Brian McDonald stopped in to State of the Texans and put together his annual start Mock Draft for the Houston Texans. With no compensatory picks released yet, he only did a small three-round post NFL Combine mock draft. Enjoy. -PDS
Why do we take the time to write or read mock drafts when we know the information used to produce them is incomplete and that the end result will always include getting a majority of the picks wrong?
The same thing could be said for filling out brackets in March, but we do both because it’s fun and it gives us a chance to put ourselves into a job we’d love to have.
It’s why we play fantasy sports.
Winning those leagues or getting picks right in a mock draft doesn’t necessarily prove that we’re smarter than the next person, but we love to participate and we love to debate in subjects like sports.
That’s what I’ve done with this Texans specific mock draft. This is how I would draft if put into the position of Rick Smith on draft day. Some of you may agree with my picks, but the majority probably will not and that’s OK.
After all, how many of us predicted that the Texans would take Kevin Johnson at this point last year?
For this mock draft, I used the prospect rankings from CBSSports.com to determine which players would be available for each pick. While it’s true that no draft has ever gone exactly according to any one site’s prospect rankings, it does seem to be the most effective way to take on this process.
Should I try to get into the minds of 32 different owners, general managers, and coaches about what they all feel is their biggest need, who they like on film, and how desperate they might be to move up or down the draft order, or should I base it on the best players most likely to be available at their draft spot?
Every mock ever created is already a collection of “best guesses,” so why not try to eliminate as much of the guess work as possible?
Please keep in mind that my picks were based on the prospect ratings put out by CBS after the NFL Scouting Combine on February 29th, so if you’re reading this several days or weeks later, their rankings could obviously look much different.
Last thing before we get into the picks, my mocks in the past for this site have been for all seven rounds, but the exact draft position for rounds four through seven haven’t been determined yet by the league. So for now this will only be a three-round mock, but I will do another that includes rounds four through seven as we get closer to draft day.
First Round, 22nd Overall Pick – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis (30th overall prospect)
The popular assumption is that Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Paxton Lynch will all be off the board well before the Texans make their first pick. While there’s still a good chance of that being the case, I don’t believe it to be an automatic lock.
Paxton Lynch is a very good prospect and is someone I would get excited about the Texans selecting as a fan of the team, but the buzz and momentum has shifted in favor of both Goff and Wentz after the NFL Scouting Combine and even a little before that weekend.
Personally I think dropping a quarterback based on throws he made without pads, without a pass rush coming after him and to receivers he’s never worked with is ridiculous, but those results can sway opinion.
Not all of these were based on a poor combine performance, but don’t forget that Teddy Bridgewater in 2014, Geno Smith in 2013, and Aaron Rodgers in 2005 all fell way past where they were projected to go during most of the draft process.
Obviously Geno Smith should have fallen even further with the benefit of hindsight, but my point here is that quarterbacks who are regarded by most to be top prospects can and have fallen past where the Texans will be drafting this year.
So it is possible for Lynch to fall to the Texans and if he does, the Texans should absolutely take him with the 22nd pick.
Every fan knows that quarterback is their biggest team need and Lynch, while not a perfect prospect by any means, certainly checks off enough of the right boxes to gamble on him; especially considering the value of getting him at pick No. 22.
Lynch has great size, good athleticism for the position, gained a lot of experience in college with nearly 40 career starts, and helped turn the normally awful Memphis football team into a 10-win program in 2014; they won nine games in 2015.
The Memphis football team won 22 games over the three seasons with Lynch as their starting quarterback. In the three seasons before Lynch took over as their starter, Memphis won just seven games combined over the 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons.
Lynch helped Memphis win nine or more games in each of the last two seasons as their starter. The Memphis program before Lynch arrived only reached the nine win mark twice in their entire history dating back to the 1960 season.
The age of spread offenses has allowed many quarterbacks to put up big numbers, but to do that while also lifting up your team and pulling off upsets like they did against Ole Miss is very impressive.
Scouts Take by Dane Brugler/Rob Rang of CBS:
Entering the 2015 season, NFL evaluators viewed Lynch as an intriguing prospect, but weren't yet sold because most of his production and positive tape came against unimpressive competition. He changed a lot of those perceptions with an outstanding performance in leading an upset of Ole Miss - looking unfazed against the Rebels, showing poise, mobility and pinpoint accuracy.
A former running back, he ran a Wing-T offense in high school and is largely self-taught at the position and still very young in football years, showing vast improvement each of the last three seasons. From a scouting perspective, Lynch needs mechanical work and on-field reps, but he checks boxes for his size, athleticism, arm talent, field vision and appetite for football.
His pro transition will require time and although he might not be "perfect" in every area, the ingredients are there for Lynch to develop into a successful starting NFL quarterback.
Second Round, 52nd Overall – Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas (60th overall prospect)
There should be no debate about what the Texans’ biggest need is on the roster and there really shouldn’t be any debate on what their second biggest need is at the moment. What they do in free-agency could change this, but the Texans have to add a running back to their roster.
Arian Foster was once great, but will be 30-years-old when the season starts and consistent injury problems have made relying on him impossible at this point. Alfred Blue had a few good moments last season, but overall is just a guy. His vision as a runner is poor, he doesn’t have exceptional speed or power, and will for the most part only get you the yards that the offensive line creates.
All running backs need quality lineman in front of them to succeed, but they also have to be able to help themselves with vision like Foster had to see the hole developing before it actually opened or the quick one-step burst he showed to get through that hole and up to the next level.
Having make-you-miss moves in space also helps; Blue doesn’t possess any of these qualities.
Alex Collins is the second best running back in this class—in my opinion—behind Ezekiel Elliott and would be a great pick for the Texans in the second round.
Collins ran for over 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons at the University of Arkansas and did so in a pro-style system that should give him an advantage when making the transition to the pro-game over a guy coming from a spread offense.
While those numbers would sometimes indicate over-usage and bring up concerns about how much tread is left on the tire, Collins shared carries in a loaded backfield with guys like Jonathan Williams and left after his junior season, so that shouldn’t be a big problem.
Collins isn’t the fastest or biggest back in the draft, but he has enough of those two traits along with a proven ability to make quick reads and decisive cuts which should give him a great chance to be a good five-year contributor to an NFL team like the Texans.
Scouts Take by Dane Brugler of CBS:
Collins was an ideal fit for Bielema's blueprint on offense with his light feet to make sharp cuts, but also his physical nature to welcome contact, finish forward and do most of his damage between the tackles. Collins is a physical runner, but needs to improve his pad level and ball security to be more reliable at the next level.
Although he won't consistently create on his own, Collins has an excellent blend of quickness, patience and power to get what is blocked for him and contribute as an NFL rookie.
Third Round, 85th Overall – Kenny Lawler, WR, Cal (93rd overall prospect)
The Texans should consider taking an offensive tackle or safety here as those positions are also top needs, but the receivers available here according to the prospect ranking I’ve been using have more upside.
Houston has a legit top five NFL wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, but they need a better compliment on the other side of the field than what they had on the roster in 2015. Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington each had a few nice moments and still have some gas left in the tank, but should be a team’s fourth or fifth option instead of their second.
After Hopkins destroyed the New York Jets in late November, many of their remaining opponents started using a defensive strategy that doubled Hopkins with their second corner and one of the safeties for most of the game, and dared the other Houston receivers to beat them.
Those other guys weren’t able to often enough, so the Texans will need to upgrade their talent at the position to force teams to change their strategy, or at least make them pay with a legit threat if they continue to double Hopkins.
Kenny Lawler was Jared Goff’s favorite target at Cal last season with a team-leading 52 receptions including 13 touchdown catches for the Golden Bears in 2015.
At 6’2’’ with great leaping ability and strong hands, Lawler made highlight-reel catches all season long that made it on to ESPN and went viral, and that playmaking ability will get the attention of NFL scouts and coaches.
Lawler is a bit thin and will need to put on more weight and muscle to win at the line of scrimmage and improve his durability, but I’d rather gamble on a playmaker that needs to put on weight over a guy who looks the part, but doesn’t have a unique or special skillset.
Scouts Take by Rob Rang of CBS:
If he can handle the jump in physicality, Lawler has the ball-skills to be a star. There are few receivers in the 2016 draft who can match his highlights. The list of thin receivers with limited top-end speed starring in the NFL, however, is a short one, giving scouts reason to be cautious.