The 2022 NFL Draft begins on April 28, which means that The Game Haus will be writing draft profiles for every team. Each NFL team will be evaluated heading into this year’s draft, as our staff recaps their last season, highlights their needs, and pinpoints their potential 2022 NFL Draft targets. The Houston Texans are the subject of today’s 2022 NFL Draft profile.
After the atrocious offseason, the Houston Texans had it is impressive that the team did not have the first overall pick this past year. Houston wasn’t even the worst team in their own division. Texans head coach David Culley got this team to four wins a season ago but was still fired anyways. Culley was replaced by his defensive coordinator Lovie Smith. The team also replaced offensive coordinator Tim Kelly with quarterback coach & passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton.
Houston rotated between veteran Tyrod Taylor and 2021 third-round pick Davis Mills at quarterback last season. They were without Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson because of the combination of his legal issues and his trade demands. Taylor started six games for Houston last season. In those six games, Taylor threw for 966 passing yards, five passing touchdowns, and five interceptions. He also had 19 rushing attempts for 151 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. Mills played in 13 games and started in 11 games for Houston. He threw for 2,664 yards, 16 touchdowns, and ten interceptions. Throughout the season Mills progressively got better and showed that he could potentially be the team’s long-term answer at quarterback.
The Texans running game was abysmal this past season. They were dead last in rushing with 83.6 rushing yards per game which is the worst in franchise history. Rex Burkhead led the team in rushing with 427 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. Mark Ingram was second on the team in rushing with 294 rushing yards despite only playing seven games with the team before being traded. Former Pro Bowlers David Johnson and Phillip Lindsay were basically non-factors for their offense.
As expected Brandin Cooks led the team in receiving with 1,037 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns. Then 2021 third-round pick Nico Collins was second on the team in receiving with 446 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan emerged as the possible starting tight end for the team going forward. Veteran wide receivers Chris Conley, Danny Amendola, and Chris Moore also had key roles for this offense during the season.
Houston had one of the worst defenses in the league last season. It was clear that they were testing veterans to see who could be a part of this defense long-term. Since the end of last season, Houston has either traded or released multiple notable veterans from the defensive side of the ball including J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercelius, Bernarderick McKinney, Zach Cunningham, and Bradley Roby. The Texans’ defense was led by veteran journeyman defenders Christian Kirksey, Desmond King, Kamu Grugier-Hill, and Jacob Martin. There were also some younger players who contributed to this defense including Jonathan Greenard and Roy Lopez. Greenard led the team with eight sacks last season.
The Texans did not retain a majority of their own free agents. Notable veterans who left include safety Justin Reid (three years $31.5 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs), quarterback Tyrod Taylor (two years $11 million deal with the New York Giants), and pass rusher Jacob Martin (three years $13.5 million deal with the New York Jets). Houston signed former Jaguars interior offensive lineman A.J. Cann (two years $8.5 million), former Browns fullback Andy Janovich (one year $3.3 million), and former Jaguars running back Dare Ogunbowale (two years $3 million).
Houston’s largest and most notable transaction this offseason was the deal that sent former Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns. The Texans sent Watson and a 2024 sixth-round pick to the Browns for their 2022 first-round pick (13th overall), 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick, 2023 third-round pick, 2022 fourth-round pick (107th overall), and 2024 fourth-round pick.
2022 NFL Picks
Houston will have eleven picks to use in the 2022 NFL Draft
First Round (two picks): No. 3, No. 13
Second Round (one pick): No. 37
Third Round (two picks): No. 68, No. 80
Fourth Round (two picks): No. 107, No. 108
Fifth Round (zero picks):
Sixth Round (three picks): No. 183, No. 206, No. 208
Seventh Round (one pick): No. 246
Edge Rusher- The Texans need another defensive lineman that can come off the edge opposite Jonathan Greenard. They are one player away from solidifying their defensive line unit that has some solid depth.
Running Back- Houston has been relying on veteran running backs to carry this backfield for too long. They need a fresh set of legs in that backfield to improve the league’s worst running game from a season ago.
Safety- Now that Justin Reid is in Kansas City the Texans have a massive hole on their already rebuilding defense that needs to be addressed. Most NFL fans cannot name the Texans starting safeties and that is a problem.
Cornerback- Desmond King, Lonnie Johnson Jr., and Tavierre Thomas are solid starting defensive backs but none of them are expected to lock down opposing wide receivers any time soon. Houston is in need of a true number one corner that could be trusted to go up against opposing teams’ best receiver.
Offensive Line- The Texans’ offensive line is shaping into form but needs to make some major upgrades in order to help protect Davis Mills and be more productive in the running game. If Tytus Howard returns to his natural position of right tackle then the Texans need to address the left guard position.
Wide Receiver- It is unclear how much longer veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks will be in Houston before he is traded to a team closer to competing. Nico Collins is a solid complementary receiver but the Texans need a pass-catcher who could step into that number one role if the team was to move off Cooks.
2022 Draft Targets
Pick No. 3: Travon Walker, EDGE/DT, Georgia
The Houston Texans may the team to take a chance on Georgia’s versatile defensive lineman Travon Walker. At the end of the College Football season, Walker was considered a lock to go in the top-40 picks and a possible first-round pick. However, after scouts rewatched his tape and saw his athletic testing they shot Walker up draft boards. Now he is considered a lock to go in the top-10 picks.
Texans general manager Nick Caserio spent two decades in the Patriots organization prior to landing Houston’s general manager position. During his time in New England, he has helped build six Super Bowl teams as an assistant coach and executive. He may be tempted to take Walker because he compares well to former Patriots defensive linemen Trey Flowers and Richard Seymour. Flowers was a key member of two Patriots Super Bowl teams while Seymour will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this upcoming center.
Similar to Seymour and Flowers, Walker is a versatile defensive lineman who can play both on the interior and rush the passer off the edge. He is also a great run defender who will have solid sack production even if he doesn’t reach double digits in that category. Houston has a solid pass rusher off the edge in Jonathan Greenard who can be relied upon to lead the team in sacks while Walker closes running lanes from the edge and rushes the passer from the interior on passing downs.
Pick No. 13: Tyler Linderbaum, IOL, Iowa
This selection may seem puzzling because the Texans resigned center Justin Britt to a two-year $9 million deal. However, at this point of their rebuild Houston just needs to add good football players to their team and Linderbaum is one of the safest prospects in the drat. At worst Linderbaum should be a reliable starting center for a decade but his ceiling is a multiple-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro at the position.
Houston can have Linderbaum compete with Britt for the starting center job and possibly start him at left guard this year if Britt is too good in camp to bench. He should help solidify the interior of their line giving Davis Mills more time in the pocket and opening up more space for Houston’s running backs.
After taking a high-risk-high reward caliber player earlier in the first round the Texans may play is safe with the 13th pick and draft a player in Linderbaum who can be a foundational piece of this team or just the team’s starting center for the next ten years.
Pick No. 37: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
Notable Texans reporter John McClain said on the NFL Stock Exchange podcast that Houston needs to make major improvements to their running attack in the NFL Draft. He placed a lot of emphasis on the fact that the team was abysmal in that category last season and it has been an area team has failed to invest major resources into in a long time. This is part of the explanation to why the Texans could take Linderbaum in the middle of the second round who should help in that category a lot. Houston could then possibly land the consensus best running back in this year’s draft class Iowa State’s Breece Hall.
It is unlikely that a running back is taken in the first round of this year’s draft. However, Iowa State’s Breece Hall should have a first-round grade from most scouts. He was one of, if not, the best running backs in college football over the last two seasons at Iowa State. He is a power and volume runner who can catch the ball out of the backfield. His running style and role in college have been compared to First-Team All-Pro running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Jonathan Taylor.
Hall would immediately become a gamechanger and major spark to this lackluster offense. He would take some pressure off Davis Mills early in games and allow the Texans to close out games once they are in the lead. Houston is overdue to select a running back early in the draft and they could draft a Pro Bowl-caliber running back early in the second round in Breece Hall.
Pick No. 68: Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State
One cornerback who hasn’t received a lot of love from NFL Draft media is Mississippi State cornerback Martin Emerson. He never comes up in conversations regarding the best cornerbacks in the draft even though he is a lock to go on Day 2. He is a pro-ready cornerback who should be ready to compete for a starting role in his rookie year. In Houston, Emerson would have a solid chance of competing for a starting role and could push Lonnie Johnson Jr. back to safety if he was to earn starting cornerback snaps with Desmond King and Tavierre Thomas.
Pick No. 80: Verone McKinley III, S, Oregon
Instead of replacing Justin Reid with Kyle Hamilton with the third overall pick, Houston could draft a safety on Day 2 to compete and likely land a starting safety role on this defense. In the middle of the third round, one player they can target is Oregon safety Vernone McKinley III. The Texas native is great in coverage, a hard tackler, and was a ballhawk in college. McKinley’s only concern may be his size. But if Houston can look past his stature and see the great football player he is then they could draft a foundational piece to their rebuilding defense in McKinley in the middle of the third round.