The 2020 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 23. As a lead up to the draft, we’ll be giving a team-by-team breakdown for positional needs. For each team, we’ll give an overview of each team’s current depth chart and how big of a need each position in the upcoming draft. Find all teams and the rest of our draft content in our NFL Draft Hub.
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Houston Texans 2020 Draft Picks Overview
Round 2 (40)
Round 3 (90)
Round 4 (111)
Round 5 (171)
Round 7 (240)
Round 7 (248)
Round 7 (250)
Houston Texans Offense
by Rich Hribar
2019 Houston Texans Offensive Ranks
*denotes new addition
Deshaun Watson has been stellar to begin his career, averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt over his first three seasons while the Texans have posted a 24-13 record in his starts. Watson is line to be one of the next quarterbacks to get a big extension as he enters 2020 in the final season of his rookie contract. Backup A.J. McCarron is signed only for the 2020 season.
The Texans traded for David Johnson this offseason a year after trading for Duke Johnson, both of which are signed through the 2021 season. Given David Johnson’s recent back issues and the lack of any team yet to use Duke Johnson as a three-down player, the team should be looking to add another potential early-down option to compete with their current depth.
After Houston traded DeAndre Hopkins away as part of the David Johnson deal, the team then went out and traded for Brandin Cooks. Cooks is coming off his worst statistical season, but will only be 27-years-old in 2020. He is under contract through 2023, but doesn’t carry a dead cap hit beyond this upcoming season. Will Fuller is playing on the fifth-year option this year. He’s averaged 8.6 yards per target to start his career, but has also missed 22 games.
The team also went out and added Randall Cobb on a three -year deal. With their two additions in Cooks and Cobb, players such as Kenny Stills (signed only for 2020) and Keke Coutee (2021) have already come up in trade talks.
At age-33, Darren Fells caught seven touchdowns after catching 10 through his first five seasons in the league. The team brought him back on a two-year contract this offseason. Behind Fells, all of Akins, Thomas, and Warring are on rookie contracts and with the team at least through 2021. It’s not a sexy group, but the Texans have a lot of cheap youth rostered.
LT: Laremy Tunsil/Brent Qvale/Elijah Nkansah/David Steinmetz
LG: Max Scharping/Rick Leonard
C: Nick Martin/Greg Mancz
RG: Zach Fulton/Senio Kelemete
RT: Tytus Howard/Roderick Johnson/Kyle Murphy
Last season, the Texans traded for Laremy Tunsil, who is currently playing under the fifth-year option and awaits a new deal. The team used a first-round pick (23rd overall) on Tytus Howard, who played eight games, seven of which came at right tackle. They also used a second-round pick (55th overall) on Max Scharping, who appeared in all 16 games and started 14 of them as a rookie. Center Nick Martin enters 2020 in the final season of his rookie contract while right guard Zach Fulton was a liability last season, allowing the sixth most pressures among guards in the league.
Houston Texans Defense
by Dan Pizzuta
2019 Houston Texans Defensive Ranks
interior defensive line
Houston lost D.J. Reader to the Bengals in free agency but made a rare good value move with the signing of Timmy Jernigan. Jernigan’s run with the Eagles was plagued with injuries, but he was good when he got on the field for 10 games last season. Jernigan has some pass rush upside but there’s really not much of that elsewhere on the interior.
JJ Watt is still JJ Watt. Whitney Mercilus was a productive No. 2 edge last season, though he was better in his No. 3 role behind Watt and Jadeveon Clowney in past years. Behind those two, there’s little of note. Brennan Scarlett and Jacob Martin had some flashes but won’t play more than rotational roles at the position.
Zach Cunningham has turned into a good rangey sideline-to-sideline run defender, though his coverage ability still needs work. Still, the Texans were 13th in DVOA against short-middle passes last season per Football Outsiders. Benardrick McKinney has also been good in a role that saw him rush the passer on 22.5% of his pass snaps, per SIS. Cunningham played 87.5% of the Houston defensive snaps last season and McKinney played 78.6%. The Texans can piece together depth, especially since either one of Cunningham or McKinney is typically on the field, so while a coverage linebacker could help, it’s not as high on the list of needs for a team in Houston’s situation.
There’s a lot here, the question is whether or not any of it is good. Houston acquired former first-round picks Gareon Conley and Vernon Hargreaves last season but both showed why the teams that picked them there wanted to move on.
The top corner will be Bradley Roby, who was the only above-average corner on the roster last season. There were 92 corners who played at least 300 coverage snaps last season. By Adjusted Yards Allowed per coverage snap, which accounts for touchdowns and interceptions Roby ranked 42nd. Lonnie Johnson, Vernon Hargreaves, and Gareon Conley ranked 86th, 87th, and 88th. Even former Texan Jonathan Joseph ranked 90th.
Thankfully Justin Reid has turned into a star at safety after being a third-round pick in 2018. It’s the saving grace of this secondary. Tashaun Gipson struggled in his first season with the Texans after being cut from the Jaguars. Eric Murray was added to the group in free agency, though he played mostly slot corner for the Browns last season. Jaylen Watkins could also see some time. He played 34% of the Chargers’ defensive snaps last season, mostly as a box safety on a defense that played a ton of defensive backs.