What is Texans GM Nick Caserio looking for in 2024 NFL draft?

With the 2024 NFL draft officially a week away, most general managers will meet one final time with reporters before on the clock. 

The Houston Texans aren’t positioned to draft on Day 1 after sending the 23rd overall pick to the Minnesota Vikings. However, they do hold two selections in the second round at picks No. 42 and No. 59, respectively. 

General manager Nick Caserio didn’t mince his words when discussing potential roles for draft picks.

“Whoever we draft, hopefully, they’ll come in here and create a role and niche for themselves,” Caserio told reporters Thursday. ‘It’s probably going to be hard to make this team or make a significant impact.”

Since Caserio arrived from New England in 2021, his approach has been to rebuild the team through short-term deals in free agency while finding long-term fixtures in the draft. Over the past two seasons, Houston’s played more rookies than nearly every other franchise. 

The rookies of the past or now veterans of the present, leaving fewer holes to fill on the roster following a promising first season under new coach DeMeco Ryans. 

Houston’s actions align with Caserio’s comments. The Texans feel content at cornerback after inking one-year deals with Jeff Okudah and C..J. Henderson to play opposite Derek Stingley Jr. At linebacker, there’s newcomer Azeez Al-Shaair and third-year pro Christian Harris. 

Even after trading Maliek Collins and losing Sheldon Rankins to free agency, the Texans stockpiled options at defensive tackle, including signing former Jaguars starter Foley Fatukasi and Titans’ standout Denico Autry. 

“Generally speaking, a lot of these players are behind just relative to their development, where they are physically,” said Caserio. “I would say for whatever reason this year, seems like more players are further behind.”

There are multiple ways to comprehend that, but the Texans may use the draft as an avenue for depth purposes over adding first-year starters like last April with the selections of C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr. 

Houston signed the second-most players during free agency at 24, according to Over the Cap

“The big thing is trying to add the right people with the right mindset and right mentality that just want to come in and work hard and do their job,” Caserio said. “Again, try to create as competitive an environment and situation as possible, which DeMeco has talked about that.”

The challenging part of the pre-draft process is learning about prospects past the X’s and O’s and rather the personality. Perhaps the best way to do this is to bring them in on visits, which the Texans have not wasted.

Houston’s brought in over a dozen players for top 30 visits and hosted its local prospect day on Apr. 4.

Caserio has been keen on drafting players who have had top 30 visits with Houston because he and the coaches can gather the information needed to feel comfortable selecting them.

Stroud and Anderson, who won Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year, respectively, after dominant campaigns, visited NRG Stadium a year ago. Five of the Texans’ nine draft picks from the 2022 class came in for top-30 visits. 

“You’re just trying to gain as much information as you can so you can make a good decision,” Caserio said. “If there is a loophole that you need to close, this provides you an opportunity to do so.”

Houston has nine picks entering Thursday night. That’s likely to change given Caserio’s track record over the previous two years.

In back-to-back drafts, Caserio has orchestrated franchise-record totals in draft-day trades. Last season, he made eight pick swaps, doubling his total from 2022.

“The draft ends ups being really about positioning and where do you think you have to move,” Caserio said. “It’s knowing the players not only at the top, but at the bottom as well.”

Houston has four picks in the final two rounds, so finding talent to help the team for the long haul might be the goal. Caserio highlighted 2023 seventh-round pick Brandon Hill as someone who rarely contributed during his rookie year but could be ready for more time.

“Some players in this year’s draft who physically might not be ready to contribute maybe early on in the season, so maybe you’re drafting them for next year,” Caserio said.

Story originally appeared on Texans Wire