J.J. Watt, Michael Thomas, and their developing defense.