Texans Wire 3-round mock draft 5.0: Houston selects a center

The Houston Texans have sailed through the first wave of free agency, and general manager Nick Caserio has the team looking vastly improved to kickoff the new league year.

Tight end Dalton Schultz, wide receiver Robert Woods, safety Jimmie Ward, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, guard Shaq Mason, and linebacker Denzel Perryman all enter Houston as immediately projected starters and represent a talent foundation that should have coach DeMeco Ryans in a far stronger position to succeed.

The major talent additions are expected to come in April’s NFL draft. Houston has 12 picks to make including five picks within the first two days. Caserio’s signings have given fans a good idea of what direction the team may look to go and serve as a natural launch point.

Round 1 (No. 2 overall) — QB Bryce Young, Alabama


(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

This pick remains unchanged from the last several mock drafts. Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud wowed the Carolina Panthers’ brass during his pro day, and there are a multitude of historical factors that would points towards his presence as a logical fit with Frank Reich. That leaves Houston with a phenomenal consolation prize.

Young is the best quarterback in his class with the unfortunate trait of being 5-10, 204 pounds. His overall pocket poise, accuracy, play extension and field vision project towards a potentially elite NFL quarterback at the next level. His maturity off the field is the perfect kind of building block that both Caserio and Ryans would love to start their tenure with together.

The former Heisman Trophy winner is a perfect fit at the perfect time for the Texans franchise. He’s a logical successor as the team’s next franchise signal caller and is one that can hopefully lead them to a Super Bowl.

Round 1 (No. 12 overall) — OLB Nolan Smith, Georgia


Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

A popular selection at this spot for Houston is wide receiver. It’s one of the team’s worst positions groups and of relative importance if Young is to be successful from the get-go.

However, once again Houston is in a position where it would be ideal to find a piece for their new defensive coach. A year ago, that was cornerback Derek Stingley for coach Lovie Smith. Now, Caserio looks to booster the pass rush for Ryans’ homecoming.

Enter Smith, who is on the lighter end at 235 pounds, but his explosiveness was evident throughout his career at Georgia and fully put on display at the NFL combine. He projects to continue winning at the next level with a variety of moves and speed that should continue to win.

Best of all, Smith’s true skill shines when defending against the run. His 15.0 tackles for loss over the last two seasons would be a huge boost towards Houston finally stopping the run and allowing their talented secondary to shine.

Smith is the first of many building blocks that Ryans will look to mold into Pro Bowl level players.

Round 2 (No. 33 overall) — C John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Schmitz comes at a position of desperate need for the Texans: center. In an offensive line that now potentially projects as the strength of the roster, the middle interior stands out as a glaring hole in what otherwise should be stellar protection for Bryce Young and wall for running back Dameon Pierce.

Schmitz changes that.

The Minnesota product is 6-4, 300 pounds and was a first team All-American in 2022. The selection would slide in perfectly between last year’s first-round pick Kenyon Green and the newly acquired Mason. He has the power to work perfectly in offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik’s system and should serve as a key piece in the Texans’ run-first identity.

Round 3 (No. 65 overall) — WR A.T. Perry, Wake Forest

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Houston still needs to address the receiver position and they finally do here in the third round.

Perry is listed at 6-4, 198 pounds and comes out of Wake Forest with consecutive 1,000-yard and double-digit touchdown seasons. He’s a natural compliment to Houston’s smaller receiver group and would push third year wideout Nico Collins for playing time.

His combination of speed, smooth route running, and soft hands should make for a productive NFL player in Houston. A quick rapport with fellow rookie Bryce Young could allow Perry to become a fantasy football household name far sooner than some imagine.

He’s one of the draft process’ biggest risers and would be a perfect fit as Houston looks to get more explosive on offense.

Round 3 (No. 72 overall) — CB Darius Rush, South Carolina

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans get to a point in the draft where they can afford to take the best players to foment competition up and down the roster. Not only does the Rush pick give the Texans some competition to see who will play alongside Derek Stingley in the future, but it also gives Houston another fast body on special teams for coordinator Frank Ross to work with in the near term.

It also isn’t like the Texans don’t exactly have interest in Rush either. Houston met with the former Gamecock at the Senior Bowl.

Rush had 38 combined tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and seven pass breakups in his 10 games for South Carolina.

The Texans still have a proven starter on the roster with Steven Nelson. However, Rush would give them options in case they did not want to keep Nelson around for 2024.


Story originally appeared on Texans Wire