Draft Decisions: Houston Texans
What needs do the AFC South champion Houston Texans have to fill in this year's draft?
Tonight, millions will huddle around their television screens to watch NFL commissioner Roger Goodell amble up to the microphone 32 times and announce first-round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft. It’s a little silly, if you think about it out of context: we’re watching a man read names (and analysts overanalyze those names). But then again, being a sports fan is a little silly, and we do it anyway, so why stop now?
The Houston Texans, fresh off their first playoff victory in franchise history, will have the 26th overall pick in the draft, the lowest first-round pick the franchise has ever had (not that the fans should be complaining). And here’s an interesting turnabout: the Texans have far fewer holes to fill than their Lone Star counterparts to the north, the Dallas Cowboys (whom we’ve already profiled for the draft).
And yet, there are still some needs for the defending AFC South champions, ranging from “necessary” to “well, it’d be nice.” But with a first round pick, for basically every team, you’re thinking that you need to draft someone who can help right away, or someone you can stow away and develop with the hopes that they will be a key cog in your machine as early as next season.
So, where do the Texans go with the No. 26 overall pick, assuming they don’t trade up or out of the first round? To start that process, it’s important to identify the Texans’ needs.
If the Texans are going to draft to a true position of need, then this is it. The top two receivers for the Texans last season were a tight end (Owen Daniels) and a running back (Arian Foster). Now, a lot of that has to do with Andre Johnson missing nine games with injury, but the bottom line is that past Johnson, the Houston receiving corps is underwhelming. The Texans could use another impact receiver on their roster to go opposite Johnson or, at worst, complement guys like Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter. There’s essentially no chance that the top wide receiver in the draft – Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon – falls to 26, and I’d put the odds against Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd being there. Still, there will be some interesting wide receiver options for the Texans at No. 26 if that’s the route they decide to take.
Options: Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill (a Combine freak with outstanding measurables, he fits the “NFL No. 2 receiver mold to a T), Baylor WR Kendall Wright (he put up freakish numbers for the Bears playing with Robert Griffin III, and Wright would provide another true deep threat for Houston), Stanford TE Coby Fleener (want to think outside the box? How about the draft’s top tight end? As a combination with Owen Daniels, he could be lights out).
Here’s the good news: the Texans are, right now, just fine at offensive line. The fivesome of Duane Brown (LT), Wade Smith (LG), Chris Myers (C), Antoine Caldwell (RG) and Rashad Butler (RT) should be back in force for the Texans next year, plowing the road for the league’s second-best rushing attack. But the NFL is a reloading league, and depth is always an issue, especially at offensive line. And let’s not forget: Smith, Myers and (less so) Butler are not rookies, and won’t be around forever. With a number of terrific offensive linemen in the 2012 Draft, why not pick one up and stock him away for depth purposes and as an heir apparent to one of the older members of the offensive line? If the right fit at wide receiver isn’t there, gaining some much needed depth at the offensive line – especially at guard or center – would be a savvy decision for what has proven to be a savvy front office.
Options: Georgia OL Cordy Glenn (aside from having an awesome name, Glenn looks like he will be the best lineman available, and is versatile enough to play a variety of positions), Stanford OL Jonathan Martin (he had a lackluster senior campaign for the Cardinal, but the talent is still there, and could shore up some depth at the tackle spot), Wisconsin OL Kevin Zeitler (this would be a reach at No. 26, but Zeitler has been part of big, powerful offensive lines at Wisconsin and would fit right in to the Texans’ scheme; an excellent pickup in the second round).
Now, you could probably convince me that outside linebacker is more of a need for the Texans, but the bottom line is that past the outstanding Jonathan Joseph, there’s not much to talk about in the Texans’ cornerback corps. And yes, that means that I’m not the biggest fan of Kareem Jackson, the Texans’ first-round pick from two years ago. Call it a depth move, call it a move to replace Jackson in the starting lineup, call it a “best available” maneuver, call it whatever you want: the Texans, if you ask me, could use some help at cornerback. And with a draft that is very top-heavy with corners, getting one at No. 26 could be outstanding value for the franchise.
Options: Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick (this would represent a shift from the Texans’ philosophy of staying away from potential character issues – Kirkpatrick was caught with pot, but the charges were dropped – but he’s talented enough to warrant the risk), North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins (another guy who flunked a drug test, but another outstanding cornerback; pick your poison), Vanderbilt CB Casey Heyward (a very smart player who constantly covered the SEC’s best receivers, he could be there in the second if the Texans get lucky).
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.