(First off, sorry to just now be getting to this, but was tied up with the Derby yesterday and wanted to see who the Texans got as unsigned free agents before offering a full analysis).
So every team will tell you they got “exactly the players we wanted” in the NFL Draft. Most of them are lying. Since the Texans moved up twice to get players, we can assume there is at least some truth to them saying that. Now they have to hope they are right about the players.
After two drafts with almost no impact (to be fair, injuries played a role last year), the Texans needed to get it right. Time will tell if they did, but they seemed to get some versatile, impact guys who will help with overall depth.
A look at the class:
First round: Cornerback Kevin Johnson. We hit him on Thursday. This is a good pick for the future. Should eventually replace Jonathan Joseph. In the interim, he should help in nickel coverage and on special teams and helps improve depth in the secondary. If he thrives early, it could allow some flexibility in terms of allowing Kareem Jackson to play some safety. His tackling needs a lot of work before he can be a starter in the NFL, but he is the kind of guy Romeo Crennel can work with. A safe, solid pick.
Second round: Linebacker Bernardrick McKinney. The Texans traded up to get him, although they probably could have stayed put. A solid tackler who should be a first-down inside LB next to Brian Cushing. He struggles in coverage, but adds depth at a position of need. Liked him in college but he will need to improve in a lot of areas. He also should help on special teams.
Third round: Wide receiver Jaelen Strong. This is another player the Texans traded up to get, and unlike McKinney, Strong would not have lasted to their original pick. The price seemed steep, but it was worth it. Strong was an extremely productive player at Arizona State and fills a critical position of need. The Texans will never truly replace an Andre Johnson, but with solid upgrades across the board the wide receiver group could easily be more productive. Many pundits thought Strong could have been a first round pick. Concerns over a potential wrist injury might have hurt his stock, but clearly the Texans weren’t concerned. Has a chance to be the Texans best pick in the draft.
Fourth round: Wide receiver Keith Mumphrey. This might have been a bit of a reach. He is a physical player who looks more like a running back. He was not overly productive in college and would have to show a lot of improvement to be a useful NFL player.
Fifth round: LB Reshard Cliett. A solid pick. An outside rusher who is versatile, has room to improve and will also help on special teams. A nice get at this stage of the draft.
Sixth round: DT Christian Covington. Former Rice player dealt with injuries and might have improved his stock by staying in school. Still, he was regarded as the consensus No. 1 prospect in the CFL Draft and if healthy could be quite the addition. He is versatile and will add depth to perhaps the Texans strongest group — the defensive line.
Seventh round: RB Kenneth Hilliard: Ordinarily I am a big fan of LSU running backs, but Hilliard was never really much more than a rotation player. He looked promising as a freshman but never really matched the expectations. He’s big but not as physical as you would expect from a player his size. Would be surprised if he makes the team.
Undrafted free agents: Toledo center Greg Mancz, Alabama offensive tackle Brandon Ivory, Auburn guard Chad Slade, Nebraska offensive lineman Jake Cotton, Appalachian State offensive tackle Kendall Lamm, Troy receiver Chandler Worthy, Central Florida tight end Mike McFarland, Norfolk State outside linebacker Lynden Trail, Ole Miss defensive end Carlos Thompson, Marshall defensive end James Rouse, Oregon linebacker Tony Washington Jr., Arizona defensive tackle Dan Pettinato, Ohio defensive lineman Cam McLeod, Michigan State safety Kurtis Drummond , Bowie State tight end Khari Lee and Texas State punter Will Johnson.
The Texans usually find one or two useful players, and the most likely candidates are the tight ends and offensive linemen, since those remain positions of need.
Players most likely to make an immediate impact, in order: 1) Strong, 2) McKinney, 3) Johnson.
Best player long term: Johnson.
Possible surprises: Cliett, Covington.
Not expecting much (or anything): Mumphrey, Hilliard.
Overall, the Texans did a solid, safe job on the draft. They got some potential impact players and should have boosted the special teams significantly. As with any draft, time will tell. Hopefully this draft works out better than the last two.