In one of the deepest NFL Drafts we’ve seen in many years, several prospects with first-round grades, including TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock, slipped into the second round Friday evening. It didn’t take long for the 6-foot-3, 290-pound lineman to come off the board, however, with the Houston Texans taking Blacklock with the 40th overall pick.
Blacklock will transition from TCU’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme to the 3-4 base defense of the Texans, where All-Pro pass rusher J.J. Watt remains Houston’s top quarterback hunter. While the Texans made several moves in free agency to address their secondary, signing Bradley Roby, Vernon Hargreaves, Eric Murray, Jaylen Watkins and Phillip Gaines, Houston used its first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft to upgrade its defensive line.
Mo City in the building again.@TCUFootball and @ElkinsFootball's Ross Blacklock drafted 40th overall in the 2nd round by the @HoustonTexans.#TXHSFB— Chron HS Sports (@HoustonChronHS) April 24, 2020
He's been eager for this moment: https://t.co/OQtdUiB0uc pic.twitter.com/J55oY8UgAu
Blacklock, who grew up in Missouri City, Texas and played for Elkins High School roughly 20 minutes from Houston’s NRG Stadium, will have the rare opportunity to play for his hometown team. Despite missing the 2018 season with an Achilles injury, Blacklock bounced back with his best season as a Horned Frog, totaling 40 tackles, nine tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks in 2019. He finished his three-year career with 67 tackles and 5.5 sacks.
Blacklock possessed the size to profile as a nose tackle early in his collegiate career, but he now sports a more lean frame after cutting 25 pounds while rehabbing his Achilles during his sophomore year. A natural athletic talent, Blacklock’s father Jimmy spent 15 years with the Harlem Globetrotters before eventually becoming the team’s head coach.
After trading Jadeveon Clowney before the 2019-20 season, Houston struggled to produce from the defensive end position. Rookie Charles Omenihu totaled only eight tackles and three sacks in 14 games, and veteran backup Carlos Watkins recorded 23 tackles in 10 games, but just one sack. The Texans also lost mammoth nose tackle D.J. Reader, who had 2.5 sacks this past season, to the Cincinnatti Bengals in free agency.
Houston signed former Ravens and Eagles defensive lineman Tim Jernigan over the offseason, but adding Blacklock on Friday signaled the team’s need to get better up front. Watt, Jernigan and Blacklock could be a dangerous three-man tandem for the Texans, and Blacklock will also provide depth in the event Watt goes down with another significant injury. The five-time All-Pro and three-time Defensive Player of the Year has missed 32 games over the last four seasons.
#Texans got themselves a monster in Ross Blacklock! It’s not even fair what he does to Linemen!!— Emmanuel Acho (@thEMANacho) April 24, 2020
What makes him special- #AchoAnswers @AaronWilson_NFL @McClain_on_NFL #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/SmLNF5L1Rf
Blacklock proved to be an effective run blocker at TCU, posting an 89.8 grade in that category according to Pro Football Focus. However, PFF also noted that 11 of Blacklock’s 30 pressures in 2019 occurred in two games (Kansas and Texas Tech), so the Texans will need more consistency from Blacklock, especially with the 347-pound Reader no longer in the picture. Houston allowed the eighth-most total rushing yards in the NFL this past season.