Houston Texans 2022 NFL draft target: Texas A&M receiver Ainias Smith

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The Houston Texans drafted Nico Collins in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft, but they still have some questions to answer about the position going forward.

Randall Cobb will be entering the final year of his contract, and it would only cost $2 million in dead money to part ways with the former 2011 Green Bay Packers second-round pick, who will be 32 years old. It will also cost $2.5 million to cut Brandin Cooks, although he will just be 29 years old and still with a couple good years remaining.

Wideouts Chris Conley, Alex Erickson, and Donte Moncrief will be out of contract as their one-year deals will have expired.

If Houston wants to look to the draft for a younger solution at receiver, they need to keep an eye on Texas A&M receiver Ainias Smith, who is considered a wild-card in Pro Football Focus’ college receiver rankings.

WILD CARD: AINIAS SMITH, TEXAS A&M (JUNIOR)

While the 2021 receiver class was chock full of players, like Smith, who fit into the “offensive weapon” category, he stands nearly alone in his own category in 2022.

The Texas A&M pass-catcher took 143 snaps from the backfield, 323 from the slot and only 60 out wide in 2020. He is pure dynamism, and the Aggies’ offense wanted to get the ball in his hands as easily as possible. He broke 21 tackles on 65 catches the past two seasons with an average depth of target a mere 9.4 yards downfield while adding 18 broken tackles on 55 rushing attempts over that span. At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, he may never fit the mold of an outside receiver, but he’s a playmaker who will be coveted nonetheless.

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Smith would be an ideal replacement for Cobb, who produced 38 catches for 441 yards and three touchdowns through 10 games last season. If Cobb has a similar year, including having his season cut short by mid-November, general manager Nick Caserio may be inclined to go younger at the position.

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