Houston Texans 7-round mock draft: trades, trenches, upgrades

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HOUSTON – In less than two weeks, the 2022 NFL Draft will be in progress. The teams are finalizing their big draws, looking to target the best positions in the class in hopes they will turn into a franchise showpiece.

For the Houston Texansthey have two opportunities to find difference makers on day 1 at No. 3 and No. 13. While Texans general manager Nick Caserio is expected to field calls for both picks to get more picks, if the value isn’t there, he’ll stick with it.

This whole offseason is about building a foundation for the future. Houston needs to target prospects who can be Day 1 Contributorsbut must also consider long-term needs.

Using Pro Football Network’s draft simulator, here’s the latest draft from TexansDaily.com of what Caserio might be looking to target when he’s on the clock for all 11 picks.

Ikem Ekwonu

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Chris Olave

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Boye Mafe

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Brece Room

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Nick Cross

No. 3: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State

Georgia’s Travon Walker was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the first pick while Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson heads to the Detroit Lions. Even with Laremy Tunsil back for another year in Houston, the Texans need to stabilize their trenches to give sophomore quarterback Davis Mills enough protection.

Ekwonu is a versatile offensive lineman who will be successful in multiple positions. He became an All-ACC offensive lineman when playing inside at guard and duplicated success when switching to left tackle. The decision of what to do with Tytus Howard shouldn’t factor into the selection as Ekwonu can fill the void at any position Howard isn’t playing.

No. 21 (VIA NE): Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

TRADE: Texans trade No. 13 pick, No. 245 to New England for second-round pick No. 21, No. 54, 2023

The value of stepping back and adding an extra second-round pick in the next two drafts is too attractive for the Texans to pass up. Caserio has ties to the Patriots, which means he may ask for a little more long-term to help his former team struggle now.

Despite the Brandin Cooks two-year extension, the receiver is still a need in Houston. Nico Collins has the advantage of being the team’s No. 2 weapon, but the Texans need a vertical presence that can win on the court.

Olave found success both on the perimeter and in the slot. Considered by many to be the best road runner in his class, the 6-foot setter rarely drops passes and excels in space. He can play a variety of positions, giving offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton an explosive receiver to pair with the pair on the outside.

#37: Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota

Even with the addition of Obo Okoronkwo, Houston’s inability to pressure the quarterback was evident in the first year of the Lovie Smith era. Houston finished 31st against the run and had just 32 sacks, fifth-fewest in the NFL. The baseline is even with the advantage of Jonathan Greenard, it’s not enough for Houston to pass the position.

Mafe shone in his final season with the Golden Gophers, recording a career-high 10 tackles for loss and seven sacks. His explosive first step saw him win with brute force against Big Ten tackles while his use of the hand gave him the edge to work on the pitch. There’s room for improvement, but Mafe’s four-man rush gives the Texans a base advantage for the next two seasons.

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No. 54 (VIA NE): Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State

The Texans desperately need a No. 1 running back. After rushing for a franchise-worst 3.2 yards per game and a league-low eight touchdowns, it’s no surprise that a selection from the top 60 can be used to meet needs in the backfield.

Hall, who has posted more than 1,400 consecutive seasons, matches the attacking style that Hamilton is trying to run. He’s physical between the trenches, but has the speed of the home run in space that can win at any level of the field. He is also a willing blocker on transmissions and can be effective as a receiver. In three years with the Cyclones, Hall averaged nine yards per reception.

#68: Nick Cross, S, Maryland

Justin Reid is now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs secondary, and Houston hasn’t done much to improve the safety position. Smith is high on veteran Jonathan Owens who built last season, but the Texans need competition in both places of the zone-based defense.

Cross is the prototypical security that can be an immediate cover upgrade. In three seasons with the Terps, he recorded five interceptions and 10 pass deflections while covering slot receivers and tight ends. Cross isn’t afraid to tackle either and is ready to play the downhill run.

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Cam Taylor Britt

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Cade Mays

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Jake Ferguson

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Tyler Badie

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Bo Melton

No. 68 (VIA NO): Cam Taylor-Britt, CB, Nebraska

The addition of Steven Nelson from Philadelphia makes the cornerback less of a need in terms of first picks. That doesn’t mean Houston should be content with running former Eagles starter and Desmond King for a 17-game season.

Taylor-Britt is a fun player. He’s fast with his coaster, sprints downhill off his break, and is athletic enough to play the perimeter or the nickel. Taylor-Britt is also a willing tackle against the run, a must to play in Smith’s defense on the outside.

No. 107: Cade Mays, OL, Tennessee

Ekwonu should be a long-term option at tackle. The Texans added AJ Cann, but he could be considered a one-year gap due to age injuries. Mays is physical in terms of run blocking and plays the whistle. He also faced some of the best defensive linemen to start in both Georgia and Tennessee.

No. 108 (VIA CLE): Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin

Houston was happy with the growth of fifth-round pick Brevin Jordan, but they expect him to be more of a flexible option rather than a line blocker. Ferguson comes from a heavy offense in Wisconsin and is considered one of the best blockers in that position. He is also an effective red zone weapon thanks to his 6-4 frame.

No. 164 (VIA LV): Tyler Badie, RB, Missouri

TRADE: Houston sends picks No. 183, No. 205 to Las Vegas for No. 164

Caserio gave Tom Brady a gun in the backfield when the Patriots drafted James White from Wisconsin in 2014. In Houston, he gives Mills a player similar to Badie. Despite being a 1,000 yard rusher, Badie is a sneaky rusher who excels in the passing game. In four years, he averaged 9.1 yards per catch and recorded 11 receiving touchdowns.

No. 207: Bo Melton, WR, Rutgers

Gadget players are starting to find their niche in today’s league. Melton is a versatile receiver who can also be effective in throw sweeps and on quick throws. Adding him to Houston’s offense gives Hamilton a potential starting-caliber lunge target that will also work in running back reps. Think Curtis Samuel 2.0 when looking at Melton.

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