Texans 4-round mock draft: Senior Bowl exclusive

Senior Bowl practices have officially come and gone in Mobile, Ala.

One of the most talented groups in years, according to director Jim Nagy, did not disappoint. It was a phenomenal week of football that saw multiple NFL draft prospects help themselves over three days of practice against their draft-eligible peers.

The Houston Texans are involved heavily in this event annually. Last year, the team selected participants Tank Dell, Henry To’oTo’o, Dylan Horton and Jarrett Patterson. This year, general manager Nick Caserio and director of college scouting James Liipfert were both present, and multiple players confirmed meetings with the team.

What if the Texans could only draft from the Senior Bowl? Well, fortunately, there would be plenty of talent to choose from. This mock draft goes through the first four rounds with four players to watch in each potential round from the Senior Bowl that could majorly boost the Texans in April.

Round 1, Pick 23: CB Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo

Quinyon Mitchell
Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Quinyon Mitchell was the star of the show in Mobile.

The first-team All-American defended 45 passes in his college career at Toledo and his film showed as dominant a corner you’ll find in college. The biggest question was how Mitchell would hold up against much better competition at the Senior Bowl outside of a scheme that let him dominate with the Rockets.

The 6-foot, 195-pound cornerback left no questions. He was the best player on the field.

Mitchell showed out in practice against players like Michigan’s Roman Wilson, Kentucky’s Malchi Corley, and USC’s Brenden Rice. He showed great footwork and acceleration in 1-on-1s to keep up with anyone on the field and his instincts were notable during the team period as he had multiple batted balls when quarterbacks made the rare decision to target him.

It’s impossible not to notice his competitive attitude as well — he frequently challenged Wilson, who was considered the best Senior Bowl wideout, to compete.

He firmly cemented his status as a first-round draft pick and it’s possible that Mitchell won’t even be available at No. 23 after his stellar showing in Mobile. For this exercise, it’s fun to assume he could be, though. Notably, Mitchell had a confirmed meeting with Houston.

DeMeco Ryans would have an elite cornerback on the roster to pair with budding star Derek Stingley and one of the best outside cornerback duos in the entire NFL. Mitchell would allow for fascinating coverage variations on both sides of the field and there would truly be no “weak side” for opposing quarterbacks to attack.

Veteran corner Steven Nelson is considered likely to walk this offseason and Mitchell would not only be an upgrade but a natural replacement. His talent infusion could help boost a secondary that desperately needs it and play a key role in watching the Texans’ defense arrive where Ryans preaches that he wants to see it.

Round 2, Pick 59: WR Roman Wilson, Michigan

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

It’s only fair that after a week of fierce competition in Mobile, Mitchell sees his rival become his teammate in April.

Roman Wilson had a dominant Senior Bowl week. The 5-foot-10, 186-pound receiver was not the focal point of Michigan’s run-heavy offense, but gathered 48 catches for 789 yards and 12 touchdowns nonetheless. Many were curious how he would perform in comparison to receivers with more on their film in 2023. Wilson performed as the most impressive of any receiver at practice and, most importantly, the most consistent. He showed off great acceleration, strong route running, and consistency catching the football that many of his peers struggled with.

He was a Day 2 player entering Mobile and working his way into Round 2 is a worthy upgrade for the Michigan wide receiver. Catching footballs from his former rival in Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud would also be an excellent storyline while joining former Michigan wide receiver Nico Collins.

It doesn’t hurt that Wilson confirmed he met with the Texans while in Mobile.

Wilson fits in naturally as a ‘Y’ receiver next to Collins and Dell and would give Houston a third young, explosive option at receiver and notably another cheap one before Collins’ pending extension. His long speed and route running could be trusted on most concepts to get open and his reliable hands would be a huge asset compared to what the Texans often deployed at their third spot in 2023.

Round 3, Pick 85: LB Payton Wilson, North Carolina State

Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

DeMeco Ryans loves his linebackers and the Texans pounce on another one here.

The unanimous 2023 All-American and ACC Defensive Player of the Year gathered 138 total tackles with the Wolf Pack last season. Payton Wilson is a strong athlete at 6-foot-4 and 234 pounds and his energy was noticeable whether on the practice field or in interviews this entire week. In a lackluster week overall from the linebackers, Wilson brought exactly what was expected from his illustrious profile.

Wilson would add a dynamic player at middle linebacker next to Christian Harris who would hopefully serve as a force multiplier similarly to Quinyon Mitchell with Derek Stingley. He’ll be 24 at the start of his rookie season and brings an enormous amount of experience from the college level to help pilot the Texans’ defense in his first season.

The linebacker also confirmed that he’d met with the Texans while in Mobile.

Houston has loved what they’ve seen from Harris at the weakside linebacker position and adding Wilson to mold as the future of the team at middle linebacker makes too much sense.

Round 4, Pick 124: TE Theo Johnson, Penn State

Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The future of the tight end position is uncertain in Houston.

Dalton Schultz is a pending free agent. Second year player Teagan Quitoriano is an unknown at this point. Brevin Jordan had an excellent third year but is going into the final year of his rookie deal and it’s unclear what he would look like in a bigger role if called upon.

It’s fair to say that Houston needs more juice at the tight end position, especially in the blocking department, and the Senior Bowl has been a great place to look historically. Dallas Cowboys’ breakout star Jake Ferguson is the most recent example of the event producing quality players.

Penn State’s Theo Johnson would meet that exact mold. The 6-foot-6, 257-pound tight end was a strong blocker for the Nittany Lions and caught 34 balls for 341 yards and seven touchdowns this past season. At the Senior Bowl, he was the best tight end of the group by virtue of his consistent hands and ability to find separation in short areas.

Johnson met with the Texans this week and would provide Bobby Slowik with an immediate contributor in the blocking department and someone who could potentially blossom into an every-down tight end by Year 2. Listen to Johnson discuss his ability to read coverages on the fly and help his quarterback on option routes.

He’s the exact kind of weapon this offense covets in the system and would be a great developmental play to kick off Day 3 of the draft for Nick Caserio.

Story originally appeared on Texans Wire