'Houston Texans Community College': GM Nick Caserio's draft has local flavor

HOUSTON -- As Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio discussed the players he selected in the NFL draft, he joked that the team was starting the “Houston Texans Community College” because they’d added so many players from the Houston area.

It started with guard Kenyon Green, who grew up 45 minutes from NRG Stadium and played there multiple times with Atascocita High School for playoff games. On Day 2, the Texans added safety Jalen Pitre, who was five minutes away from the stadium when Caserio called to tell him he’d be a Texan. And then on Day 3, Houston drafted offensive lineman Austin Deculus, who went to Cy-Fair High School, which is fewer than 30 miles from NRG Stadium and the same school Texans chairman & CEO Cal McNair attended.

Caserio said adding one-third of their draft class from the Houston area was just “coincidental” because there are “a lot of good football players in the state of Texas and specifically in the city of Houston.”

According to the Houston Chronicle, 12 players from the Houston area were picked in the draft, including two (running back Isaiah Spiller and linebacker Cameron Goode) from Klein Collins High School. The 12 players from the Houston area are even more than any state except Texas (32), Georgia (30), California (22), Florida (21), Ohio (13) and Alabama (12).

“It's probably a good place to start,” Caserio said. “... We've added good players to our team who are good people that we think are going to help build our program or continue to build our program. That's really the priority and the focus.”

Caserio referenced building the program multiple times during the three-day draft, something the Texans were able to really do through the draft for the first time since 2019 with a first-round pick.

Houston made nine picks, almost matching the total made in their previous two drafts (10). They had five picks in the top 75; in the past two drafts, the Texans had two picks total in the top 75. While it is way too early to grade this draft or know how the picks will pan out, Houston took a step toward rebuilding a roster that has felt the effect of trading away players and picks for the past two seasons.

But while Caserio had the extra picks to work with, he pushed back on the idea that there was any “sense of urgency to hit on every one of the picks.”

“We're not going to know if we, quote, unquote, hit on these picks for a couple of years,” Caserio said. “So, look, the draft grades are meaningless. Whatever the draft grades are tomorrow, this team got an A, this guy got a B, based on what? Through what lens? These guys haven't played one snap of football.

“… I would say there's no additional pressure to hit on our picks. I don't know what that means. Ultimately, the player's performance will dictate whether or not he is a good player, he is not a good player. If it doesn't work out, okay, we'll move on from that player and go find somebody else. That's our job. That mindset and that thought process is going to permeate our building for as long as I'm in charge.”

By drafting cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. with the No. 3 pick, Houston has added someone with the chance to be an elite playmaker on defense, something the Texans have not had for a while. The Texans did address needs on the roster -- although there were so many that it would have been difficult not to -- adding running back Dameon Pierce, Stingley and Pitre to beef up the secondary, and two offensive linemen.

Perhaps the biggest need the Texans did not address in the draft was pass-rusher, a position that had three players go in the top 5. Georgia defensive end Travon Walker went No. 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson went No. 2 to the Detroit Lions before the Texans picked at No. 3. Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux was drafted by the New York Giants with the No. 5 pick.

Houston did add veteran defensive ends Mario Addison and Rasheem Green to the roster after the draft to try to get more depth as it tries to find talent to pressure the quarterback.

“Look, we have a lot of areas that we can improve as an overall team, and that's what the offseason is for, so hopefully that can translate into results on the field,” Caserio said. “... You have guys that are fast, that are instinctive, that can find the ball and can tackle. Who are those players? That's our job to find them and to fit them in and use them and deploy them accordingly.”