If the Houston Texans think they’ll eventually give in and trade quarterback Deshaun Watson, there is no better time than the present.
They are a franchise without a first-round pick, and their likeliest trade partner (the Jets) has the second overall pick, as well as an additional first this year and in 2022 from the Jamal Adams trade with the Seattle Seahawks.
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If the Texans wait until after the draft and then eventually decide to cave once Watson makes it clear he’ll hold out (which is a very real possibility) then the offers won’t look quite as appealing.
Watson’s presence looms large over the first round of this year’s draft, especially because what the Jets do will likely dictate the rest of the order in a major way.
So how will Jets general manager Joe Douglas approach it? What will teams like the Giants and Eagles do to fill voids on offense?
Here’s our latest first-round projection of this year’s draft:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson.
** TRADE **
Texans get: QB Sam Darnold, two 2021 first-round picks (No. 2, No. 23), 2021 second-round pick, 2022 second-round pick, 2023 third-round pick
Jets get: QB Deshaun Watson, 2021 fifth-round pick
2. Houston Texans (via Jets): QB Zach Wilson, BYU.
Maybe the Jets have to include Quinnen Williams, but however they pull it off Joe Douglas has enough juice to get it done if Houston actually picks up the phone. Then, of course, if the Texans do trade away their superstar quarterback, they need to find their next one. Yes, they get back Sam Darnold in this trade, but while he still could have his talent unlocked and become a solid player, that’s no guarantee. The Texans need to do whatever they can to find their next Watson. Many seem to think Wilson has that sort of potential.
3. Miami Dolphins: WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU.
If the Dolphins don’t wind up with Watson, they can go any number of directions here. If they plan to stick with Tua Tagovailoa, they should surround him with a better supporting cast. Chase has star potential.
4. Atlanta Falcons: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State.
It’s time to plan for life after Matt Ryan. Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones are all possibilities.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon.
The easiest non-Trevor Lawrence pick, assuming Sewell gets to the fifth pick. The Bengals need offensive line help that badly.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida.
If Chase is still here, he’s probably the pick. If he’s gone, the Eagles will have a hard time passing up Pitts, who is one of the more unique prospects to come out in a long time. He’s a tight end only in name. If he was simply a wide receiver, he’d be a top-10 pick too.
7. Detroit Lions: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State.
The Lions have a lot of needs, but they’re in a full-on rebuild and should simply be picking the best player available. Parsons has significant talent, even if linebackers have been devalued league-wide.
8. Carolina Panthers: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State.
The Panthers haven’t made it a secret that they want to find an upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater. Lance might need some development, so he can sit behind Bridgewater for a year and then take over in 2022.
9. Denver Broncos: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech.
If the Broncos believe in Drew Lock, their biggest need is at cornerback, and Farley is the consensus best player at that position this year.
10. Dallas Cowboys: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama.
If Farley is 1A at cornerback, call Surtain 1B. The Cowboys desperately need to address cornerback.
11. New York Giants: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama.
The Giants getting the chance to choose between Waddle AND DeVonta Smith is pretty much a best-case scenario. It might even be worth trading back a few picks with Mac Jones still on the board for quarterback-needy teams. But alas, Waddle has a Tyreek Hill-esque skillset and would add a dimension to the Giants offense that it’s been missing since Odell Beckham left.
** TRADE **
Patriots get: First-round pick (No. 12)
49ers get: First-round pick (No. 15), 2021 fourth-round pick, 2022 second-round pick
12. New England Patriots (via 49ers): QB Mac Jones, Alabama.
Cam Newton isn’t the solution. Neither is Jarrett Stidham. Bill Belichick obviously has connections to Nick Saban and is as aware of what Jones can do as anyone. He’s the only first round-caliber quarterback left on the board and the Patriots need to improve life post-Tom Brady.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern.
It’s simple: The Chargers need to get Justin Herbert better protection.
14. Minnesota Vikings: EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami.
The Yannick Ngakoue experiment failed last year. The Vikings need to get whatever talent they can onto their weak defense.
15. San Francisco 49ers (via Patriots): CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina.
The 49ers are set to lose their entire cornerback corps to free agency. Easy pick.
16. Arizona Cardinals: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama.
It might seem wild to think Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner, could fall this far, but there are some questions about his size and the board played out in a way that teams picking weren’t going to make wide receiver a priority. This would be pretty much best-case scenario for the Cardinals, who need to get DeAndre Hopkins better help, especially if Larry Fitzgerald retires.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami.
Their pass rush is weak. So Phillips, Azeez Ojulari or Kwity Paye all make sense here.
18. Miami Dolphins: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson.
The Dolphins got an upgrade at wide receiver at No. 3, and they keep loading up on weapons with the best running back in this draft class.
19. Washington Football Team: WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota.
Washington doesn’t know who its quarterback will be, but he’ll have an impressive collection of weapons from adding Bateman to a group that already has Terry McLaurin, Logan Thomas and Antonio Gibson.
20. Chicago Bears: OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC.
The Bears strike out on quarterbacks and the top receiver prospects in this draft, so they turn their attention to their weak offensive line. Vera-Tucker has potential to play tackle or guard.
21. Indianapolis Colts: WR Kadarius Toney, Florida.
The Colts need to get Carson Wentz weapons on the outside, especially if T.Y. Hilton leaves as a free agent. Toney is a speed demon and would be a fun replacement.
22. Tennessee Titans: EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan.
The Titans pass rush is miserable. Paye is a project but has a high ceiling.
23. Houston Texans (via Jets): EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia.
His stock has been rising since the end of the college football season. The Texans need to replace J.J. Watt’s pass rushing production.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: C Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma.
Maurkice Pouncey retired and Humphrey can slot in right away as his replacement on the offensive line.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: T Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech.
The Jaguars need to improve the protection in front of Lawrence, and Darrisaw could slot in as their new left tackle.
26. Cleveland Browns: S Trevon Moehrig, TCU.
Cleveland has an obvious need at safety, even with Grant Delpit returning off injury, and Moehrig might be the only first-round talent at safety this year.
27. Baltimore Ravens: EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State.
The Ravens could lose Yannick Ngakoue and Matthew Judon to free agency and need to develop their next dominant pass rusher. Oweh has a high ceiling.
28. New Orleans Saints: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame.
The Saints linebackers (outside of Demario Davis) were a disaster last year. Owusu-Koramoah is an exciting player and elite-level athlete.
29. Green Bay Packers: WR Elijah Moore, Ole Miss.
It’s about time the Packers get Aaron Rodgers some more weapons, and Moore is a fun, fast prospect that can line up at a few spots.
30. Buffalo Bills: OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State.
The Bills have a need on the offensive line, especially if Daryl Williams winds up leaving as a free agent. Jenkins can replace him at right tackle.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: EDGE Zaven Collins, Tulsa.
Collins is a fun, versatile prospect that can help off the edge and as an off-ball linebacker. The Chiefs have a need in that area.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DT Levi Onwuzurike, Washington.
The Buccaneers defensive line is aging, especially on the interior, and could use an infusion of youth and talent at a cheap cost. Onwuzurike is an intriguing prospect.
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