Another draft is almost here, and it's more of a usual suspects without first-round picks. The Texans don't have one until Round 3, and the Seahawks are set to only make three selections. Key phrase in that sentence being "set to." Then there's the Rams, a club that hasn't made a first-round pick since it drafted Jared Goff at No. 1 overall way back in 2016.
Let's dive into how these three teams can still have successful drafts without that coveted Round 1 selection.
First pick: No. 67 overall (Round 3)
Other picks: Seven (Round 4, Round 5 (2), Round 6 (3), Round 7)
First-year GM Nick Caserio went on a free agent shopping spree unlike any we've ever seen in NFL history. The Texans signed 26 -- yes, 26 -- free agents from other teams. Frankly, it was needed. Houston had a bottom-five roster, and it may have been the worst after the Deshaun Watson fiasco and J.J. Watt signing with the Cardinals in March.
Caserio made the Texans at least respectable on paper, but none of their acquisitions should stop them from addressing the best player available at No. 67 overall, when they initially go on the clock in the 2021 draft.
Given the deep legal issues Watson is in, a quarterback with that selection would raise eyebrows but could be needed. Tyrod Taylor's on the roster, and he can play. But we know he's a top-end bridge quarterback much more than a long-term answer. Texas A&M's Kellen Mond, Stanford's Davis Mills, even Florida's Kyle Trask, if he's available, would be sensible. The dark horse at that position, at that spot, is Arkansas's Feleipe Franks, or maybe Houston could use its fourth-round pick (No. 110 overall) on a passer.
The pass-rush contingent is weak, even after the trade to acquire Shaq Lawson, and the group of linebackers after Benardrick McKinney was offloaded in that deal looks like a liability. Desmond King and Terrance Mitchell will help bring some respectability to the secondary, yet there's Bradley Roby and not another legitimate playmaker. Although the offensive line is set at tackle with Laremy Tunsil and Marcus Cannon, the interior is riddled with uncertainty.
Therefore, going with prospects in the trenches in the middle rounds and adding secondary pieces in the late rounds would be sensible, and given how deep this class is at receiver, adding to the first-team group that consists of Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb and either Keke Coutee or Andre Roberts would be smart drafting for Houston.
In essence, while the Texans will be better than they were in 2020, there's really no wrong way for Houston to approach this draft, as long as there's a pick used on a running back.
Los Angeles Rams
First pick: No. 57 overall (Round 2)
Other picks: Five (Round 3 (2), Round 4, Round 6, Round 7)
The trade for Matthew Stafford reopens the Rams' legitimate Super Bowl window, but the rest of the offense could use a jolt of talent, especially on the interior of the offensive line or at receiver given the ages of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. If the Rams decide to go defense in Round 2, no one would criticize them after they lost underrated safety John Johnson in free agency last month and coverage linebacker Cory Littleton the year before. Of course it's a unit anchored by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, and Leonard Floyd returned after his career season, but more depth is needed at essentially every position.
Fortunately, it's a quality safety class in the middle rounds and there's better value at the edge-rusher spot later than there is early. While Joseph Noteboom is still waiting in the wings, left tackle Andrew Whitworth is 39. Drafting a developmental, movement-based type at some point of the draft would be a prudent decision for GM Les Snead.
Seeing that the Rams are a quality team with a smart head coach who has proven to be one of the best offensive schemers in the game running the fantastic Mike Shanahan system, Los Angeles doesn't need a gigantic draft class to move the needle very much. But the Rams do need reinforcements in the back end of their secondary, on the interior of their offensive line, and possibly at receiver.
First pick: No. 56 overall (Round 2)
Other picks: Two (Round 4, Round 7)
Three picks. Three! Not what any team wants -- but we know GM John Schneider has been aggressive on the trade market, and now he's feeling the impact of that in the offseason.
But do not forget that in 2019, Schneider turned four selections into 11 -- which was aided by a Frank Clark trade to Kansas City. But a big part of that amazing influx of draft picks was Schneider adhering to an intense trade-down philosophy. He moved back three times from his original selection in Round 1, then used the extra picks to move for D.K. Metcalf at the end of the second and actually traded down again on Day Three. It marked one of the craziest draft-weekend navigations we've ever seen. So it can be done by Schneider. And he and Pete Carroll are still running everything in Seattle.
The perennial playoff team that has lost in the wild-card round in two of the past three years needs to get sturdier up front for Russell Wilson; it has been long enough. The offensive line is where the Seahawks need to zero in with their second-round selection. Obviously, if trade-backs occur, the possibilities increase significantly. Receiver is a need, even with Metcalf on a cheap rookie deal and Tyler Lockett recently signed to a multiyear extension. There will be productive receivers picked in Round 4 -- good news for Seattle -- and even with Carlos Dunlap back after his in-season trade, the edge-rusher room needs an influx of young talent. Expect Schneider to prioritize a raw but highly athletic late-rounder at that spot. Joshua Kaindoh from Florida State, Shaka Toney from Penn State, and Virginia's Charles Snowden would fit the bill there.
I'm not enamored with the depth in the secondary either, especially after losing Shaq Griffin in free agency, therefore a defensive back should be prioritized relatively early.