Texans' Top 2021 NFL Draft Targets

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2021

Texans' Top 2021 NFL Draft Targets

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    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    The Houston Texans find themselves in an awkward position heading into the 2021 NFL draft. They only won four games this past season and could use a serious influx of talent. However, they don't own a selection before the third round because of the Laremy Tunsil trade.

    Also hanging over the franchise is the sexual assault allegations against quarterback Deshaun Watson. Houston likely could have gotten back into the early rounds by moving Watson, who requested a trade at the start of the year.

    According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans had planned to try dealing Watson ahead of the draft. Now, though, the only way the Texans are getting into the first two rounds will likely be by trading future draft selections and/or other veteran players.

    Still, the Texans can find value in the third round if they stay put. Here we'll examine three prospects they should consider with the 67th overall pick.

Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    While Houston was extremely active in free agency—adding players like Mark Ingram II, Marcus Cannon (trade), Shaq Lawson (trade) and Christian Kirksey—they should continue bolstering a defense that ranked 30th in yards allowed and that produced just three interceptions in 2020.

    While the third round may be too late to get a defender who can make an immediate impact, grabbing a developmental prospect like Syracuse's Ifeatu Melifonwu would be wise.

    While Melifonwu is a bit on the raw side, he has the potential to develop into a versatile starting defensive back.

    "Melifonwu has the size and toughness of a starting safety, but it's wrapped in an elite package of traits that makes him a very intriguing press-corner prospect," NFL Media's Lance Zierlein wrote.

    Landing Melifonwu may require trading up into the second round, but such a move shouldn't be terribly expensive from pick No. 67. It would be worth it too, as Melifonwu should be able to inject some playmaking ability into Houston's secondary.

Joseph Ossai, OLB, Texas

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Sticking on the defensive side of the ball, the Texans should have interest in Texas linebacker and edge-rusher Joseph Ossai. While landing Ossai might also require a trade, he would be a big addition to a pass rush that lost J.J. Watt in the offseason.

    "Ossai is an explosive mover and contains lots of enthusiasm throughout multiple parts of his game," Jordan Reid of The Draft Network wrote. "A motor that stays flaming hot, he's able to positively impact plays even if they're not intended in his direction."

    While run defense was one of Houston's biggest weaknesses in 2020—it ranked dead last in rushing yards allowed—forcing turnovers and generating sacks were also problem areas. As a team, the Texans has just 34 sacks this past season.

    Adding Ossai could help on both fronts. In nine games last season, he had five sacks, three forced fumbles and 16 tackles for loss.

D'Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press

    If the Texans decide to go offense rather than defense, a prospect like Western Michigan's D'Wayne Eskridge could be a perfect player to target. He's an unpolished receiver but possesses the sort of pure speed that offensive coordinators drool over.

    "He's not a great route-runner, will struggle with contested catches and lacks desired size, but he can really fly and has home run potential from anywhere on the field," Zierlein wrote.

    Eskridge's after-the-catch ability could be huge for an offense that probably won't have Watson under center in 2021. He can turn short passes into chunk gains and has enough speed to back defenses away from the line of scrimmage.

    In just six games last season, Eskridge racked up 784 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. He also added 467 yards and a score on kickoff returns. His ability to add some potency to Houston's special teams unit shouldn't be overlooked.

    The Texans need to improve in all phases if they hope to get back into the playoff mix in 2021.