The Texans finally draft a Johnathan Joseph replacement

If you actually read this post, and you’re going to respond to me on Twitter about it in good faith, please use the hashtag #ReadThePiece. I know this sounds silly, but it’s an easy way for me to separate responses that I want to honor with a real answer from people who just want to be mad about everything they read online.

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I don’t really do draft preview posts at this point, which is a shame for #thebrand and #engagement because you guys love to talk about the draft. I will be upfront: I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in my ability to pick these guys out to be winners. I don’t watch college games live very often, and while I watch enough video of these players to call it a passing interest, I’m not going to grind down to the bone to figure out if I think this mid-round tight end is a third-rounder or a fourth-rounder. Jordan Pun is your guy for that.

Frankly, when I do that stuff more competitively, what I realize is that we’re blessed publicly with maybe about 25-30% of the total picture. Medicals, interviews, tracking data (Caserio referenced this recently in an interview) — it’s just wildly easy to have a take based on some combine numbers and some highlight clips. But it’s classic Dunning-Kruger effect. And if I don’t have all that much conviction about something, what I tend to do is quiet down and do a lot of listening to the people I actually respect about the process. (Matt Waldman, Dane Brugler, Lance Zierlein, Josh Norris, Nate Tice, etc. etc. etc.)

I think this is a drop in the bucket of a Texans rebuild. But at least there’s water in the bucket. I don’t agree with both picks in so much as I, with my limited information, might have done something else. But where I’m at is: I’ll try to understand where they’re coming from, and I’ll be upfront with you and tell you that nobody really knows how these guys are going to turn out. I try to keep a very probability-focused mindset on the draft.

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1 / 3: Derek Stingley Jr., LSU, CB

Name the last great Texans cornerback season. The answer is probably Kareem Jackson in 2018, and I would argue that he was really still a safety playing cornerback even then. The Texans haven’t had a true No. 1 cornerback since Johnathan Joseph aged out of it. Bradley Roby was a stable CB1, but I don’t think anyone would argue that his play here was top-notch. It’s been a hole for a long time. Even people who literally work for the Texans would say this:

The major reasons to draft Stingley over Sauce Gardner are that a) Stingley has more play against better competition and b) Stingley’s 2019 season was the highest high for any cornerback in the class. Nick Caserio cited seeing him play against Ja’Marr Chase and players of that ilk when asked about Stingley at his post-round-1 presser:

Stingley, of course, played just three games last year for LSU as he fought a Lisfranc injury. That was a major reason why he kind of rode the downslope for most of the draft process after being bandied about as a potential top-five guy for most of the college football regular season. It turns out that this didn’t matter to the Texans. I watched his post-selection conference call with local media and you’re not going to get a lot of words out of him. I found that kind of interesting because Dane Brugler’s draft guide listed one of his weaknesses for Stingley (in some eyes around the league, of course) as “scouts say he doesn’t have an Alpha personality.”

If it were up to me, I would have taken Kayvon Thibodeaux with this pick. I think he’s the most talented player in this draft. But knowing how the Texans operate, and knowing the questions about Thibodeaux’s commitment to football, I really didn’t come into this with any expectations about Thibodeaux ever donning deep steel blue. I was expecting this to come down to either Stingley, Sauce Gardner, or Ikem Ekwonu. I think of those three players, the Texans probably made the right pick. I can see the arguments for either of the other two players. I think Stingley is the swing-for-the-fences pick of the two cornerbacks and, while I understand Ekwonu’s appeal, I was a little lost on the value proposition of a guy who might start at guard at third overall.

It’s hard to say how quickly the rookies will get run on a team that is ostensibly full of veterans that deserve a chance, but Stingley will be in competition with Desmond King, Tavierre Thomas, and Steven Nelson. One thing I am earnestly curious about is how quickly he’ll get a chance to play. Rookie cornerbacks only rarely look great right away.

1 /15 Kenyon Green, Texas A&M, G

Caserio’s post-draft presser gave us the nugget that he could have traded down again with this pick, as he initially did from 13 to 15 for picks 124, 162, and 166. He ultimately deemed the idea “too cute” and instead settled on something that has very obviously been a point of contention within the building due to the back-to-back 32nd place finishes in run DVOA: people who can move people.

Green tended to be regarded from what I read as the more raw of the two big guard prospects in this draft between himself and Zion Johnson, who went to the Chargers two picks later. Brandon Thorn, who I would trust on offensive line play more than most, appeared on a few podcasts (I’ll dig these later, sorry, I do like to sleep) and the basic gist of what I got from him is he thought Round 1 was rich for Green, but that he could understand what the scouts were seeing.

Green’s major dings are about technique, not the body that made him a high-level high school recruit. Brugler’s draft guide cites him as a “penalty magnet.” I’m a little worried about giving George Warhop this high of a pick to build with because it’s not like his recent track record with young linemen is great. Jawaan Taylor and Cam Robinson barely developed at all. His Bucs days with Lovie had Ali Marpet, but also Donovan Smith.

In short, I’m not a huge fan of this pick because I a) understand the burden it’s going to put on one guard to turn a run game around and b) I just think there were better values up and down the board. I would have picked Zion of the two guards, I just think he seems more likely to be a steady contributor. But more to the point — and I have to note that depending on which draft models you believe in, the Texans did well on this trade — I simply would have stayed put and drafted Kyle Hamilton or Jordan Davis at 13 if these were my options. Frankly, I would have been happy with Hamilton at 3, so to have that scenario just fall into Houston’s lap and watch it slide away was a little disappointing.

I’m less in love with that return than Seth is simply because the top three rounds are the draft bread-and-butter to me and the Texans received no picks that happen in those rounds. The real question here is what happens with the picks. It gives Caserio ample ammo to move around and target other fallers that he likes, which in theory can be a very good thing. He could also simply take many shots, which could also be a good thing. My read of Caserio is that there will be some trade-ups over the next two days to target players, as he did with Nico Collins in 2021, that he values higher than consensus. Given the volume of culture veterans already on the roster, I would be surprised if Houston made all the picks they have left.

It was also of note that Caserio quickly dialed in on Green as an inside guy. He again parroted the idea that the best five linemen will play. I think at this point I’d expect Laremy Tunsil at left tackle, Tytus Howard at left guard, Justin Britt at center, Green at right guard, and Charlie Heck at right tackle. Based on how things have played out publicly, that seems like the five they believe in most at the positions they believe they’ll tolerate best.

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Day 2 and a few random thoughts

37th overall has fallen in a manner that invites some intrigue. Malik Willis is still on the board, as are Breece Hall, Logan Hall, Nakobe Dean, David Ojabo, Arnold Ebiketie, Jaquan Brisker, Christian Watson, Skyy Moore, and Jalen Pitre. Both of the Halls have come in for top-30 visits with the Texans — as both Green and Stingley did. Caserio noted that there was some consideration about trading back up into Round 1:

I do wonder who they might be targeting here if they were considering moving up. I think you can argue any of the above players — plus a few more — would be good fits for the Texans. I personally would favor Dean and the Halls as my favorite picks left for them at 37.

-Wanted to point this out because it came up again as I was reading things and I realized that Jair brought this up earlier:

Green? You guessed it, a top-15 overall recruit. Caserio really seems to value the idea that someone who shows great talent at a young age counts for something over the long term.

Nakobe Dean was the 19th overall recruit in the 2019 class…

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