HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans have a first-round draft pick for the first time since 2019, and thanks to the Deshaun Watson trade they have two selections in the opening round.
The Texans have the third overall pick in the draft, which begins Thursday, because of last year’s 4-13 finish, and received the 13th spot from Cleveland as one of three first-round picks they received as part of the deal for Watson.
They didn’t have a first-rounder in the last two drafts after sending those selections to Miami in the 2019 trade that brought left tackle Laremy Tunsil to Houston. This will be the second time in franchise history and the first since 2004 they’ve had two first-round picks.
Houston could use a quarterback since shipping Watson to the Browns after he sat out all last season following a trade request and lawsuits by 22 women alleging sexual assault or harassment. But the quarterback group in this year’s draft isn’t considered elite, and the Texans will likely try and fill one of the many other holes on the team.
“It’s not necessarily about specific players, it’s just about finding the right fit for what we’re trying to do,” general manager Nick Caserio said.
Caserio and the Texans moved into full rebuilding mode last season with Watson sitting out, and they traded or released their few remaining stars. Coach David Culley was fired just one season after being hired to replace Bill O’Brien, and Houston promoted defensive coordinator Lovie Smith to head coach in January.
Caserio knows it will be a big task to return the Texans to respectability and cautioned that even a high draft pick won’t be a magic pill to fix this franchise.
“No one player, no one thing is going to change this organization and it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said. “There’s a lot of work, and purposeful work, that’s going to go into it, but I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
DRAFT DAY DEALS?
With two first-round picks and 11 picks overall, Caserio was asked about the Texans making a trade during the draft. Caserio, a longtime executive with the Patriots before coming to Houston last January, said they’d be open to it.
“We’ll look at everything,” he said. “It goes back to what are you moving away from and what would you get in return?”
The Texans have already traded some late picks with the Patriots. New England dealt a fifth-round pick (170th overall) to Houston for a sixth-round pick (183rd overall) and seventh-round pick (245th overall).
WANTS AND NEEDS
Because this draft isn’t considered a great one for QBs, and Houston seems content with Davis Mills for at least one more season, the Texans could look to beef up their defense with their first pick.
Smith would probably be happy if one of the top picks goes toward improving the pass rush. Houston had just 32 in the first year without superstar rusher J.J. Watt.
A player they could target with the third pick is Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. The 6-foot-5, 258-pound Thibodeaux had 19 sacks in a three-year career with the Ducks.
If Houston decides to go with offense, Alabama OT/G Evan Neal or North Carolina State T Ikem Ekwonu could join Tunsil and help improve a line that allowed 44 sacks last season.
“When you get into the draft, you really don’t want to necessarily eliminate any position or particular player,” Caserio said. “You just want to look at it… and just figure out what makes the most sense for the organization. It’s about picking good players, it’s about picking the right players that you think fit what you’re trying to do.”
TEXANS DRAFT HISTORY
The third overall pick is Houston’s earliest choice since selecting defensive end Jadeveon Clowney first in the 2014 draft. The Texans have had the third pick just one other time and made one of their best draft moves with that selection: Andre Johnson with the second first-round pick in franchise history in 2003. Johnson spent 12 years with the Texans, piling up seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons and leading the NFL in yards receiving in 2008 and 2009. He is the team’s all-time receiving leader with 1,012 receptions for 13,597 yards and 64 TDs.