LAS VEGAS — The Houston Texans further bolstered a defense that was among the worst in the league last season on the second day of the NFL draft Friday night.
The Texans selected Baylor safety Jalen Pitre in the second round with the 37th pick a night after taking LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. with the third overall pick.
Houston allowed 384.4 yards a game last season to rank 31st in the NFL as the team finished 4-13 and coach David Culley was fired after just one season. Defensive coordinator Lovie Smith was promoted as the team's new coach and should be thrilled that general manager Nick Caserio has put a premium on defense in this draft.
Pitre, who played for Stafford before going to Baylor, talked about being drafted and representing his hometown.
"It was an emotional experience, you know, just being able to stay home on a team I’ve been following my whole life and to be able to stay I’m on an NFL team now is crazy, so I’m very thankful for it and I’m ready to get to work," said Pitre after being picked. "I’m going to show up and be professional, do things the right way and make sure that I’m pushing my teammates along the way. I’m very proud to wear Stafford on my back and I’m very thankful that I went there."
“We picked good football players that are awesome people who played for good football programs," Caserio said.
Pitre, who played for the Bears for five seasons, earned All-America honors in 2021. He had 75 tackles, including 18 ½ for losses, 3 ½ sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and seven pass breakups last year.
The versatile Pitre spent his first three seasons at linebacker before moving to safety. He finished his collegiate career with 195 tackles, including 36 for losses, eight sacks and four interceptions.
The Texans also traded three lower picks to Cleveland to move up to No. 44 to pick Alabama receiver John Metchie III. They moved up again later to take Alabama linebacker Christian Harris with the 75th pick after sending Nos. 80 and 162 to Denver.
The Texans also shipped picks 108 and 124 to the Browns in the deal for Metchie.
Metchie had 96 receptions for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns last season for the Crimson Tide. The junior had 55 receptions for 916 yards in 2020. He tore his left ACL during the College Football Playoff semifinal but said he will be ready to play when training camp begins in July.
Metchie was born in Taiwan and lived in Ghana before moving to Canada where he lived until age 14. He received the Jon Cornish Trophy as Canada's top NCAA player for a second straight year after the 2021 season.
“If you spend some time to getting to know his story, his story is probably as unique as anybody in the draft," Caserio said. “He’s very worldly, this kid is an awesome kid, very smart, very studious, tough as nails."
Harris was a three-year starter for Alabama and had 80 tackles, including 11 1/2 for losses, 5 1/2 sacks and three forced fumbles last season. He had 220 tackles with 26 for losses in his career with the Crimson Tide.
“I don’t think anybody was more ecstatic about that pick than Lovie," Caserio said.
Houston had two first-round picks Thursday night after getting one from the Browns in the trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson. They traded down from 13 and selected Texas A&M offensive lineman Kenyon Green at 15.
The Texans have picked two players from the area with their first three picks with both Green and Pitre having grown up in suburban Houston.
“It was an emotional experience, just being able to stay home with a team I’ve been following my whole life," Pitre said. “Being able to say I’m on an NFL team now is crazy.”
The Texans have five picks remaining on the final day of the draft Saturday. They have No. 107 in the fourth round, two fifth-round picks and two in the sixth.
First Round recap
New Texans coach Lovie Smith recently said the team's cornerback play last season simply wasn't good enough.
“That’s a position we’ll continue to look to improve," Smith said. “We can’t play the type of football that we want to play until we get better at the cornerback position, I will say that.”
On Thursday night, the team's former defensive coordinator got a player who should help change that when the Texans took LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. with the third overall pick in the draft.
Stingley had six interceptions and broke up 15 passes as a freshman in 2019 to earn All-America honors, but has played just 10 games in the last two seasons because of injuries. He played just three games last season before having foot surgery.
Stingley said that he “feels great" now and is ready to get to work in Houston.
“Whenever I get there, I’ll show them that I work hard and I don’t give up until I figure something out," he said.
Stingley, who helped LSU win a national title in 2019, said he modeled his game after Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey.
“I say that just because we have (a) similar body," he said. “He’s fast, he can run with just about anybody. He can also get strong with the bigger receivers and he’s quick enough with the shifty guys. And I feel like I can do that, too."
Later in the first round, Houston added versatile Texas A&M offensive linemen Kenyon Green with the 15th overall pick. He said he hadn't discussed exactly what position he'll play with the Texans.
“Wherever they need me at I’m going to go out there and play it," he said.
The Texans had the 13th pick from Cleveland as part of the Deshaun Watson trade but shipped it to Philadelphia in exchange for the 15th pick and three lower-round selections.
Green earned All-America honors in 2020 and 2021 after getting freshman All-America honors in 2019. He started at both guard spots and both tackle spots in 2021. The 6-foot-4, 323-pound Green was the only player in the Bowl Subdivision to log 80 plays or more at four different offensive line positions last season and helped the Aggies average six yards a play.
Green started every game in his three seasons with the Aggies and played all five positions on the offensive line.
“He is one of the most unselfish players I have ever been around," Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He worked hard on his technique and is always trying to get better. When we lost four offensive linemen from the 2020 squad, Kenyon stepped forward in a leadership role and has always had a great attitude. For him, being a part of a winning team comes way before any individual accomplishments.”
Stingley is the first cornerback Houston has taken in the first round since selecting Kevin Johnson 16th in 2015.
It’s the first time since 2019 that the Texans have had picks in the first round. Houston didn’t have a first-rounder the last two drafts after sending those selections to Miami in the 2019 trade that brought left tackle Laremy Tunsil to Houston.
It is the second time in franchise history and the first since 2004 they’ve had two first-round picks.
The Texans also received picks 124, 162 and 166 in this year's draft in the trade with Philadelphia.
NFL Draft prospects with ties to the Houston area
Texas A&M standout Green ranks as one of the top interior offensive linemen in this draft class. Here is the AP’s breakdown of the star from Atascocita High School:
Kenyon Green, G, 6-4, 325, Texas A&M
Update: Drafted by Houston
Summary: Powerful and versatile lineman who played four different positions in his time with the Aggies. A punishing run blocker who has struggled some with recognition in pass blocking.
Fact: Father was an offensive lineman at Grambling and his mother played volleyball at UCLA.
Logan Hall, who starred with the Houston Cougars, is also expected to be selected in the early rounds.
Logan Hall, 6-6, 275, Houston
Update: Drafted by Tampa Bay
Summary: Physical specimen who never gives up on a play. Elbow surgery in December did not stop him from playing in the Senior Bowl.
Fact: Was used up and down the line at Houston, where he finished with 19 1/2 tackles for loss in 2021.
Another standout to keep on eye on is defensive back Jalen Pitre from Baylor. The defender starred locally at Stafford High School. Here's the AP breakdown on him:
Jalen Pitre, 5-11, 198, Baylor
Update: Drafted by Houston
Summary: Versatile, physical and aggressive near the line of scrimmage, but size suggests he needs to be better than he is in coverage at the next level
Here's what fans think the Texans should do: