Now that the combine is over and all the draft slots have been finalized, it’s time to start looking at more realistic draft candidates for the Houston Texans in April’s draft. The Texans don’t pick until the third slot of the third round, so figuring out which players will be available when Brian Gaine is on the clock for the first time as the Texans GM is difficult to project.
Having said that, here are five prospects who should be on the board and should interest Gaine and the Texans.
All of the players here met with the Texans at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, information I personally confirmed in Indianapolis.
Jessie Bates, safety, Wake Forest
An early entrant from a non-marquee program, Bates remains under the radar. A decent combine performance will only help the lanky Demon Deacon safety.
Bates is a coverage-oriented safety with enough agility and instinctive recognition to also play over a slot receiver. He’s hit-and-miss as a tackler and needs to get stronger at 6-2 and 195 pounds, but his football IQ and go-get-’em attitude on the field make him a player the Texans should definitely consider.
Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
Jackson tied for the fastest 40-yard dash time at the combine at 4.32 seconds, but he’s more than just a straight-line track guy. He has the ability to flow in space and closes quickly on the ball in the air.
His lack of bulk is the biggest reason why the 175-pounder will still be available at the top of the third round. He’s unlikely to add much more to his frame, either. Even so, he’s a kinetic cover man with decent eyes and a willing tackler.
Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan
“Chuks” — pronounced Chooks — did not have a great workout in Indianapolis, but he wasn’t bad either. That’s kind of the story with his 2017 game tape for the Broncos. The left tackle showed a lot of very impressive traits and performances but also demonstrated some areas for definite improvement.
That’s to be expected for a Botswanan immigrant who had never seen American football before 2010. He’s got solid experience at both the left and right tackle spots for a successful, pro-style offense. Okorafor’s 2016 game tape screamed future first-rounder, and the coaching and quarterback change at WMU likely hindered his progress. He’s still a high-end prospect, just with more warts.
Frank Ragnow, center/guard, Arkansas
Ragnow is a lot like current Texans starting center Nick Martin. He’s renowned for his toughness, leadership and high football character. Ragnow can be a snowplow as a run blocker on the interior, and he thrives at combo and peel blocks. Like Martin, he was very adept at both guard and center in college.
Also like Martin, he’s had some injury issues. Ragnow missed time in 2017 with an ankle injury that wasn’t healed enough for him to participate in the on-field workouts in Indy. Even so, he interviewed with teams (including the Texans) and cheered on his fellow interior linemen as they progressed through drills.
Braden Smith, tackle/guard, Auburn
Opinions from draft media are all over the place on Smith, who was Auburn’s right guard for the last two years. Some love his brute power and how thoroughly he finishes his blocks, as well as his experience playing both right guard and right tackle.
Others see his catch-blocking style of pass protection and lumbering movement out in space and worry he’s not going to be able to handle the jump in athleticism. Smith did play well against top competition and he’s got enough power to jolt defenders if he’s beaten.