Protecting Deshaun Watson has been a need for the Texans since the start of his NFL career. Julién Davenport and Kendall Lamm have been mediocre at best as starting tackles. Leaving fans to conclude that GM Brian Gaine will make the tackle position a priority for the Texans come April.
Luckily, and unfortunately, the Texans will not be at the top of the draft come April 2019. This leads to them likely being unable to pick up a top tackle prospect such as Alabama standout Jonah Williams. However, there are a few prospects that fans should watch for while enjoying 2018’s college bowl games.
1. Bobby Evans, L-OT, Oklahoma. Orange Bowl vs. Alabama
Evans will be a key player to watch during the playoff semifinals. He will have his hands full dealing with Quinnenn Williams and Raekwon Davis. If he can keep Kyler Murray clean, Oklahoma has a real shot at beating Alabama.
Evans has all the tools to be a mainstay at left tackle for the Texans. He has kept Kyler Murray clean all year while filling in for departed tackle Orlando Brown Jr. admirably. At 6’5″ and nearly 300 pounds he looks the part of a left tackle on the smaller end of the spectrum, but his arm length makes up for those qualities. He is smart as he handles blitzing defensive ends and outside linebackers well as he positions himself to beat stunts, twists, and speedy rushers with smart positioning.
A key aspect of Evans game is his ability as a pulling tackle in either the play-action or run game. His nimble feet and general mobility allow for this to happen. Simply put; he’s an athletic player that is flexible enough to handle top tier talent.
Though Evans could stand to be more explosive off his first step, and he sometimes struggles to hit the second level, he should be a player to watch.
2. David Edwards, R-OT, Wisconsin, Pinstripe Bowl vs. Miami
Edwards is a first-round talent and is considered to be a top three OT talent in the 2019 draft by many draft pundits. At 6’7″ and 320 pounds, Edwards certainly has the build to be a mainstay at tackle for the Texans. He will have the luxury of facing either Jonathan Garvin or Joe Jackson in the Pinstripe Bowl, who’ve combined for 14 sacks on the year.
Edwards, a former 240-pound tight end has bulked up through his years at Madison and it has shown in the run game. He’s simply a brawler in the run game with the ability to pull and reach the second level with ease. Edwards might be the best run blocking tackle in this draft, and it has shown as the Badgers have rushed for 3,221 yards on the year.
Pass protection is what limits Edwards, as he should be a right tackle in the NFL. He has optimal length, athletisism, and a wide base but his footwork can be sloppy. Though he does tend to use his massive frame to reel rushers around the quarterback, that also tends to hurt him against more flexible rushers. While his technical skills have improved, he still needs to develop. I consider him as an immediate upgrade to incumbent starter Kendall Lamm.
3. Tyree St. Louis, L-OT, Miami, Pinstripe Bowl vs. Wisconsin
The 6’5″, 312 pound left tackle looks to be a bit of a project player in terms of pass protection. That newfound area of concern could be due to the fact that he moved from right to left tackle at the start of his senior season. He certainly has the skillset to be an elite pass protector but needs to improve on his left side technique.
He can both anchor against a bull rush and use his quick feet to arc around the quarterback against speed rushers. He’s also smart at diagnosing different blitz patterns such as stunts, fire-zone blitzes, and different rush moves. His brain, power, and quickness is a strong point.
The part where St. Louis struggles tend to be when he gets matched up against a pass rusher with an elite bend, due to not using his length in a proper fashion. In the run game, Louis fits as an angle blocker due to his quick burst of power. He can reach the second level with ease through quick running and good lower body power.
Much like the rest of these prospects, St. Louis needs to work on his technical work. He projects as more of a second to third round pick due to his inexperience at left tackle. If St. Louis can continue to improve on the intricacies of the position he could be a prospect the Texans take a strong look at.
4. Mitch Hyatt, L-OT, Clemson, Cotton Bowl vs. Notre Dame
Winner of two straight Jacob’s Blocking Awards and former teammate to none other than Deshaun Watson, Mitch Hyatt looks to be a solid option for the Texans as a second-round prospect.
The 6’5″, 310-pound offensive tackle still has some work to do despite his accolades. Like most tackle prospects, he’s not technically sound when blocking the pass. But, his experience stands out — playing the most snaps from scrimmage in Clemson history.
Hyatt is one of the most athletic tackle prospects in the 2018 draft, as he excels in sustaining rushers who tend to bend and speed around the edge. He’s fast but needs to add some weight to his frame if he wants to be able to handle NFL quality bull rushes. Hyatt could work on his foot positioning and leverage when working against stronger defenders and is seen as a pure finesse pass protector.
5. Calvin Anderson, L-OT, Texas, Sugar Bowl vs. Georgia
Calvin Anderson will have his hands full as he looks to sustain Georgia’s slowly improving pass rush. The former University of Rice standout has excelled as Sam Ehlinger’s blind side protector at Texas and is looking to build upon his solid redshirt senior campaign. A Texas boy through and through — playing in Texas to start his professional career would also be a nice story.
Although he doesn’t have a particularly big frame at 6’5″ and 300 pounds, Anderson is a powerful lineman. He can anchor down his side with a strong lower body, while also being effective as a line driving run blocker. Though his hips are tight, he is solid at keeping pass rushers at bay with active hands and a strong long arm punch.
Anderson shows an obvious strength to get lower than a defender but his limited hip flexibility will need to be masked with continued finesse blocking growth. Anderson plays tough, as he is rarely shown giving up on a play. Playing against lesser competition at Rice might hurt Anderson’s draft stock but he should be an intriguing prospect in the middle of the draft.
*Yodny Cajuste was not evaluated due to his recent injury
-Avery Duncan IG: @TexansFocus