Texans’ 2022 Draft class in for pivotal Year 3

It’s said that the third year is the most important for young players in their maturation process as prospects.

The Texans 2022 Draft class is at the doorstep of that third NFL season. Through two seasons, Houston hasn’t come close to the return that they had hoped for when they selected five players in the first 75 selections of that year’s draft.

In general manager Nick Caserio’s second draft with the Texans, he took cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (No. 3 overall) and offensive guard Kenyon Green (No. 15) in the first round. He followed that up with safety Jalen Pitre and wide receiver John Metchie III in the second round before Caserio snagged linebacker Christian Harris in the third. Caserio finished out the draft with running back Dameion Pierce (fourth round), defensive tackle Thomas Booker (fifth round), tight end Teagan Quitoriano (fifth round) and offensive tackle Austin Deculus (sixth round).

Of that group, only four are starters — Stingley, Green, Pitre and Harris. Pierce was a starter before being demoted in 2023 after a solid rookie year. Only two of those four starters are reliable as well — Stingley and Harris. The others are either at the bottom or off of the roster.

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But for those that remain, the 2024 season will be a pivotal one for Caserio’s second draft class with the Texans.

Here’s how the class has fared through two seasons and their expectations as they start OTAs for Year 3.

Texans’ 2022 draft class in for pivotal Year 3

CB Derek Stingley Jr.

Stingley Jr. was the prize of the draft class for the Texans. Houston selected him one spot before the Jets took Sauce Gardner. While Gardner became an immediate star upon arriving in the NFL, Stingley Jr. started to hit his stride this past season after missing eight games as a rookie followed by six missed games in 2023.

When Stingley Jr. returned from injury this past year, he played like one of the best corners in the NFL. Over his final eight starts of the regular season, Stingley Jr. totaled 28 tackles with 13 defended passes, five interceptions and a tackle for a loss while playing 95-100% of the snaps in each game. Those defended passes and interceptions led all NFL defensive backs during that span.

In the simplest of terms, Stingley Jr. outperformed the entire NFL over the second half of his sophomore season, even after missing 14 of his first 25 games before he went on the tear. Talent has never been a question with Stingley Jr. He belongs in the conversation with the best at his position. Before he gets the national adulation, he’ll need to stay healthy for an entire season. 

LB Christian Harris

Harris was the last of the Texans’ Day 2 picks back in 2022 and the fifth inside of the top 75 prospects of the draft class. Harris was a great bookend pick at No. 75 to the Stingley Jr. selection at No. 3. Harris has been the rock of the 2022 draft class. As a rookie, he had 74 tackles, six TFLs, five PDs, three QB hits, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception in 12 games.

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He followed it up this past year with 101 tackles, seven QB hits, seven PDs, three QB hits, two sacks and a forced fumble in 16 games — 12 of which he started. In the first playoff game of his career, Harris put up seven solo tackles, two TFLs and returned an interception for a touchdown.

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The Texans targeted Harris in the draft. They traded up from pick No. 80 to No. 75 to ensure they got their linebacker of the future. The addition of former Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans as the Texans head coach in 2023 made the Harris selection even more valuable and showed foresight from the front office in Houston.

Harris started to play faster and fly around as he did in college as he became more acclimated to what Ryans wanted from him. Now, he’s joined by Azeez Al-Shaair as the identity of the middle of Ryans’ dominant nickel defense. When the Texans switch to a 4-3-4 defense, Harris will have a familiar face in fellow linebacker and college teammate, Henry To’oTo’o competing to play next to Al-Shaair and him.

The arrow will continue pointing up for Harris in Year 2 with Ryans and Year 3 in Houston. At this point, he’s the rock of the 2022 draft class. 

RB Dameon Pierce

Pierce had a solid rookie season in which he rushed for 939 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 4.3 yards per carry. He also caught 30 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown in 13 starts.

His second season saw him play in one more game (14) but only started seven as he was benched for the veteran Devin Singletary. Out of 49 qualified running backs in 2023, Pierce ranked 49th at 2.87 yards per carry. His offensive snap count was cut in half from 64% of the snaps as a rookie to 32% last year. 

Pierce did find value from a depth role as he started returning kicks in Week 16. He returned five kicks in his first action on Christmas Eve against the Browns and took one to the house for a touchdown.

It’ll be interesting to see what Pierce’s backfield role evolves into with the additions of rookie running backs Jawhar Jordan and British Brooks
. Pierce could be pushed to third on the depth chart behind Joe Mixon and Jordan. 

In that role, Pierce would be fresh to take on short yardage and goal line situations as well as play the role as the bruising back in the fourth quarter when the offense is looking to run out the clock on a tired defense. 

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OG Kenyon Green, S Jalen Pitre and WR John Metchie III

Kenyon Green, Jalen Pitre and John Metchie III have yet to live up to their billing as top 50 prospects, each for different reasons.

Pitre hasn’t put it all together at this point but is heading into a big Year 3 and also his second under Ryans. Green has struggled with staying healthy with the moment maybe being too much for him early on in his career. The team shut him down after the shoulder injury before last season started. It felt as if they were looking to allow him to just get away and take everything off of his plate for a year. 

Green should come back to the team healthy and mentally refreshed with two years under his belt to understand how to handle everything that comes with being a pro. The talent is there for Green, he just needs to get to a point where he’s comfortable and able to unlock it all. He’ll need to show that he can play through the pain and handle the emotions that come with the ups and downs of life as a professional athlete. 

He still has a chance to come in and earn a starting role and still accomplish everything that was in front of him after draft night. The past is the past, the talent is the talent, all that matters for Green is that he is ready for the moment in Year 3.

Metchie III started showing more over the season and into the playoffs this past year after he missed all of his rookie season after he continued to recover from a torn ACL and then was diagnosed with leukemia.

Quarterback C.J. Stroud met with the Houston media and brought up Metchie III twice before the 2024 NFL Draft — each time unsolicited. He raved about how Metchie III was looking this offseason. Metchie III has overcome everything put in his path. Now, there’s a talented depth chart in front of him but will it deter Metchie III? I’m not betting against him.

Fifth & sixth-rounders

The Texans waived Thomas Booker before the start of the 2023 season. The Eagles went on to sign him to their practice squad. Deculus was promoted from the Texans practice squad in-season this past year and later waived. The Jets claimed him off of waivers. 

Teagan Quitioriano started 11 games and played in 16 out of a possible 34 regular season games in his first two seasons. He’s caught nine passes on 17 targets for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Only two receptions for 33 yards came last season. 

It’ll be interesting to see how many tight ends and fullbacks the Texans keep on their 53-man roster
. Houston re-signed tight end Dalton Schultz and traded up to select Cade Stover
in last month’s draft. Andrew Beck and Troy Hairston will have a competition at fullback and it’s hard to imagine the Texans moving on from both.

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Quitoriano is under contract through 2025 whereas Brevin Jordan will be a free agent after this upcoming season. The Texans roster is deep with talent and there will be some tough cuts to get down to 53 men. It’ll be hard for the Texans to keep four tight ends and a fullback this year’s final roster. 

If Houston only keeps three tight ends then the Texans would have to decide between two years of Quitoriano for cheap as opposed to Jordan or one year of Jordan and then they chose to move on from Quitoriano. 

Jordan has stayed healthier between the two and is the better receiving threat. Quitoriano may be following his fifth and sixth-round draft mates in Deculus and Booker on his way out of Houston unless he can stay healthy and beat out Jordan or the Texans keep four tight ends.

What will happen to the Texans’ 2022 Draft class?

Pierce and Harris held this class together as rookies. At midseason last year it looked as if the entire bottom could fall out with Pierce being benched and Stingley Jr. missing six more games.

Stingley Jr.’s rise over the second half of the season, along with Metchie III making massive strides back, breathed new air into the lungs of the 2022 Texans class. Green’s return and Pitre’s development in his second year with Ryans could give the class the ROI expected and possibly more from the investment spent. 

Pierce is the best chance of the Day 3 picks to still be a factor but his role looks better suited as a second or third back on a depth chart. 

If Stingley Jr. and Harris fill those top two spots, then that would leave either Green, Pitre or Metchie III to play at a level of a quality starter (not-replacement level). Green is the wildcard but should still be in contention. Pitre has the pieces and could still put it together. Metchie III is buried in a receiver room, currently of Stefon Diggs, Nico Collins
, Tank Dell, Noah Brown, Ben Skowrone
k, Robert Woods and Steven Sims. 

Collins, Diggs, Brown, Skowronek, Woods and Sims are all free agents after the season. Collins could get an extension before then but it would still leave a lot of spots for 2025 and beyond. Among the top eight receivers in Houston, only Dell and Metchie III are under contract past 2024.

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