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Texans wrap up 2019 draft with eye on filling needs

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HOUSTON – The Houston Texans wrapped up their work in the 2019 NFL draft with a haul that certainly matches up with the expectations from the fans and experts outside the organization regarding the team’s needs.

They went into Thursday night’s first round with six overall selections and kept things simple: no trades up to the board, no trades back and they have six new players that seem to fill their biggest areas of need.

The four players they drafted on the first two nights of the draft could very well make up the two bookends on the offensive line, protecting Deshaun Watson for years to come, along with a cornerback who could be pushing for a starting role very early in the season and a tight end who will be part of a very young core to add to the two tight ends drafted last season.

The three players they drafted Saturday, include a Longhorn, an Aggie and a second player from the MAC.

They said it:

1st round (23rd) – OT Tytus Howard, Alabama State

Howard: “When it first happened, tears just came down my face. I was so happy to be in the moment and to have my family experience that with me. I got back to the bed at night, I look at my fiancée and I was like, ‘Dang. It feels like I’m dreaming.’ I didn’t get much sleep. Came in here today just prepared. I’m ready to come back and just get to work, be the best teammate I can be and help this team win.”

Texans General Manager Brian Gaine: “As it relates to the profile of Tytus, we felt like he passed each test – in terms of the process of scouting – with flying colors. What I mean by that is if you just think back to the fall season, how he played during the fall, had starts both on the left side and the right side, goes to the Senior Bowl and plays well. Goes to the best All-Star game in the business and played very well. In fact, he started that game. Goes to the combine and excels. Did very well in the interview process, the private workout settings that we had with him, the Pro Day settings. I felt like with each interval, he was able to pass each segment with flying colors. (He) made a very favorable impression in terms of the intangible profile, the person, the character matched with the physical ability and the physical traits. We felt like he checked all the boxes.”

2nd round (54th) – CB Lonnie Johnson, Kentucky

Johnson: “I’ll do whatever they need me to do. At the end of the day, I know what I work at and I know my size is a big thing and that’s part of the reason they drafted me today. I’m just ready. I’m just ready to get to work.”

Texans coach Bill O’Brien: “I think we (he and Gaine) both were really impressed with him at the combine and all the different places that our coaching staff and scouting staff, especially, met with him. He was just a really impressive guy. The way he could talk about his life, the way he could talk about football, and then obviously his skill set on the field. I think the more and more our organization got to know him, we felt like he would be great fit. Just smart, tough, dependable. That’s what we’re looking for and that’s what we saw with him.”

Second round (55th) – OT Max Scharping, Northern Illinois

Scharping on quarterback Deshaun Watson: “I know he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He’s a great person to be able to protect for. He’s athletic. He can move throughout the pocket and he has a great arm. I can’t wait to be one of the guys protecting him.”

Gaine: “Very versatile offensive lineman, starting left tackle, team captain material, outstanding football character, big man, fits our parameters – the height, weight, speed.”

Third round (86th) – TE Kahale Warring, San Diego State

Warring on playing with Watson: “I’m thrilled. I actually got a chance to catch a few passes from him in the past. I think he’s an unbelievable player. I can’t wait to get with him and start working on things. I think he’s such an unbelievable leader. He was at Clemson and I know that transitioned right to the Texans right now. So, I’m thrilled to get working with him.”

Gaine: “Best available. He’s another player that we got to know, spent a lot of time with here over the winter and here through the spring. He meets our prototypical standards, everything we look for from the physical standpoint and equally from the football character skill set, but a ton of upside here. A youthful player as it relates to his football experience, but a ton of upside. Six-foot-five, 255 pounds, ran 4.6, has great ball skills."

Fifth round (161st) – DE Charles Omenihu, Texas

Omenihu: “They’re going to get along, athletic defensive lineman that can play inside and out, and a guy that’s going to be a sponge to J.J. (Watt), Jadeveon (Clowney) and Deshaun (Watson). Deshaun’s been a big homie, too. So, just surround myself with guys who know what to do, have been around the game and have been successful.”

Gaine: “The first thing that stands out when you see him from the physical profile is his size and length. Very tall, very long, very athletic, has mobility, can play sideline to sideline, but it’s his versatility in jobs, in terms of the alignments. There’s really not one strict position that he can play, like, ‘He has to do this job.’”

Sixth round (195th) – CB Xavier Crawford, Central Michigan

Crawford: “I’m man-to-man. I want to see you versus me and I want to see what you’re going to do on me.”

Gaine: “He’s 5'11, 190 pounds, ran 4.37 (40-yard) coming out. He gives you more position versatility, maybe, to play outside and inside. Both guys (along with Lonnie Johnson) will obviously add speed, range, athleticism, mobility and obviously fourth down is critically important to any skill position. So, we’re pleased to have the opportunity to get him in the sixth round.”

Seventh round (220th) – FB Cullen Gillaspia, Texas A&M

Gillaspia: “I could not ask for a better situation. I talked to Brian Gaine, Coach (Brad) Seely, the running backs coach and all the staff and I said, ‘Hey, I’m a hometown kid. I’ve been Houston Texan since day one. They were my favorite team growing up. I’ve seen everyone. This is where I want to be. Houston is home. I hope y’all pick me. Don’t make me go to a division rival and make me play against you. I’m ecstatic to be here and I could not be happier to be a Houston Texan.”

O’Brien: “We’ll start him off on offense as a fullback and he was an excellent special team player there, also. Was the 12th man at Texas A&M. I think everybody understands what that means there. Came to our local pro day. Our scouts did an awesome job getting him into our local pro day. We’re excited to be able to add him to our team – and he’s from Katy.”

Notes/Overview:

First-round pick Howard and second-round selection Scharping are likely to be looked at as the starting offensive tackles of the future. It’s possible, even likely, that neither is a starter as the season begins, though the Texans believe and should hope that each is part of the starting 2020 lineup. 

After a tough upbringing in Gary, Indiana, second-round pick Johnson bounced through several stops since high school before finishing at Kentucky and comes to Houston with enormous potential but lots of work to do to reach it.

Tight end Warring is the third tight end drafted in the last two seasons and the team signed veteran tight end Darren Fells this offseason. He played just one season of high school football and excelled at water polo, basketball, cross country, soccer, tennis and swimming. One more note on Warring – his full name is Kahale Kuio Kalani Michael Wodehouse Warring.

Longhorns defensive end Omenihu said he feels like there are some similarities with O’Brien and Longhorns head coach Tom Herman. Also said he’ll be playing with some purpose this season. 

“I’ve had this chip on my shoulder since I was playing ball. My chip on my shoulder is not even a chip, it’s a boulder. I’m definitely going to come in, head down, ready to work. Like I said, ready to earn my stripes and do everything I need to do to contribute on this team,” Omenihu said.

Cornerback Xavier Crawford will have an opportunity to earn time as a nickel corner, but will definitely be looked at to contribute on special teams. Like fellow cornerback Johnson, he made multiple stops since high school, starting his career at Oregon State before finishing up at Central Michigan.

Gillaspia, the walk-on earned the 12th man jersey and wore that proudly for 39 games over his last three seasons. He was a special team star with the Aggies for four seasons, but he added fullback to his duties and his most memorable moment came in his final game in the Tax Slayer bowl when he became the first 12th man to ever score a touchdown. He took a handoff 12 yards into the end zone for the final score of the Aggies' 52-13 season-ending win.