This week, the Texans Wire has explored the very obvious fact that Houston has a chance to totally transform their roster with the amount of draft capital they have in the 2022 NFL draft.
However, no draft identity plays quite as well to the strengths of the AFC South and leans into a “Best Player Available” regimen than a purpose that hasn’t been explored yet. What if Houston sold out to stop the run in 2022?
Draft an Identity, Day 3:
What if Houston went all in on stopping the run-centric Titans and Colts for years to come with their first 4 selections?
3- Kayvon Thibodeaux
13- Jordan Davis
37- Jalen Pitre
68- Quay Walker
— John Crumpler (@JohnHCrumpler) March 31, 2022
The Texans play in a division with two of the most run-oriented teams in the entire NFL. The Tennessee Titans have created their entire identity around running back Derrick Henry the past few years and Jonathan Taylor is emerging as the best back in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts. Any path to the playoffs for Houston, at least in the near future, will revolve around stopping these teams and their run heavy schematics.
Fortunately, this draft has excellent talent towards the attacking the run. Using picks Nos. 3, 13, 37 and 67, Houston could quickly make life difficult for Taylor and others while finding foundational building blocks for their defense.
Here’s how general manager Nick Caserio could start to force the mediocre AFC South quarterbacks to win games instead of their stud running backs.
Round 1 (No. 3 overall) — DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard-USA TODAY NETWORK
Thibodeaux may be the best player in the draft. The consensus No. 1 pick entering the 2021 college football season has had quite the fall from grace. There are concerns over his effort on the field and the rather large amounts of interests he has off the field. It didn’t help Houston fans that he compared himself to Jadeveon Clowney.
Houston, ignore the noise.
The 6-5 defensive end concluded his college career with 35.5 tackles for loss and 19 sacks. He projects as an instant difference maker next to Jonathan Greenard and an every-down player in Lovie Smith’s 4-3 Tampa 2 defense. Premier edge rushers are hard to come by and Thibodeaux instantly upgrades Houston’s ability to both set the edge and attack opposing quarterbacks.
Round 1 (No. 13 overall) — DT Jordan Davis, Georgia
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Davis is a popular figure amongst the Texans Wire staff.
Davis represents the best defensive tackle in the draft and a unicorn of a prospect by virtue of his insanely unique athletic profile. At worst, he projects as a two down player that would serve as a game-wrecker for opposing team’s run schemes. He made a killing for the national champion Georgia Bulldogs simply by virtue of blowing up interior offensive linemen and creating chaos.
JORDAN DAVIS. OMG 😳
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 5, 2022
At best, Davis could be even more. Working with Maliek Collins and the coaching staff on both his pass rush arsenal and his stamina, it’s fully possible we see Davis as an every-down player by the end of 2022. If Houston is serious about stopping the run, there isn’t a better player in the draft to help them than Georgia’s unique talent.
Round 2 (No. 37 overall) — LB-S Jalen Pitre, Baylor
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Pitre is a freak. There’s really no other way to put it. The star linebacker and occasional safety gathered 18.5 tackles for loss in 2021 and was the Big 12’s only AP All-American. One of college football’s best players and best tacklers is unfortunately in a role that is difficult to project to the NFL.
For Lovie Smith, Pitre could serve perfectly as his strong safety, or box safety, that comes down and helps with run support. Pitre made a career at Baylor out of crashing down on the run game and is also agile enough to stay on passing downs in either zone or man coverage. His versatility is the definition of a chess piece at the next level and some have gone as far to say that Pitre represents the best safety in the draft.
Here’s an opinion that most won’t agree with: Jalen Pitre will be better than Hamilton. Pitre is Honey Badger 2.0.
— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) March 30, 2022
Like Thibodeaux, Pitre represents a building block to the defense and an immediate upgrade in both the pass and rushing defensive departments. If Houston wants to stop the run, there was arguably nobody better at it in college football that Pitre.
Round 3 (No. 68 overall) — LB Quay Walker, Georgia
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
A good comparison for Texans’ fans to rationalize Walker may be Bernardrick McKinney. Walker had 65 tackles in 2021 and was a huge part of Georgia’s suffocating defense.
Walker has excellent recognition in the run game and is a more than reliable tackler when asked to finish the play. He would fit in well with Lovie’s 4-3 scheme next to fellow linebackers Kamu Grugier-Hill and Christian Kirksey while bringing some much needed youth to the position. This is the kind of athlete that could flourish if given time to develop, of which there should be plenty on the 2022 Texans.