The 2022 NFL Draft is nearly upon us, and the Houston Texans will have a difficult decision to make with the third overall pick. As of publication, it appeared the six-time AFC South champions wouldn’t reach on a quarterback that early, which bodes well for Davis Mills’ short-term future in Texas.
Any other position is likely on the table. Except for punter. Who would dare draft a punter in the first round?
So, who should the Texans draft at No. 3? As with our mock drafts, we picked players based on need and team fit. Also, all prospects are ranked alphabetically as opposed to preference or potential. For transparency, we are proceeding here with the assumption that the Jacksonville Jaguars used the first overall pick on Michigan pass-rusher Aidan Hutchinson, and that the Detroit Lions selected Liberty quarterback Malik Willis at No. 2.
Based on consideration of the aforementioned prerequisites, we believe the Texans should target the following players with the third overall pick:
Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
As I’ve said in other stories, I’m higher than most on Cross. I don’t think he’d be the first offensive lineman selected, but the Texans haven’t exactly subscribed to the notion of “safe” moves in recent years. Perhaps head coach Lovie Smith will be sold on Cross’ violent playstyle and 6-foot-5, 307-pound frame.
The Texans need offensive linemen, and Cross should be an impactful Day 1 starter. He’s a dark horse option here, especially if Evan Neal and Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu are still on the board. However, does anyone really trust the Texans to apply a conventional method in this year’s draft?
Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
For all we know, Neal could still be in play with the No. 1 overall pick. However, it appears as of now that the earliest he’ll be selected is third overall, and that’d be excellent news for the Texans. Neal would be a wonderful addition to a Texans offense that is, shall we say, lacking young players the team can build around.
The 6-foot-7, 337-pound Neal started at both tackle positions in college and bullied opposing defenders for three years at college football’s highest level. Although immediate draft grades are a flawed concept, it’d be hard to penalize the Texans for selecting the Alabama standout so early.
Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu, OT, NC State
For transparency, I’ve previously mocked Neal to the Texans and Ekwonu to the New York Jets, who pick fourth overall. Is it possible we could see the Texans select the NC State standout at No. 3? Absolutely, and it’d be a decision worth praising.
Wow, we’d be back to praising the Texans for making smart decisions? The 2022 NFL Draft could be weird.
Anyway, Ekwonu is among the draft’s top prospects for a reason. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound tackle is a high-character player who excels in run-blocking and crushing defenders to the ground without mercy. He’d be a welcome fit in Houston, and we’d applaud the Texans for selecting him so early.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Thus far, we’ve only covered the offensive lineman because Charles, Evan, and Ikem all come before Kayvon in the alphabet. Should the Texans pass on an offensive lineman this early and select Thibodeaux, the former Oregon star who has a knack for blowing up plays and reaching the quarterback?
If there’s any head coach who might be suited to handle a moderate-risk, extremely high-reward defensive player, it’d probably be Smith. According to Sports Illustrated’s Cole Thompson, Thibodeaux even told reporters at the NFL Combine that he’d “love” to play in Houston.
“I’d love to play in that Lovie Smith system,” Thibodeaux said. “That’s close to home. That’s not too far. I love the sun out there.”
NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein compared the 6-foot-4, 254-pound Thibodeaux to four-time Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo, who tallied 66 sacks in 10 NFL campaigns. Smith and the Texans should be thrilled if Thibodeaux is anywhere close to Orakpo, who had seven seasons with at least seven sacks.
Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
The Texans have no shortage of needs, enough to the point where they could draft Hamilton, claim “best player available,” and likely escape being criticized too much. However, the Texans must ask themselves if drafting a safety, albeit a potential generational prospect at the position, is worth it with the third overall pick when the team desperately needs help in the trenches.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Hamilton has earned rave reviews for his skill set, versatility, and awareness. Although the Notre Dame star is the type of player every team should want, he’s also someone the Texans need to determine if they need, especially with so many other holes on the roster. The Jets tried something similar with Jamal Adams in 2017 and traded him three years into his rookie contract.
Do the Texans really want to repeat the Jets’ mistakes? It feels like we’ll find out for sure on April 28.