Texans add 3 defensive pieces in latest Mel Kiper Jr. three-round mock draft

Even after an expensive offseason in acquiring talent, the Houston Texans still have several defensive holes entering draft weekend. Defensive tackle, cornerback, linebacker and safety depth all remain weak points heading into the regular season.

A trio of those positions were recently addressed in ESPN’s latest three-round mock draft.

In a combined effort from Mel Kiper Jr. and Field Yates, the Texans bolstered their defensive line with the addition of LSU’s Maason Smith at pick No. 42.  Seventeen picks later, Houston adds another SEC star on the boundary to play opposite Derek Stingley Jr. in Georgia’s Kamari Lassiter.

At pick No. 86, the Texans walk away with one of the steals of the draft in Minnesota safety Tyler Nubin. All three players have at least two years of starting experience and have played in what many consider the more aggressive conference in college football.

Smith, a 6-foot-5 defensive tackle, likely would have garnered first-round buzz if not for a torn ACL suffered in the season-opener against Florida State in 2022. He possesses all the traits Texans coach DeMeco Ryans covets in a pass-rushing three-tech up the middle to create havoc in the interior.

“The Texans must continue to bulk up on the inside,” Yates wrote. “Smith is an upside swing for Houston; he has the raw tools to become a disruptor as both a pass-rusher and run-defender.”

Lassiter, a fan favorite at pick No. 42, should compete for starting reps alongside Desmond King in the nickel and Jeff Okudah on the edge. At 6-foot, most would consider him undersized, but the two-year starter loves contact and isn’t afraid to get physical when asked to play in man coverage.

“Lassiter doesn’t have the elite speed, but he’s a really solid corner,” wrote Kiper.  “The Texans ranked 29th in the league in yards per pass attempt allowed (7.7) last season.”

Nubin, who recorded 13 interceptions in five seasons with the Golden Gophers, is a ball-hawking machine that baits quarterbacks into throwing his way. Since 2021, the 6-foot-2 200-pounder has recorded at least three picks and two pass breakups.

“Perhaps no safety in the class has better ball skills than Nubin, who finds his way to the football constantly,” wrote Yates. “He had 13 interceptions in college, including five in 2023.”

The Texans own nine picks in the upcoming draft, several of which should be dedicated to drafting defense. Houston bolstered its front seven with the additions of Denico Autry, Azeez Al-Shaair and four-time Pro Bowler Danielle Hunter, but still could use another interior tackle beyond Smith following the departures of Maliek Collins and Sheldon Rankins.

Story originally appeared on Texans Wire