The first thing that comes to mind when I think about the Houston Texans is the horrendous job that Bill O’Brien has done as the team’s general manager. Within the last year, he has made three horrific trades that will have huge ramifications on the Texans’ roster.
First, he sent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks for merely a third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. There is no chance that the Texans find a player the caliber of Clowney in the third round.
Next, he sent a king’s ransom to the Miami Dolphins for Laremy Tunsil. While Tunsil is a great player, the Texans paid a very steep price to acquire him, which included a 2020 first-round pick, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2021 second-round pick.
Finally, Houston traded the best player on their roster, All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, to the Arizona Cardinals for a second-round pick and damaged running back David Johnson. This is one of the worst trades we have ever seen.
Despite being a poorly run organization, the Houston Texans had a splendid 2019 season, going 10-6 and winning the AFC South division. They also beat the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Quarterback Deshaun Watson has developed into one of the most exciting players in the NFL and gives the franchise a great deal of hope for the future.
Watson made it clear that he was not happy with the organization’s decision to trade Hopkins. Will that damage the Texans’ relationship with Watson for the long term? That remains to be seen, but it is paramount that the Texans find a reliable number one receiver for Watson in the 2020 NFL Draft, something the below updated 7-round mock draft attempts to accomplish.
Team Needs: WR, EDGE, CB, DL
I want to try to be nice here, but the trade of Hopkins for David Johnson and a second-round pick was ridiculously bad. To make matters worse, the team tried to fix the mistake by signing Randall Cobb in free agency. While Cobb is a fine football player, he will not bring a fraction of the talent that was lost by giving away Hopkins. Currently, the Texans’ receiver corps consists of Cobb, Kenny Stills, and the often-injured Will Fuller. That group will not instill fear in opposing defenses by any means.
The Texans must also find a way to bolster their pass-rush. Currently, the team’s best option is Whitney Mercilus, who is no spring chicken. We must also ask ourselves, “Can J.J. Watt stay healthy?” In a string of unfortunate events, Watt has battled injuries for most of the last two seasons.
Despite resigning Bradley Roby and Vernon Hargreaves, the Texans still need help at the cornerback position. Johnathan Joseph, who has been a fixture in the Texans’ secondary for years, is no longer on the roster, and the career of Hargreaves has been a slippery slope.
D.J. Reader signed a multi-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals, which leaves a big hole in the middle of the Houston defense. Finding a suitable replacement for him in the 2020 draft is a must.
Round 2, Pick 40: Laviska Shenault, Jr., WR, Colorado
There isn’t a player in the entire 2020 Draft who can come in and instantly replace Hopkins. To be honest, I sincerely doubt that any of the wide receiver prospects in this draft class ever get to the level of Hopkins. With that said, the Texans must spend their highest draft resource on getting their star quarterback a significant weapon.
Laviska Shenault, Jr. would be a great selection here for the Texans. He might be the most dangerous receiver in the draft when the ball is in his hands, as he has the ability to create yards after the catch in chunks. He possesses great size and has the ability to accelerate with ease. Luckily for the Texans, a wide receiver with round one talent falls directly into their lap with the pick they acquired from the Arizona Cardinals in the Hopkins trade.
His 2019 stats are nothing too impressive, as he hauled in 56 receptions for 764 yards and 4 touchdowns. However, he is a far better prospect than his production shows. Adding a physical receiver like Shenault to complement the speed of Stills and Fuller will really help Watson’s continued development.
Round 2, Pick 57: Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M
As mentioned above, replacing defensive tackle D.J. Reader has to be a priority for the Texans. Reader was the best run-stopper on the Texans defense, so finding his replacement will be key.
Selecting Justin Madubuike here would be a complete value pick for the Texans. Madubuike wins with a combination of power and a lethal first step. He can cause consistent penetration and disruption at the line of scrimmage, allowing him to make a ton of plays behind the line of scrimmage. When you watch film on Madubuike, one thing that stands out is his ability to consistently play with a good pad level.
Not only do I think that Madubuike is a player that can replace Reader, but with proper coaching and development, I foresee him being an upgrade.
Round 3, Pick 90: Darrell Taylor, EDGE, Tennessee
One of the main objectives of the 2020 Draft must be to upgrade the pass-rush, and the Texans hit a home run with the selection of Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor. Taylor is explosive, aggressive, and has impressive lateral movement skills. He wins with speed, easily bending around the corner and putting offensive tackles on their heels. One big improvement from Taylor in 2019 was his development in pass-rushing counters.
Early on, Taylor can provide an immediate upgrade in the Houston pass-rush. With proper development, Taylor could be an impact defender who could consistently flirt with double-digit sack seasons.
Round 4, Pick 111: Darrynton Evans, RB, Appalachian State
I am well aware that the Texans just acquired Johnson via trade. However, I am not a big fan of Johnson, as I think injuries and usage could be leading to his demise. Sure, the Texans have Duke Johnson, but it is transparent that they only view him as a complementary back.
Darrynton Evans could prove to be a fourth-round gem for the Texans. He runs with tremendous vision, above-average contact balance, and possesses the ability to accelerate through the hole. He has wiggle to his game, allowing him to shake-and-bake defenders.
It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Evans was a better runner than Johnson in 2020. A strong Houston rushing attack is needed to bring balance to the Texans’ offense. Carlos Hyde was really good for them last year, so the Texans cannot afford to take a step back here.
Round 5, Pick 171: Nevelle Clarke, CB, UCF
If we’re being honest with ourselves, finding starters in the fifth round isn’t an easy task. While it is unlikely that UCF cornerback Nevelle Clarke develops into a starting cornerback, he will absolutely be able to add depth to the position.
Clarke has good fluidity and comes with plus ball skills. During the last two seasons, Clarke displayed these ball skills by intercepting four passes and accumulating 30 passes defended. Standing 6’1” and weighing 187 pounds, he brings ideal size to the position.
Round 7, Pick: 240: Darryl Williams, IOL, Mississippi State
Ever after a blockbuster trade with the Miami Dolphins that landed them Tunsil, the Texans’ offensive line still was the team’s Achilles heel in 2019. Adding some beef in the interior would help them a great deal.
Darryl Williams isn’t the best blocker in the world, but he is tough in the trenches and will fight on every down. He is battle-tested, as he faced elite defensive linemen from the SEC on a weekly basis at Mississippi State. This experience will pay dividends for him at the next level.
Round 7, Pick: 248: D.J. Wonnum, EDGE, South Carolina
The Texans double-dip on pass-rushers in the 2020 Draft. This time, they add an intriguing edge rusher from South Carolina in D.J. Wonnum. There is no doubt that injuries have haunted Wonnum during his collegiate career, but when he is healthy, he is a difference-maker.
When you watch film on Wonnum, the thing you notice most is his tireless motor. He gives everything he has on every snap. He possesses good length, violent hands, and is a stout run defender. In the seventh round, Wonnum gives the Texans a low risk, high reward type of player.