While the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers are pumping themselves up for the Super Bowl, the Houston Texans will be watching dejectedly from the sidelines. The once Super Bowl favorite Texans clearly are not good enough to make it to the big game yet; they must have a terrific draft in order to get there next season.
The Texans have a surprising amount of needs for a football team that won 13 games. At wide receiver, offensive line, inside linebacker and safety, the depth is miserable.
If those needs are not addressed in the draft, it is very likely that the Texans could struggle should the team face injury issues.
The Texans need to have a draft that will improve every faucet of their offense and defense. They need to have a draft that will solidify them as contenders.
Here is the Texans 2013 post-Senior Bowl mock draft.
When I made my first mock draft, Alec Ogletree was my first-round selection. My thoughts have not changed.
Ogletree can revolutionize the Texans defense and give them a great chance of competing with the likes of a Tom Brady.
The major problem with the Texans defense this season was that it was forced to rely upon the nickel and dime an unnecessary amount of times. When playing in either of those two formations, the second inside linebacker is subbed out for the primary slot cornerback.
While it would seem that this formation would be beneficial to pass coverage, it can actually be extremely detrimental.
The first issue is that it is much harder to generate a pass rush. Without blitzing, the defense can only rush four defenders, all starting on the defensive line. When playing in the base 3-4 defensive scheme, the Texans regularly rush five defenders, two of whom come from the edge. The extra pass-rusher alone gives the opposing quarterback significantly much less time to get rid of the ball.
Another primary issue is that it is much easier for tight ends to make plays when they go up against smaller defensive backs, which often happens in the nickel and dime formations. In the 3-4, however, with a capable coverage linebacker, a talented tight end would not be able to as easily physically impose himself.
Finally, it is much more difficult to stop the run from the defensive back-heavy formations. Having the extra linebacker in there makes a huge difference in the run game.
Ogletree could solve all of those issues.
Although he is a thumper and formidable as a run-defender—as all first-round linebackers should be—the truly impressive part of Ogletree's game is his coverage skills. Formerly a safety, Ogletree possesses the speed and footwork to keep up with any tight end and many slot receivers.
Ogletree's talents in coverage could allow the Texans to remain in the 3-4 defense more frequently, which would significantly improve the defense, and give it a chance to slow down elite quarterbacks.
What's the easiest way to beat the Texans, you ask? Why, it is pretty simple. All you have to do is overpower the right side of the line of scrimmage.
And with Ben Jones and Derek Newton manning the right side, that task was quite easy for opposing defenses.
When the offensive line is dominated at the point of attack, the Texans offense crumbles. Arian Foster is unable to run for positive yardage, as his success completely depends on the offensive line's ability to consistently open up holes in the zone blocking scheme.
Furthermore, Matt Schaub is terrible under pressure.
He does not have the athleticism or the footwork to escape pass-rushers, and he is often sacked because of this. When the offensive line does not succeed in pass protection, the Texans passing game essentially dies.
With all of these issues, it would make sense to pick up a bruising, talented offensive lineman in the early part of the NFL Draft, would it not?
D.J. Fluker is that guy.
Physically imposing at 335 pounds, he is slightly larger than the offensive lineman the Texans normally favor. The Texans, however, drafted Brandon Brooks last season and seemed to like him toward the end of the season, so it is quite possible that they are slightly changing their philosophy.
Regardless, we learned this past season what happens when the offensive line was not strong enough to deal with opposing defenders.
Fluker is incredibly strong, and combined with his surprising athleticism, he is a bulldozer in the running game. He consistently generates at the point of attack, and he can open up huge holes for his running backs.
Fluker also dominated defenders in the SEC, where many of the largest and most talented defensive linemen reside. He can easily continue impressive play at the NFL level.
Finally, Fluker can play both tackle and guard, which would greatly benefit the Texans depth-stricken offensive line. Fluker makes sense for the Texans, and management would be wise to select him.
Behind Andre Johnson, the Texans have major problems at the wide receiver position. Kevin Walter is simply not an offensive threat, and his supposedly amazing blocking skills should not garner him a starting job.
DeVier Posey, the most promising young receiver on the roster, will likely miss all of 2013 with a torn achilles. Neither Lestar Jean nor Keshawn Martin are dependable receivers, and they need much more time to develop their games.
Therefore, it would make sense for the Texans to draft a sure-handed, consistent and play-making receiver for great value in the third round.
Quinton Patton could very well become the starter for the future for the Texans. After Johnson decides to end his incredible career, that is.
Big-bodied and athletic like Johnson, Patton is everything one could want in a receiver. He has a quick burst, and this makes him a dangerous deep-ball threat.
Patton also usually does not drop passes, unlike certain Texans receivers, which might make Matt Schaub target him more.
The best part about Patton's game, however, is his impressive route-running ability. Incredibly developed in that department for such a young receiver, Patton is routinely able to confuse defensive backs and easily separate himself with an early wiggle in his routes that makes it nearly impossible for defenders to discern what he is going to do.
Due to this, Patton received a ringing endorsement from cornerback Jonathan Banks, who constantly faces great receivers in the SEC.
I feel like (Quinton Patton) from Louisiana Tech is the best receiver I've played against since I've been here. I've gone against some good ones in the SEC, too, but he's probably the most complete.
Patton would instantly jump start the Texans inconsistent offense. He could also become a future star in the NFL.
If you want an under-the-radar prospect, look no further than nose tackle Brandon Williams.
Hailing from Missouri Southern State University—which is a DII school—Williams could very well be a first-round talent. And after the Combine, it is very likely that his draft stock will skyrocket all the way into the top round of the NFL Draft.
There is great reason for this: Williams is a fantastic football player.
Normally, athletes with Williams' ginormous size are slow and out-of-shape. Williams, however, is the very opposite. He is incredibly fast for his size, and this allows him to surprise offensive linemen and generate a huge push at the line of scrimmage.
He is a force against the run, but he can also be an effective pass-rusher. He is exactly what the Texans need at the nose tackle position.
Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell, while dependable, do not influence games one way or the other. They are both average, and they do not have the ability to elevate the defense to greater levels.
His pure athleticism and natural football skills would already be enough to make him a starter on the Texans defensive line. However, he also has a determined work ethic that Texans management loves to see in young prospects.
Williams could be the steal of the draft, and the Texans should jump on the opportunity to select him.
With the possibility of losing Glover Quin in free agency, and with the terrible depth at the position, the Texans must address their safety needs in the draft.
D.J. Swearinger is a very talented football player.
He has great instincts, which makes him very effective against the run. In this way, he is similar to Quin as he is able to routinely step up and consistently bring down opposing running backs.
Swearinger, however, is consistent is pass coverage as well. He has solid speed, which enables him to keep up with opposing receivers. With him on the field—as opposed to Quintin Demps and Shiloh Keo— there is less of chance of the defense giving up huge plays over the top.
Swearinger has impressive athleticism, and with a little developing he could become a starting safety in this league fairly quickly.
The Texans should definitely snatch him up to help patch up their struggling safety core.
James Wilson, a large offensive guard, is a terrific run blocker.
He opened up holes for Florida's Mike Gillislee all season long, and he was a major reason why Florida had so much success running the ball.
His strength enables him to consistently push back defensive linemen and open up gaping holes. In this way, he contrasts Ben Jones, who is not fully capable of generating a push at the point of attack.
The Texans have serious depth problems on the offensive line, and Wilson could help solve some of the issues. Wilson would need to be seriously developed in order to become a starter in the NFL, but the Texans do have a history of finding offensive linemen late and making them stars.
Maybe they could do the same with Wilson. He certainly has the athleticism and the strength for it.
The seventh round is a time to gamble—a time to make a risky move that could have huge payoffs.
Drafting Marcus Lattimore is that move.
Lattimore, who would surely be an extremely early pick based on his talent alone, has suffered with knee injuries throughout his career. It is quite likely that he will not be able to play in 2013, but that should not deter the Texans from giving him a look.
After next season, Ben Tate will become a free agent, and the Texans may not be able to re-sign him. If Forsett is not still with the team when Tate departs, then the Texans will be left without a backup running back.
If Lattimore could stay healthy, he could likely be one of the best backup running backs in the entire league. He is a workhorse, bruising back who can continuously churn out hard-earned yardage.
His speed and explosiveness allows him to break off huge plays, making him an extremely dangerous and hard-to-stop back.
If he could stay healthy, he could be a major steal for the Texans.