Houston Texans Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU – Round 2
The Texans were in need of some youth on their defensive line and some edge-rush talent coming into the 2020 NFL Draft. Houston lost stud nose tackle D.J. Reader in free agency, and veteran J.J. Watt has dealt with a lot of injuries over the past few seasons. Thus, the Texans were in need of adding more talent at the point of attack, and they were fortunate that Blacklock was available in the second round, as he could have been a late first-round pick.

For the next level, Blacklock has three-down starting potential. It can be hard to find interior defenders with pass-rush skills, but Blacklock has them. He has quickness off the snap and the athleticism to adjust in the short area. Blacklock can fire his gap to get upfield and penetrate the backfield. With Blacklock’s compact and thick build, offensive linemen struggle to tie up Blacklock because he has the functional strength to fight through blocks. With his size, strength and athleticism, Blacklock is a dangerous interior rusher who could contribute to a good pass-rushing unit in the NFL.

In the run game, Blacklock has strength and size at the point of attack to hold his ground. He shows the ability to get off blocks and get in on tackles with quickness and athleticism to make tackles outside of his gap.

Some team sources felt that Blacklock should have returned to school because he could use more development and experience. Considering he missed the 2018 season, that’s understandable. One of those issues that he needs to improve is playing too high. Blacklock has a tendency to stand up too high off the snap and that lets offensive linemen get underneath his pads and control him. When Blacklock plays high, he loses his power and quickness. That could be seen at times in 2019, see the Iowa State game, so he needs to significantly improve that for the NFL.

Some team sources say they graded Blacklock on Day 3, so he was a worthy second-round for Houston and not a reach. Other teams felt he is a bit of a 1-year wonder with some medical and injury concerns. As long as he stays healthy, Blacklock should develop into a solid starter for Houston.

2019: Max Scharping, OT
2018: Martinas Rankin, OT
2017: Zach Cunningham, LB
2016: Nick Martin, C
2015: Bernardrick McKinney, LB
2014: Louis Nix, DT
2013: DeAndre Hopkins, WR

Most Likely To Bust

Charlie Heck, OT, North Carolina – Round 4
Heck played well for the Tar Heels in 2019 despite missing some time with a broken hand. At the East-West Shrine, Heck had a good week of practice, but he was not as impressive in Mobile while taking on the Senior Bowl edge rushers. Heck has a big body, but he has some limitations in athleticism, quickness and footwork that could give him struggles with NFL speed rushers.

Houston invested a ton of draft picks and money into left tackle Laremy Tunsil. The Texans also have a first-round pick invested in right tackle Tytus Howard, so Heck is going to have a hard time seeing the field for the Texans. At 6-foot-7, 309 pounds, Heck does not really have the body type to kick inside to guard. Thus, I could see Heck being stuck as a backup swing tackle, and when he does play, I think he could have issues with NFL speed rushers.

2019: Lonnie Johnson, CB
2018: Keke Coutee, WR
2017: Julie’n Davenport, OT
2016: Braxton Miller, WR
2015: Jaelen Strong, WR
2014: Xavier Su’a-Filo, G
2013: Sam Montgomery, DE

Potential Boom Pick

Jon Greenard, DE, Florida – Round 3
Along with the defensive line, the Texans needed more young talent for edge rushers. Jadeveon Clowney was traded away; Whitney Mericlus is aging and has dealt with injuries; and J.J. Watt has been lining up inside more and has also had injury issues in recent years. Thus, the Texans were looking thin in the pass-rush department, and they were fortunate to land Greenard in the third round.

Greenard is dangerous as he is a natural pass rusher with a nose for the quarterback. He has a nice repertoire of moves and is smart about how he attacks offensive tackles. As a student of the game, Greenard is keen to pick up on tells from the tackles and offense to make him a more effective pass rusher with his good instincts.

On top of his mental ability, Greenard has some quickness to get after the quarterback. While he is not a lightning fast edge rusher, he is quick off the snap with the ability to sink his hips and shoulder to get around the corner. Once he makes the turn, Greenard has the closing speed to finish the play and get to the quarterback. He had a knack for splash plays at Florida, making some timely pass rushes that were huge for his defense in 2019. Greenard is quick, athletic and agile to dodge and run around blocks. In the NFL, he won’t overwhelm offensive tackles with overpowering strength or blinding speed, but he is a polished rusher who has a knack for getting to the quarterback. At the Senior Bowl, it was clear that Greenard could stand to improve his ability to shed blocks and pro tackles could give him problems with length and if they get their hands on him.

As a run defender, Greenard is at his best working upfield and trying to cause disruption in the backfield. He is going to have problems taking on pro offensive lines and holding his gap in downhill runs coming straight at him. Greenard give a good effort and plays tough, but his natural size presents limitations as a run stopper at the pro level.

Greenard (6-3, 262) is a bit of an undersized edge defender, and as a result his best fit would be as a 3-4 outside linebacker. In the short term, Greenard could be a solid rotational rusher, and over time, he could develop into an effective starter. While Greenard does not have a great skill set, he is a natural pass rusher who is just a good football player. Of Houston’s early-round picks, Greenard could have the most boom potential.

2019: Tytus Howard, OT
2018: Justin Reid, S
2017: Deshaun Watson, QB
2016: Will Fuller, WR
2015: Kevin Johnson, CB
2014: Jadeveon Clowney, DE
2013: D.J. Swearinger, S

Future Depth Player

Isaiah Coulter, WR, Rhode Island – Round 5
The Texans could use some wide receiver depth considering Will Fuller and Kenny Stills are in the last year of their contracts. Keke Coutee has a hard time staying healthy, and veteran Brandin Cooks has been traded by his previous three teams, so obviously there are issues that cause teams to move on from Cooks. Houston general manager/head coach Bill O’Brien foolishly traded away DeAndre Hopkins, and the Texans are going to miss the Hall of Fame candidate. Coulter gives them another receiver with size to compete for playing time at Hopkins’ former position. The 6-foot-2, 198-pounder could rotate behind Stills and Fuller. While Coulter may not be dynamic enough to become a starter, he could end up being a solid backup receiver in the NFL.

2019: Kahale Warring, TE
2018: Jordan Aikens, TE
2017: Carlos Watkins, DT
2016: Tyler Ervin, RB
2015: Reshard Cliet, LB
2014: Andre Hal, S
2013: David Quessenberry, OL

Walt’s 2020 NFL Draft Grades:

40. Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU – A Grade
The Texans lost D.J. Reader, so I can see why they’d pursue Ross Blacklock. Reader’s departure created a huge void on the defensive front, and Blacklock projects to be a similar player. He’s a huge presence who will clamp down on the run, and he’ll be able to offer some pass-rushing juice. I’m usually down on the moves the Texans make, but this is a very good selection. I’m shocked!

90. Jonathan Greenard, DE/OLB, Florida – B+ Grade
It’s disappointing that the Texans aren’t providing any sort of blocking for Deshaun Watson, but it makes sense that they would bolster their front seven. They needed to add another edge rusher to help replace Jadeveon Clowney. Greenard is a very quick edge rusher with upside, and he fits the range in the middle of the third round.

126. Charlie Heck, OT, North Carolina – B Grade
The Texans have finally upgraded Deshaun Watson’s pass protection. Well, maybe. Charlie Heck is a better run blocker than pass protector, so I’m not sure if Watson’s protection will improve. Still, Heck is a solid choice in the fourth frame.

141. John Reid, CB, Penn State – D Grade
Leave it to Bill O’Brien to select a seventh-round prospect in the fourth frame. John Reid is small and slow, so I don’t think he’ll make the cut in the NFL.

171. Isaiah Coulter, WR, Rhode Island – B Grade
Isaiah Coulter made a big mistake by declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft, though he couldn’t have known that he wouldn’t be able to help himself because of the pandemic. Coulter is very raw, but has some good athleticism and speed. He’s a project, but he could pay off for the Texans.

2020 NFL Draft Team Grade: B . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

Houston Texans Season Preview

2024 NFL Mock Draft - April 22

NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

Fantasy Football Rankings - Feb. 19

NFL Picks - Feb. 12