Houston Texans Mock Draft: Every Pick, All 7 Rounds
For a team coming off a 12-4 season in 2012, the Houston Texans had a surprising number of holes on their roster going into the 2013 season. Those holes were never filled and the team finished with a 2-14 record last year for the second time in franchise history.
The Texans have run into cap issues after extending several big-name players like Arian Foster, Duane Brown and Brian Cushing. With no cap flexibility the holes on the roster have not only gone unfilled but have gotten more numerous, as more players left the team in free-agency this offseason.
Coaches and general managers always talk about taking the best overall player instead of reaching for need during the draft but few teams stick to that strategy. It will be important for the Texans to remain disciplined and stick to their board during the 2014 NFL draft because they have a hole at nearly every position.
Left tackle and outside wide receiver are the only positions I feel solid about going into next season. Every other position needs a new starter or at least depth. Fortunately for the Texans, some experts have said that the talent pool in this year's draft is deeper than it has been in the last decade.
To determine which players would be available for each pick, I used the prospect rankings from CBS Sports.
Round 1 (1st Overall): Jadeveon Clowney (DE/OLB South Carolina)
Passing on a quarterback is difficult when you don't have one. Quarterback is not only the most important position in football, but the most important position in any sport. Unfortunately for the Houston Texans, there isn't a quarterback available worth taking with the first overall pick.
No prospect is a sure thing but even the top quarterbacks in this class have far too many question marks to be considered the top overall player.
Blake Bortles was very inconsistent with his accuracy in college, and his mechanics were often sloppy. With Teddy Bridgewater there is reason for concern regarding his durability and arm strength. Johnny Manziel too often abandoned pass plays and ran after he felt pressure or his first read wasn't open. In a strong quarterback class that trio would be considered middle to late first-round prospects at best.
With no quarterback worthy of being the top pick, the Texans' choice becomes very easy.
If quarterback is the most important position in football, then the left tackle assigned to protect him and the pass-rushers at defensive end or outside linebacker assigned to harass them have to rank second and third, respectively. Jadeveon Clowney is not only the top overall prospect in the 2014 NFL draft but may also be the best pass-rushing prospect in a decade.
Some critics point out a position change from defensive end to outside linebacker in the Texans' 3-4 scheme as an issue, but Clowney will be asked to rush the passer 90 percent of the time so I don't think the conversion will be an obstacle. DeMarcus Ware and Aldon Smith had to make the same transition when they were drafted; it won't be difficult for an athlete the caliber of Clowney.
Other critics bring up the work ethic angle, but I dare those critics to find me one player who gives 110 percent on every play. With up-tempo offenses becoming more and more common, defenders are often asked to play 80 to 90 plays a game; every one takes a few plays off. Even the great J.J. Watt who is the poster boy for hustle and work ethic has probably taken off the occasional play.
Stats don't always tell the full story. Did Clowney's sack total drop last season? Of course, but what the stats don't show was how opposing offenses game planned against him. Having to face double-teams, triple-teams, slide protections, running backs and tight ends chipping and being run away from nearly every play would cause every defender's sack and tackles for loss totals to drop.
Texans' star J.J. Watt faced that same issue last year when opposing offenses focused their entire game plan on slowing him down. Watt's sack total dropped from 20.5 in 2012 to 10.5 last year, but no one could credibly suggest that Watt is suddenly a lesser player.
For a great breakdown of the work ethic myth surrounding Clowney, please read this article from the Battle Red Blog featuring a scouting report from Jayson Braddock.
The Texans desperately need another pass-rusher on their roster. After Watt, who led the team in sacks in each of the last two seasons, the second-best individual sack total on the team in both 2012 and 2013 was just seven.
With two premier pass-rushers on the field, one of them will have a one-on-one situation on most plays. If the offense decides to dedicate four blockers to double-team both Watt and Clowney, then that would obviously open up opportunities for other pass-rushers to make an impact.
Rob Rang of CBS highlights the strengths of Clowney's game:
Exceedingly rare combination of size, explosiveness, strength, speed and technique. Times the snap well and possesses true explosiveness out of his stance to cross the face of the left tackle. Exceptional burst off the snap with lateral agility and an array of pass rush moves.
Simply too quick for trap blocks, consistently flashing into the backfield to beat oncoming blockers (as in the case of the famous Michigan tackle for loss, forced and recovered fumble). Good flexibility to dip around the tackle's reach, turn the corner sharply and close on the quarterback in a flash.
Uses his hands well to fight through blockers' attempts to corral him, demonstrating refined hand placement and impressive strength. Does not rely on his outside speed rush, complementing his burst with an equally effective interior rush due to a terrific swim move and very good lateral agility.
Clowney will primarily be a stand up pass-rusher in the Texans' defense, but they will line him up at end with his hand in the dirt on occasion. When the Texans go to the nickel package, they'll slide their defensive ends over to defensive tackle and line up the outside linebackers at defensive end.
No matter where he lines up, Clowney will be a disruptive force.
Round 2 (33rd Overall): Jimmy Garoppolo (QB Eastern Illinois)
The 33rd overall pick might receive more trade interest from other teams than any pick during the 2014 NFL draft.
The current format of the draft with a day off between Round 1 and Round 2 allows every team a chance to adjust their board and take another look at the players who unexpectedly slid out of the first-round. With so many teams needing a quarterback and a shortage of first-round quality players available at the position, expect teams who are desperate to blow up the Texans phone between Round 1 and Round 2.
This draft is more deep than loaded at quarterback, so I like the value of the projected second-round quarterbacks more than reaching for one in the first round. If the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Minnesota Vikings pass on quarterback in the first round, they would become potential trade partners for the Texans.
However, the Texans also desperately need a quarterback, so they won't take the risk that their guy gets selected in front of them if they trade back.
What do we know about the type of quarterback Bill O'Brien prefers? Not enough to rule anyone out completely, but he has mentioned a few qualities that narrows down the list. This quote on what O'Brien looks for comes from Don Banks of Sports Illustrated.
To me it's really two things. The guy has to be able to throw the ball accurately and a guy has to have intelligence. He has to have a quick mind. He's got to be able to process things in two or three seconds.
To me that puts Teddy Bridgewater and Jimmy Garoppolo at the top of the list. Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr and Zach Mettenberger all have many plus traits but none of them have been characterized as being both accurate and possessing the ability to quickly read defenses. If Bridgewater falls out of the first round then he'll be the pick, but I don't expect him to slide that far so the Texans will select Garoppolo.
According to Dane Brugler of CBS, Garoppolo possesses those traits listed by Coach O'Brien.
Live arm with his experience coming from a pass-happy offense. Excellent passing vision with quick eyes to scan and a quick, natural delivery. Smart and executes the offense well. Quick intellectual process on the football field. Quick feet to evade pressure with the pocket mobility to move his lower body with his eyes focused downfield. Very good touch and overall placement with improved accuracy to all levels of the field throughout his career. Level-headed and always under control with a strong leadership presence.
Don't expect Garoppolo to start right away, but he will be considered the Texans quarterback of the future going into next season. Garoppolo, along with Logan Thomas, has been the only non-first-round quarterback to come to NRG Stadium for a visit thus far, making him the front-runner at pick No. 33 overall if Houston passes on a quarterback in the first round.
Round 3 (Trade, 75th Overall): Jack Mewhort (OT/OG Ohio State)
I have the Texans trading back 10 spots with the St. Louis Rams because the offensive lineman I believe they'll want will be available later in Round 3. In return the Texans will receive the Rams' fourth-round pick (110th overall), which works with this draft trade chart from Pro Football Talk.
The Rams will likely pass early on a quarterback because they're still tied to Sam Bradford—at least for this season—but I think they'll be eager to add a young quarterback during the middle rounds whom they can groom as their future at the position.
The Texans have needs at both right tackle and left guard, which makes Mewhort's versatility to play either position intriguing. The Texans can't go into the 2014 NFL season with Ben Jones at left guard and Derek Newton at right tackle. Jones simply isn't big enough to play guard in the NFL and should be a backup at center, while Newton (former seventh-round pick) just isn't talented enough to start at tackle.
Mewhort started games at both guard spots and left tackle during his career at Ohio State. The Texans already have a Pro Bowl left tackle on the roster with Duane Brown and have two intriguing young players who missed last year due to injury, Brennan Williams and David Quessenberry, whom I would like to see compete at right tackle, so I would put Mewhort at left guard to start.
Guard might be Mewhort's best position due to having shorter-than-ideal arms for the tackle position. Putting him up against fast edge-rushers could be an issue since scouts like Lance Zierlein from The Sideline View also question his athleticism:
I can promise you that these same offensive line coaches will watch film on Mewhort and see just how well-coached he's been and how fundamentally sound he is in both the running game and passing game. Mewhort uses excellent hand placement but doesn't have the length to just keep pass rushers at the end of his punch. I suspect his limited athleticism will cause issues with backside cutoffs and reach blocks on the next level.
At worst Mewhort would be a great swing offensive lineman whose versatility would allow his team to carry one fewer offensive lineman on their game day roster. At best Mewhort has the potential to be a great run-blocking guard or right tackle.
Round 4 (101st Overall): Charles Sims (RB West Virginia)
With Ben Tate gone and Arian Foster coming off back surgery, the Texans at least need some young legs to provide depth at running back. If that running back they draft for depth happens to develop into a starter that would be even better because Arian Foster, who will be 28-years-old when the season starts, is quickly approaching the end of his prime.
If any of you have read my previous articles for Texans' blog State of the Texans, then you know that I believe in the running back by committee strategy when building a roster. For my explanation on why I believe in that strategy, click here.
To succeed with that strategy, your team will obviously need multiple high-caliber backs. Charles Sims has a chance to be a Pro Bowl-level running back in my opinion. He executes every responsibility of the position very well as John Harris from The Sideline View explains in his breakdown, written right after the Senior Bowl.
We sat in the stands talking to agents and scouts debating the 2014 running back draft class and, as expected, there was no clear consensus as to the No. 1 back in this draft. The hard part is that the top juniors are not here, but the one senior that continues to impress is Sims. Pass protection. Check. Vision. Check. Burst to and through the hole. Check. Toughness. Check.
I heard the words “Matt Forte” and it makes sense. Forte was a relative unknown heading to Mobile after his senior year. After that week, Forte seemingly got more and more attention until the day he was a second round selection by the Chicago Bears. Sims may have played his senior year in a more well-known conference but I gather that people still don’t truly understand how versatile and productive he has been and will continue to be at the next level.
Sims reminds me a lot of former NFL running back Charlie Garner. Like Garner, Sims is dangerous both as a runner and receiver. Between the 1999 and 2002 seasons with the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers, Garner averaged 1,043 rushing yards, 675 receiving yards and eight total touchdowns per year.
Sims started off his career at the University of Houston, where in three seasons he averaged 1,359 combined rushing and receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns per year. After transferring to West Virginia, Sims' production rose to another level in his senior season. He rushed for over 1,000 for the first time in his college career and totaled 400 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns.
Sims came to NRG Stadium in Houston for a visit recently so it appears that the Texans are definitely interested in the former Houston Cougar.
He would be a massive steal in the fourth Round.
Round 4 (From St. Louis, 110th Overall): Christian Jones (ILB Florida State)
Quick, name an inside linebacker on the Texans roster other than Brian Cushing...
You had to look up their depth chart didn't you? That was a tough question for even the most dedicated fans of the Houston Texans.
With the departures of Darryl Sharpton and Joe Mays through free agency, the Texans are very thin at inside linebacker. Throw in the fact that Cushing is coming off back to back seasons ended early by a knee injury and there is plenty to be concerned about with the position.
Christian Jones is a versatile player with experience as a rush linebacker, inside linebacker in the 3-4 and as a defensive end with his hand on the ground. Jones is very athletic, has great coverage skills for a linebacker and is a very sure tackler as Lance Zierlein from The Sideline View points out in his breakdown.
Some teams will call Christian Jones a "tweener" because he's been moved all over the field and they will look at that as a knock. We tend to look at it as a strength in this day and age of hybrid football and hybrid athletes.
As a LB, Jones is aggressive and gets downhill quickly to attack running plays near the line of scrimmage. He doesn't just sit back and wait. Jones is one of the best tacklers in this draft with a tackle efficiency rating of 96.2% and he is well-schooled the art of shedding blockers and proper hand usage.
Jones might be able to add more weight to his frame, but he doesn't have the body type to be a 3-4 OLB or a 4-3 DE and his most likely destination will be 3-4 ILB or 4-3 WOLB. While Jones doesn't have as much thickness as some teams want out of a LB, he makes up for it with aggressiveness, a nose for the ball and an ability to explode to ball.
Jones' biggest impact would be as an ILB in the 3-4 where he can run and chase and make plays. His ability to rush the passer is an added bonus for teams who like to blitz with their ILBs and he can also bump outside and rush off the edge if a defensive coordinator wants to give an offense a different look.
Having Christian Jones on the roster will allow defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to mix up the looks and fronts to confuse the opposing offense. I think Jones' best fit in the Texans defense will be as an inside linebacker lined up next to Cushing. The coverage ability of Jones will free up Cushing to attack the line more often instead of mostly dropping into coverage.
I wouldn't limit Jones to inside linebacker, though. I would also rotate him with Whitney Mercilus at the outside linebacker spot opposite of Clowney with Brooks Reed moving inside. The Texans could also put in a NASCAR package, with Jones and Clowney lined up as defensive ends and J.J. Watt sliding inside to defensive tackle in obvious pass situations.
However the Texans decide to use him, Jones has the look of a future playmaker.
Round 4 (Compensatory, 135th Overall): E.J. Gaines (CB Missouri)
The Texans have a big need at cornerback going into this year's draft. I know, that's been a common theme with each pick in every round.
At first glance you probably won't see the need with Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson on the roster, but the need becomes glaring once you dig a little deeper. The performance level of the now 30-year-old Joseph has dropped over the past two seasons, and he could become a cap casualty next offseason when the Texans could save $8.5 million dollars by cutting him. The other starter, Kareem Jackson, is going into his final season under his rookie contract and will likely become a free agent.
E.J. Gaines would spend the majority of his rookie season as the Texans slot corner, where they have a gigantic hole, but one or maybe even two starting outside corner spots will open up by next season.
Rob Rang of CBS describes Gaines as a speedy corner with good agility and fluid hips, assets that will be beneficial for him when playing man against slot receivers.
Gaines sports a well-defined build for the position. The combination of his broad-shouldered, long-armed frame and very good overall athleticism makes him a tough draw for any pass-catcher. Has alternately lined up in press or off-man on most snaps, showing the fluid hips to turn and run with receivers, as well as very good lateral agility and balance and speed to burn. He anticipates routes well, under-cutting receivers to remain between them and the quarterback and has quick, active hands. Gaines is a reliable open-field tackler.
I wish Gaines was another inch or two taller. He also isn't a great tackler, but those concerns aren't enough to deter me from drafting him.
Round 5 (141st Overall): Terrance Mitchell (CB Oregon)
As each season goes by the NFL becomes more and more a pass-friendly league. For that reason, a team can never have enough talented corners on their roster.
The Texans defense ranked inside the top 10 for both points and yards allowed during the 2012 season but faced matchup problems when their opponent went to a spread look. They didn't have enough quality corners to matchup with four and five wide receiver formations and their linebackers were terrible in coverage so they often got torn apart when teams spread them out.
The New England Patriots exploited that weakness for a combined 83 points over their two games that season including a 41-25 victory in the divisional round of the playoffs to end the Texans season.
They didn't add a single corner during the 2013 NFL draft and released their slot corner from the last couple seasons, Brice McCain before free agency started this offseason. Cornerback remains an urgent need.
Terrance Mitchell lacks elite speed and was inconsistent at Oregon, so this pick does carry a bit of risk but Mitchell does possess a few traits that make him an intriguing prospect, particularly his fluid hips and superb change direction, which he uses to stay with receivers. Rob Rang from CBS Sports expands on Mitchell's skills in his breakdown of the cornerback:
Sports a lean, athletic frame with long arms and a gambling mentality that can result in big plays. Fluid hips to change directions and shows good acceleration out of his turns to run with receivers across the middle or downfield. Alert defender who reads the quarterback and receiver, responding well when the ball is in the air. Very confident in his ability to close. Will bait quarterbacks, allowing room to receivers and breaking downhill hard to close in a flash. Competes for the football, showing good timing to leap, as well as the hand-eye coordination to battle bigger receivers. Showed significant improvement as an interceptor in 2013, snaring five passes after just two combined over his previous two starting seasons.
A bit high and choppy in his backpedal. Does not appear to possess preferred top-end speed, showing more initial burst and quickness than sustained acceleration. Got away with a lot of hand-play throughout college, frequently extending his arm to cut off receivers as they turn and arriving just before the ball.
Mitchell is a gamble. He was a bit of a one-year wonder at Oregon when opponents threw away from their other corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who is considered to be a much better NFL prospect. However, if I'm going to take a gamble, I'm always going to gamble with high-level athletes like Mitchell.
Round 6 (177th Overall: Logan Thomas (QB Virginia Tech)
Coach Bill O'Brien said publicly at the Texans town hall meeting with their season ticket holders that the team planned on taking more than one quarterback during the draft.
Some might scratch their head at the idea, but I like the strategy. Without a franchise quarterback on the roster and the first overall pick being used to select Clowney, the Texans would be wise to toss more than one dart at the board when trying to land a quarterback.
I'm not high on Logan Thomas. He possesses many appealing physical attributes for the position, but his performance on the field was average at best over his three seasons as the starting quarterback for Virginia Tech. During his three years as the Hokies starter he never completed at least 60 percent of his pass attempts or had a touchdown-to-interception ratio at or better than two-to-one.
As a rule I try to stay away from players, especially quarterbacks, who look the part physically but never performed at a high level on the field. However some draft evaluators whom I respect disagree with me on the potential of Thomas, including Greg Cosell of Yahoo Sports and NFL Films. Cosell even went so far as saying that Thomas is "more pro-ready than Cam Newton was in 2011". That's a big stretch for me, but Cosell argues his point well:
Here's the reality, which to many is inconceivable given the negative perception of Thomas, and Newton's relative success in the NFL after three seasons: Thomas is further along as a natural passer than Newton was at the equivalent point in time, having played more games in college, and learning an offense with far more complexities than Newton's Auburn offense.
It's easy to say a quarterback is not ready to play in the NFL. The same could be said for every quarterback in this or any draft class, each for different reasons. The truth is few are prepared when they come out of college, regardless of collegiate production, won-lost percentage or the conference in which they played. Even the special ones like Andrew Luck have much to integrate and absorb.
Thomas is a work in progress with significant concerns that all recognize. He may never become a high level NFL starter. I'm certainly not suggesting it's a given. He may never even get the chance. There are so many dynamics that come into play that factor into that equation, some beyond the quarterback's control, such as what round in which he is drafted and which team selects him. This I can tell you: there are few coaches who would not want the opportunity to work with a quarterback as physically talented as Thomas, one who gives an offense every dimension and expands the playbook.
What Thomas has in his arsenal is something every coach wants: an outstanding arm capable of making every NFL throw with little effort. That's where it starts. Those quarterbacks do not come along in every draft. It makes Thomas the most intriguing quarterback prospect in this class.
Like 7-footers in basketball, the tall quarterback with a strong arm often has his draft value inflated. The physical attributes can be mesmerizing and cause scouts to look past huge flaws in other areas. Those mistakes end up with teams drafting JaMarcus Russell or Blaine Gabbert in the NFL or Hasheem Thabeet in the NBA. Those mistakes get coaches and general managers fired. For the record I believe that Tom Savage falls into the same category.
Those physical attributes make the upside of these players higher than the average prospect, so many teams are willing to take the risk. The Texans have already brought in Logan Thomas for a visit to NRG Stadium in Houston, so they're obviously interested.
To be fair, as a sixth-round pick he's worth the risk and wouldn't kill the team if he flops.
Round 6 (From Oakland, 181st Overall): Jalen Saunders (WR Oklahoma)
Coach O'Brien said publicly at the Texans town hall meeting with their fans that the slot receiver position is an important one for their offense and that they would need to add one during the draft. As of now they don't have an option at slot receiver whom I'd feel comfortable putting on the field. The previous coach drafted Keshawn Martin to be that player, but he's been a no-show with only 32 receptions over his first two NFL seasons.
If you look up "slot receiver" in the dictionary, there will be a picture of Jalen Saunders on that page. As a Texas Longhorn fan, it's difficult for me to praise a former Sooner, but I'm not blind. The kid has big potential.
Saunders is lightning quick (4.37 40-yard dash) and has great hands, along with the change-of-direction ability that makes him a difficult cover in space. Why is he rated as only a sixth-round prospect? He measured in at 5'9" and 165 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine; he's a tiny guy. Concerns about his durability and ability to hang on to the ball in traffic is legit, as Dane Brugler of CBS Sports explains:
Smallish frame with narrow shoulders/hips and skinny limbs, lacking the body type to add much muscle. Very light as a ballcarrier and doesn't have much of a power element to his game. Lean frame makes him susceptible to crushing hits, especially over the middle, which creates durability concerns. Tough, but won't seek out contact. Willing blocker, but very limited.
On the other hand, Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com points out why Saunders is an intriguing prospect.
Light on his feet with a fluid stride. Good balance and body control. Nifty, conscientious route runner. Has speed and twitch to separate vs. man coverage -- sinks his hips with ease and pops out of breaks. Quick, soft hands. Slippery after the catch. Eludes the first tackler and can turn a short throw into a long gain if he gets a step. Three punt-return TDs in 25 returns at OU -- eludes the first wave, runs to daylight and can take it the distance.
Saunders led the Oklahoma Sooners in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns last season—major production in a major conference. I'm not saying he'll be a star, don't mistake my words, but I am confident that he'll become a big contributor for his team within a year or two.
Round 6 (Compensatory, 211th Overall): Trey Millard (FB Oklahoma)
Oklahoma Sooners in back to back rounds; I feel dirty...might need to take a shower after completing this mock draft.
Fullback has become a devalued position with teams becoming more pass heavy over recent years, but I think Millard will have an impact on his NFL team because of his versatility. Every time I watched an Oklahoma game while Millard was a starter, he was always one of the players that impressed me the most.
Millard is a great run blocker in college, as you would expect from a fullback who gets drafted, but he also showed better-than-average hands and running ability for a fullback. Teams need players who can execute at more than one position and fulfill multiple assignments because of how small the game day active rosters are each week.
Millard is that guy.
Millard will primarily be used as a fullback but could line up as more of an H-back or even a tight end, depending on the formation and what else his team has on their roster. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports also likes the options the versatile fullback will give his future team:
Solidly built frame with good muscle packed onto his body. Balanced athlete with controlled footwork to elude defenders in space. Light on his feet to hurdle or sidestep defenders while bursting forward. Deceiving moves and cuts to make defenders miss, using patience and vision. Packs a punch at the point of attack, brushing off contact and using a stiff arm to pick up chunk yardage. Soft hands and reliable focus as a pass catcher with 70 career catches and 7 career receiving scores (only 6 rushing scores). Physically and mentally tough blocker with good vision to seek out his target and throw his body around. Above average versatility to be a threat blocking, rushing, receiving and on special teams helps save a roster spot.
If not for an ACL injury suffered against Texas Tech in October of last year, I believe Millard would be the first fullback off the board during the draft. Selecting a fullback isn't a sexy pick that will have fans rushing to buy jerseys, but every championship team has a player who makes a big impact without it necessarily showing up on the stat sheet.
I think Millard is that type of player.
Round 7 (216th Overall): Shamar Stephon (DT Connecticut)
Not a pass-rusher but the Texans won't need that out of Shamar Stephon—not with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney on the roster.
If Shamar Stephon reaches his potential he'll be a powerful run-stuffer who will eat up blocks and allow this teammates to make plays. He likely will start off as a 5-technique end, but I believe he has the frame to put on more weight and become their nose tackle.
Massive defender with the broad shoulders, long arms and powerful leg drive to hold up in the middle as a run-stuffing presence. Quickly uncoils his arms to jolt blockers at the point of attack, extending his arms to create room to maneuver. Strong and alert enough to locate ballcarriers on either side of him, slipping free or simply reaching out to grab ahold of his opponent for drag-down stops. Impressive strength and flexibility throughout his core to absorb double-teams, rarely getting pushed off the line of scrimmage.
Compares to Cam Thomas of the San Diego Chargers - Like Thomas, Stephens offers size and power as a run stuffer in the middle, capable of lining up as a nose guard in either alignment. With better use of hands, he could offer something against the pass, as well.
The Texans have little depth along the defensive line, so grabbing one before the draft is over will be important.
Round 7 (Compensatory, 256th Overall): Lonnie Ballentine (FS Memphis)
Lonnie Ballentine has actually come to town for a visit with the Texans at NRG Stadium, so it's a good guess that he could be their target for the pick lovingly called Mr. Irrelevant. He could also be someone they target as an undrafted free agent, but if they really like him they shouldn't allow him to hit the open market.
The Texans signed two safeties in free agency during the offseason, so all they'll be looking for here is depth and someone who could potentially contribute on special teams.
Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com likes Ballentine's physical tools and believes he has good upside.
A long-limbed, rangy back-half defender with intriguing straight-line speed, range and leaping ability to compete for a job as a backup safety and special-teams performer. Has intriguing physical tools to be molded if he bows up.
Ballentine's athleticism will likely get his foot in the door, but he'll have to be one of the hardest workers on the team to stay in the league. Running a 4.3 40-yard dash is impressive, but as his trainer, Pete Bommarito, told Ross Jones of Fox Sports, it's been his work ethic after not getting invited to the NFL Scouting Combine that will lead to long-term success.
Immaculate work ethic...Absolutely perfect. The hardest part about this process when you’re not a Combine invite and you see your ranking as a priority free agent is to be focused on every rep in front of you. You can’t be focused long term...There are two types that come in who don’t get invited to the NFL Combine: ones that make excuses and ones that go to work. Some players have it and some don’t, Lonnie has it.
Teams aren't expecting to find stars in Round 7, especially with the last pick in the draft. What makes Ballentine worth the pick is his rare combination of size and speed. Prospects projected to go in the last round obviously have many flaws, so it's important to look for guys who have at least one promising trait that could be developed at the next level with better coaching.
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