When the Houston Texans huddle up, Hunter Atkins sees a lot of holes.
Unfortunately, this isn’t anything new. The Houston Texans are coming off back-to-back four-win seasons. Marred by poor front office decisions and ill-advised trades, the team fielded a roster that was lacking. In 2021, the Texans ranked near the bottom in virtually every offensive and defensive statistical category. Heading into yet another season with uncertainty and a new head coach feels like déjà vu.
Yet it’s not as bleak as it may appear. The NFL Draft brings hope. And, as Hunter Atkins points out, there is a promise on the horizon. Despite not having a draft pick until the third round last year, the Texans now have 11 selections this season. This includes two first-round picks resulting from the Deshaun Watson trade.
With the draft less than a month away, Hunter Atkins is on the clock. The veteran sports reporter lists the five biggest needs for the Houston Texans heading into 2022.
The silver lining of having so many glaring needs is that the Houston Texans can take a “best player available” approach. Hunter Atkins expects the team to add a pass rusher with one of its Day 1 picks. The Texans finished with the fifth-fewest sacks a season ago. This class is deep at the position too. Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson or Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux would infuse the front seven with speed and athleticism.
Like many, Pro Football Focus didn’t think highly of the Texans’ secondary either. In fact, they were the lowest-graded unit in the entire league. With such a glaring need, the franchise should pull the trigger on a cornerback early. While No. 3 overall might be too rich of a price for one of the top prospects, Hunter Atkins could see the team using its No. 13 pick to address the position.
Safety was a strength a season ago. However, the departure of Justin Reid left an immediate void. Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton is a generational talent. It would be hard to pass if he’s available. Yet, it’s more likely the team waits. Hunter Atkins could see the team emphasizing quantity over quality, grabbing a couple of prospects in the later rounds and hoping to hit.
The offense isn’t immune to these deficiencies. Since the Texans seem determined to give quarterback Davis Mills the reins after his encouraging rookie campaign, he needs help on the outside. Despite the turmoil, wide receiver Brandin Cooks has provided a steady, consistent hand over the last couple of seasons. Yet he can’t continue to do it alone. Look for the Texans to prioritize a running mate for Cooks in the second round.
Speaking of running, it’s more accurate to describe the team’s backfield as a pedestrian. In 2021, the Texans ranked dead last in rushing yards per game. The team has scraped by with a patchwork of veterans and journeymen on short-term contracts. It’s time to invest. With new coach Lovie Smith expressing a desire to “ground and pound,” Hunter Atkins would be surprised if the Texans didn’t select a running back (or two) in the middle rounds.