The Houston Texans have hired DeMeco Ryans as their new head coach, bringing the former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator back to where his NFL career began as a player.
Ryans heads to Houston after fielding interest from multiple NFL teams with head-coaching vacancies, including as a finalist with the Denver Broncos. After coaching one of the best NFL defenses with one of the top teams in football over the last two years, Ryans now has an opportunity to help reshape a culture.
However, the path to rebuilding the Texans will likely take years. With 11 combined wins in the last three years, Houston has lived at the bottom of the NFL standings. There is even more pressure on the organization now after having consecutive one-and-done coaches, with ownership displaying little patience despite fielding one of the worst rosters in the NFL.
Here are four moves the Texans should make after hiring DeMeco Ryans.
Houston Texans trade Laremy Tunsil, Brandin Cooks for draft picks
While trading impact players off the Texans’ roster hurts Ryans in the short-term, it’s the best thing to do for this franchise. As long as the new coach is promised longevity, giving him time to create a new culture, Houston can afford to trade two of its best players.
Part of the motivation for moving both players is timing. The 2023 NFL Draft and free agency aren’t particularly strong at left tackle or wide receiver, providing contenders with even more incentive to acquire proven players who can perform at a Pro Bowl level.
In regards to the return, the Texans likely will only receive Day 2 picks. One possible option deployed later in this exercise is packaging picks with each player to move up in the 2023 NFL Draft order.
Cooks is a No. 2 receiver at this point and Tunsil’s one-year contract paired with his salary demands will drive the acquisition cost down. Day 2 picks should be fine for the Texans, especially if Nick Caserio starts delivering on the scouting abilities that made him a top executive with the New England Patriots.
Trade up for Bryce Young
All of this would’ve been much easier for the Texans if they lost their final game of the season, securing the No. 1 pick. Instead, the front office will likely need to trade up if it wants to secure its choice of quarterbacks.
- Houston Texans trade: 2nd overall pick, 65th overall pick, 2024 second-round pick
- Chicago Bears trade: 1st overall pick, 103rd overall pick
While there’s a strong argument to be made for staying put and selecting C.J. Stroud, the Texans’ situation makes Young a better fit. Houston needs a poised quarterback who can handle the pressure of being a top pick for a rebuilding team. Just as important, the Texans have to find someone who excels at the mental aspect of football and will be ready to start immediately.
Alabama’s offensive line wasn’t always a strength this past season. While it only allowed three sacks across 504 pass-block snaps, Young deserves a lot of credit for that. He ranked 11th in the FBS in passer rating vs pressure (95.2), throwing the second-most passing yards (1,019) with the ninth-highest PFF grade (69.6) when under duress
That’s the caliber of quarterback needed at the start of a rebuild. Ryans’ coaching staff can feel comfortable in Young’s ability to make smart decisions when blitzed and he will make accurate throws when defenders are around him. Of course, that’s just the start of this rebuild.
Building a roster through the 2023 NFL Draft
There are very few building blocks right now on the Texans’ roster that the organization should feel extremely confident in. With a defensive-minded coach taking over the helm and Caserio still overseeing the draft, we’ll likely see a mix of talent added on both sides of the ball.
- 1st round, 1st overall: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
- 1st round, 12th overall: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
- 2nd round, 33rd overall: Andre Carter II, EDGE, Army
- 2nd round, 57th overall (Cooks trade): Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
- 3rd round, 70th overall (Tunsil trade): Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State
Related: Houston Texans mock draft
Peter Skoronski fills the void created by the Tunsil trade and he can immediately start at left tackle. In his final season at Northwestern, Skoronski led the FBS in PFF’s pass blocking grade (93.0), allowing just six pressures and two hits across 474 snaps. It’s the first step to help Young.
After adding to the offense, the Texans grab an edge rusher for Ryans. Andre Carter is a 6-foot-7 pass rusher who dominated in 2021 (59 pressures, 93.4 pass-rushing grade). While his numbers plummeted in 2022, it’s because teams schemed against him and threw every blocker they could in his direction. San Francisco loved long, athletic edge rushers and Ryans can see Carter’s traits.
Related: 2023 NFL Draft rumors
As for Jalin Hyatt, he provides an excellent vertical threat for Young. That’s crucial for a quarterback who had a stellar 121.5 QB rating on throws 20-plus yards downfield last season. While he won’t ever be a No. 1 receiver, the focus is on building a solid core around Young.
Make small, impactful additions in free agency
The Texans won’t be one of the most aggressive spenders in free agency, but they have enough cap space to make some impactful additions. We’re still focusing on both sides of the ball, adding complementary pieces to create a more well-rounded team.
Arden Key should be one of Houston’s targets. The 6-foot-5 edge rusher thrived this past season in Jacksonville, recording 44 pressures and 28 hurries in only 323 pass-rush snaps. He also played for Ryans in 2021, generating 36 pressures with a 79.4 PFF pass-rush grade. The familiarity and schematic fit would make him an excellent addition.
On offense, building a better team for Young starts in the trenches. Ben Powers, who turns 27 in October, thrived in pass protection last season. He became a standout left guard for the Baltimore Ravens, allowing just one quarterback hit and 12 pressures in nearly 600 passing snaps.
Finally, we’ll round out the marquee additions with free-agent receiver Jakobi Meyers. He turns 27 in May and he is extremely reliable. A young quarterback’s best friend is a great route runner with soft hands and enough size to make plays in tight coverage. Meyers checks all those boxes and could be the Texans’ leading receiver in 2023.