Texans 3-Round Mock Draft: DeMeco Ryans Begins Assembling His Defense

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell (31) gestures during a NCAA Big Ten Conference football game against Northwestern, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.221029 Northwestern Iowa Fb 015 Jpg
Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell (31) gestures during a NCAA Big Ten Conference football game against Northwestern, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.221029 Northwestern Iowa Fb 015 Jpg /

In our latest 3-round Texans mock draft, Bryce Young heads to Houston and brings a couple defenders from Iowa with him.

The Texans enter a pivotal turning point this offseason for the franchise. After hiring former All-Pro linebacker DeMeco Ryans as the new head coach, Houston hopes to build a strong foundation, emulating what Ryans had in San Francisco.

General manager Nick Caserio has no shortage of assets to lay this foundation with. Thanks to the savvy Deshaun Watson trade last offseason, the Texans sit with two top-12 selections, including No. 33 overall, which is about as close as it gets to a first-round pick without actually being one.

Texans 3-Round Mock Draft: DeMeco Ryans Begins Assembling His Defense

While there is a slight chance the Texans swerve expectations and build up the defense, it would be a shortsighted move to pass up on one of the signal-callers at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft. Sure, we can look at Caleb Williams and Drake Maye and think about waiting until next year, but at No. 2 overall, Houston may not find itself in a position to get either prospect if they improve in 2023.

CJ Stroud, Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson, and Will Levis all have their supporters, but one name stands above the rest when it comes to the Texans. Without further ado, the Panthers nab Stroud at No. 1, bringing Houston to the podium at No. 2 overall…

Round 1, No. 2: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Bryce Young is my top-rated quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft. The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner is a franchise-altering type of leader, showing the ability to lead a locker room and shoulder the brunt of the load when his team needs him the most.

Young is never rattled, possessing composure and poise in the pocket that some 10-year veterans don’t even have. It is more than mental makeup, as Young’s arm is lively and is capable of making any throw necessary to run an NFL offense.

The Alabama superstar is precise, gets through progressions lighting-quick, and displays an uncanny knack for sensing pressure, allowing him to extend plays and create game-changing moves with his arm and legs. Young did not run often in college, but his playmaking trait showed up several times on tape.

As you probably know by now, the one hang-up on Young’s NFL Draft grade is his meager size. He is 5-foot-10 and weighed 204 pounds at the NFL Combine, but anyone who watched Young at Alabama knows he played at least 20 pounds lighter than that.

His frame may never allow him to bulk up, but Young rarely took big shots in college and knows how to take care of himself. He checks every other box, so while it is a gamble regarding size, Young is the surest thing in the class in terms of God-given ability. Ryans and Co. bet on the traits early in this mock draft.

Round 1, No. 12: Lukas Van Ness, DL, Iowa

Lukas Van Ness is a tough projection in the 2023 NFL Draft. His upside is top 10 in the class, but the Iowa defender is a long way away from reaching that upside. Van Ness is a freaky athlete for his size, running a 4.58 40-yard dash at 272 pounds. If you’re thinking to yourself “That cannot be real”, I assure you, it is.

In a pass-rushing group full of traitsy prospects, Van Ness more than holds his own. The speed is only one aspect, as Van Ness consistently won in college with power. His bull rush is potentially the most dominant single move of any pass rusher in the class. He converts his burst off the line into a powerful attack, overwhelming his blocker and pushing them into the pocket regularly.

If Van Ness can mix in more finesse to his pass-rushing repertoire, there is a real chance he ends up as the best defender from the 2023 NFL Draft. His inside-out versatility is something DeMeco Ryans can build an entire defense around, all it takes is some development, and the Texans will have a superstar on their hands.

Round 2, No. 33: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa

Let’s dip into the Iowa pool once more, this time giving Ryans the all-around linebacker who can man the middle of his new defense. Jack Campbell is my LB1 in the 2023 NFL Draft, but few expect him to go on day one. At No. 33, the Texans should run this card up to the podium.

Campbell’s tape is the best of any linebacker I evaluated this year. His instincts are second-to-none, and the versatility he brings to the table is invaluable to a young group like Houston. Campbell is a force in run support and even displays the traits to be an effective blitzer on occasion.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Campbell’s game is the range he brings in coverage. The biggest knock I see on the Iowa linebacker is a lack of athleticism, but after his workout at the NFL Combine, this concern should be put to bed. Campbell posted a near-perfect RAS and looked as explosive as anyone in attendance.

I see an All-Pro MIKE linebacker in Campbell. If I was Nick Caserio, I’d even consider Campbell at No. 12 overall, but he is regularly available on day two in nearly any mock draft you read. With a second-round pick, the Texans get the steal of the draft.

Round 3, No. 65: Steve Avila, G/C, TCU

The Texans own multiple third-rounders in this mock draft, and after going back-to-back defenders, it is time to get Bryce Young some help. First up, veteran offensive lineman Steve Avila. The TCU stalwart spent time at center and guard for the Horned Frogs, even kicking out to tackle when asked to do so.

This positional versatility provides a stable floor for Avila, and with his polish and refinement in pass protection, he should challenge for starter reps in training camp. Avila logged over 2,000 snaps in college, and once he learns how to keep proper balance as a run blocker, he should carve out a decade-long career on Sundays.

Round 3, No. 73: Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State

The final pick of this mock draft brings a safe-floor, high-upside pass catcher to the Lone Star State. Xavier Hutchinson gets knocked for lacking an elite trait, but he is so well-rounded there are very few holes in his game.

Hutchinson thrives as a separator, using impressive route running to shake free from defenders. The Iowa State star exhibits sure hands when working downfield and is never shy about taking a hit over the middle to secure a pass.

As an athlete, Hutchinson is fast enough, but he could face issues creating plays further downfield. He isn’t going to leave faster defensive backs in his dust, but he doesn’t have to in order to be effective as a rookie.

The team lacks a true No. 1 target for Young. John Metchie is a promising piece of the puzzle, but it is anyone’s best guess when he returns to the field and reunites with his former Alabama teammate. Nico Collins showed flashes of being a difference-maker in the wide receiver room, but adding Hutchinson is a worthwhile move on day two, as he profiles as an immediate starter upon arrival, capping this mock draft on a high note.