Day 2 Draft Notebook: Texans Create Competition for Cornerback No. 2

HOUSTON — General manager Nick Caserio spent Thursday night trying to trade back into the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft. The Houston Texans were active on the phones, but nothing came to fruition.Nov 4, 2023; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Kamari Lassiter (3) prepares to

The results led to the Texans making their first selection during Day 2, which featured them adding three prominent prospects to their roster.

“Excited to add them to the team — I think the big thing for us is just try to create as much competition as possible,” Caserio said. “We’re certainly making progress. Can’t say enough about the work the staff has done.”

Competition for cornerback 2: Steven Nelson spent the previous two seasons providing the Texans with a reliable option to play opposite of Derek Stingley Jr. He gave the Texans solid production amid the 32 games he played. However, his jettison has left a vacancy within the secondary. Caserio went into the off-season with the intent to find a player who could take the helm as cornerback No. 2.

It seemed Caserio found a solution with the free agency signing of Jeff Okudah on March 11. Over a month after the acquisition of Okudah, the Texans drafted a prominent cornerback with Kamari Lassiter at pick No. 42.

“It will be competition,” Caserio said. “What happens relative to opposite Derek, we’ll find out. There’s nothing that’s predetermined. So, we’ll have a better idea I think in training camp how it’s going to transpire.”

Lassiter’s stature and numbers will not leave anyone astonished. But he came into the draft as a fundamentally sound cornerback who helped the Georgia Bulldogs put together one of the top defensive teams in the nation — posting 86 tackles, 14 pass deflections, 8.5 tackles for loss and a sack during his career.

Lassiter does not possess the desired speed for a cornerback. He registered a 4.65 in the 40-yard dash, but his subpar time wasn’t a concern for Caserio and the Texans.

“When you watch him play in the SEC, you don’t walk away and have that concern,” Caserio said. “He’s physical, he’s tough, he tackles. He has position flex. He’s well-coached.”

Will Bullock create competition at safety? Calen Bullock established himself as one of the best ballhawks of his draft class, finishing his college career at USC with nine interceptions in 38 career games. His best season took place in 2022 when he recorded five interceptions with one touchdown.

Bullock is a versatile defensive back who played the majority of his college snaps at strong safety. He will likely start the season playing behind Jalen Pitre and Jimmie Ward. However, if injuries and subpar play hinder Houston’s safety unit for the second consecutive season, Bullock could challenge both players for their respective roles.

“He’s rangy — he covers ground, he plays the ball well,” Caserio said. “He has good movement skills for a safety. He started his career as a corner. Not saying he’s a corner, but he moves well for his size. He’s 6’2″, 190 pounds. Honestly, some of his best football probably is in front of him.”

Why the draft selection of Blake Fisher? The Texans made a surprising move by drafting offensive tackle Blake Fisher from Notre Dame with the No. 59 overall pick. Not only did the selection leave fans puzzled, but Fisher also did not believe Houston was a realistic destination.

The Texans have a solid offensive line with a suitable tackle pairing of Tytus Howard and Laremy Tunsil. However, after the injury-plagued season the O-line sustained in 2023, Caserio wanted to maintain the position’s depth.

“We’ve always been a big believer that you can’t have enough tackles on your football team,” Caserio said. “You need three or four tackles, that you feel can go out there and play.”

Fisher will take the helm as the Texans’ lead tackle should anything happen to Howard and Tunsil. Both players battled through their respective injuries last season. Howard missed the first four games due to a hand injury sustained during training camp. Shortly after his return, Howard missed the rest of the season due to a knee injury.

But despite Howard’s absence, Houston’s offensive line play did not decrease due to the production of George Fant — who signed with the Seattle Seahawks in March.

Fisher is a solid replacement to fill Fant’s void. In 2023, as a member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Fisher finished the season with a pass-blocking grade of 72.5. He played 710 snaps at right tackle, where he gave up three sacks. He has also established himself as a reliable asset in the rushing attack, finishing with a run-blocking grade of 69.1.

“I’d say in Blake’s case, 6’5″, 315 pounds, long arms, plays strong, plays physical,” Caserio said. “Here is another young player with experience, a lot of good qualities and traits. That was the reason behind the pick.”

Preparing for Day 3: After trading up for Bullock, the Texans will have five picks during Day 3 of the draft. Their first selection will come at pick No. 127 in the fourth round.

Caserio said the final day of the draft is about “supply and demand.” He and coach DeMeco Ryans will stay true to their philosophy when it comes to trading up or determining which player is best for the team.

Ryans believes each player the Texans drafted Friday night possesses the “SWARM mentality,” and it will remain one of the prime attributes Houston will use throughout the final four rounds of the draft.

“We can say all we want about how much talent they have,” Caserio said. “But in the end, it’s about the mental and physical toughness — your ability to perform under pressure when the stakes are the highest.”

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