Draft season is in full swing, and the anticipation over the Houston Texans' 2013 draft class is building.
It took long enough, but the team and fans received some good news: The compensatory picks are in.
The organization has been awarded two extra picks—a third- and sixth-rounder—in the upcoming draft due to free-agent losses during the 2012 offseason.
It couldn't come at a better time after losing key players Connor Barwin, Glover Quin and James Casey in free agency. With the extra picks, there's less urgency to reach on prospects in the draft just for the sake of filling those vacated spots.
Now, the Texans can sit back and take the best player available—a philosophy they seem to already subscribe too. They certainly must address their need areas and should be able to do so and more with the nine selections in tow.
Continue reading on to find out who the Texans could pick in each round of the upcoming draft.
After once seeming like a top-15 lock, Cordarrelle Patterson could see his stock fall on draft day for a variety of reasons. The Houston Texans shouldn't hesitate for a second to pick him if that scenario plays out.
The speed and elusiveness he brings in the open field at 6'2" and 216 pounds are truly special. He's the type of receiver who will excel at getting chunk yards after the catch. He's tough to bring down and can outrun most covering him. Patterson even contributed to the Volunteers as an electric returner.
After reportedly coming off as "unimpressive" in combine interviews (via GoVolsXtra.com), he's seen his stock all over the place. Questions over his route running, hands and overall rawness as a football player have also haunted him, and his pro day did nothing to ease those concerns. As a JUCO transfer with only one year of D-1 football to his name, teams are hesitant over if/how he can make the jump to the NFL.
The Texans should hope the 26 teams picking in front of them are bothered enough by his baggage to pass. Receivers like this rarely fall that late in the draft, but it has happened recently. Demaryius Thomas (22nd overall) and Dez Bryant (24th overall) had obviously elite No. 1-receiver skill sets coming out and slipped into the 20s.
The microscope of the NFL draft season has hurt Patterson enough to make this a realistic possibility. In a linemen-heavy draft on both sides of the ball, receivers could take a backseat in the first round. It's possible the first one might not come off the board until picks before the Texans select.
Houston's need for a wide receiver has been exhausted at this point. There might not be a better scenario than Patterson falling to the Texans come draft day.
The luxury of an extra midround pick allows the Texans to take the best player on the board when they pick in the second round.
As one of the big risers of this draft, Terron Armstead has enjoyed a highly successful campaign throughout the draft season. After answering the bell in the college all-star games and combine, the small-school tackle should be slated to come off the board before Round 3.
From day one, Armstead and Derek Newton could go head-to-head in a heated camp battle for the starting right tackle job. Gary Kubiak is no stranger to platooning offensive linemen, so don't rule out an Armstead/Newton rotation for the 2013 season either.
Clearly, Armstead would be the long-term plan and offers more talent and ability at the position than Newton. Gifted with nimble feet and athleticism Newton can't even dream of, Armstead would present a significant upgrade and could solidify the position for years to come.
All things considered, planning on an Armstead/Newton timeshare is ambitious considering Newton's health. Houston's starting right tackle from last year is recovering after undergoing major offseason knee surgery. Former camp body and swing tackle Andrew Gardner would be the starter if the team lined up today—a scenario that's disturbing and potentially dangerous to Matt Schaub.
Tackle clearly is a bigger need than meets the eye. Houston's offense won't operate at a high level in 2013 if right tackle is neglected.
All of a sudden, Houston's safety population is old and in serious need of a youth infusion.
Bacarri Rambo is a midround option at safety who fits what the Texans should be looking for.
Well-known for his ball-hawking skills, Rambo is comfortable in coverage and shows great range. He was trusted in single-high safety at Georgia, which made him the only line of defense on deep balls. He showed the ability to make plays in this role, and his 16 career interceptions shows he knows how to finish.
Rambo is also a capable blitzer and was asked to do this at Georgia. He played in a pro-style 3-4 defense, so he's had experience with safety responsibilities in that scheme. Wade Phillips should be comfortable using him all over the defense from day one.
The former Bulldog could contribute as a third safety right away and eventually seize the starting job from Danieal Manning. With Ed Reed likely to miss games at some point, it would be wise to have a fresh talent with upside like Rambo to fill in.
This is around the range where most have Rambo projected to come off the board. The Texans can land an instant contributor with starting potential at safety without having to reach with a pick like this.
The number of roles Jordan Reed could fill on Houston's offense makes him too sweet of a value to pass up on.
Regardless if he's out wide, in the slot, at fullback or tight end, Reed presents a coverage nightmare that will frustrate NFL defensive coordinators. He's somewhat similar to former Florida Gators tight end Aaron Hernandez in terms of the type of mismatch he'll present in the NFL.
Like Casey, Reed shouldn't be thrown to the wolves as the full-time fullback right away, but should settle into a role like that eventually.
At 6'2" and 232 pounds, some teams will have him lower on their boards because they don't view him as a line-of-scrimmage player, but the Texans won't be one of them. Houston isn't shy about using smaller tight ends.
However, Reed will need to improve his blocking like Casey did throughout his career to be more of a contributor on the line. His immediate impact will come split out as a receiver, which just so happens to top the list of Houston's needs.
The Texans should probably draft two receivers, but Reed could easily count as that second weapon. As a short and intermediate target who will kill linebackers and safeties in coverage, Reed could fit right in to Houston's version of the West Coast offense.
Fans are all looking for that perfect middle linebacker to play next to Brian Cushing, and rightfully so.
The problem is the position may have to be addressed in the midrounds where there's a pool of less-heralded, non-brand-name 'backers to choose from. One of those blue-collar targets, Vince Williams could be the name fans hear the Texans call on draft weekend.
Seemingly overlooked throughout the draft season, Williams has had to earn his draft grade the hard way. He wasn't invited to the combine after looking like the best inside linebacker in Mobile, delivering noticeably punishing hits and getting physical with offensive linemen. Since the Senior Bowl, he's only had his pro day and private workouts to showcase himself for NFL teams (outside of his game tape).
Houston is looking for a contributor to play on base downs next to Cushing. Without third-down responsibilities, it's a role that shouldn't be too overwhelming for a rookie to fill.
Down the line, Williams could grow into a third-down role, but there's no reason to give him, or any rookie middle linebacker the Texans draft, too much, too soon.
The Texans need to clean up the middle of their defense, and a piece like Williams could come in and help right away.
With Connor Barwin gone, Houston must maintain its outside linebacker depth. The Texans could find a high-upside edge-rusher like Quanterus Smith, even this late in the draft.
Smith broke out on a Western Kentucky Hilltoppers team in 2012 and piled up terrific production (12.5 sacks) to go with plenty of draft momentum. His stock took a hit when he suffered an ACL injury, but he's nearly four months removed now from surgery.
The former Hilltopper showed plenty of skill as a quick-twitched defensive end with above-average NFL length at Western Kentucky. When looking at the edge-rushers in this draft, there aren't many who are 6'5" and 255 pounds with movement skills like Smith.
The Texans can be more patient with his rehab than most NFL teams because they have starters in place at outside linebacker. The organization can essentially have him medical redshirt his rookie season. He'll be learning a new position as a 3-4 outside linebacker too, so he'll need time to settle into that role.
If Houston is looking at mid-to-late round rushers in this draft, Quanterus should be on the short list of prospects considered.
There's no harm in stockpiling inside linebackers, especially considering the Texans have yet to add any through free agency.
Jonathan Stewart has an intriguing combination of size (6'4", 242 lbs) and speed (4.68 40 time, per NFL.com) for the middle linebacker position. It should translate well to the NFL, especially considering he's a smart linebacker who played in a 3-4 and 4-3 at Texas A&M.
His biggest issue is his poor tackling and an overall lack of physicality, but that's why he might be available this late in the draft. The middle linebacker position has lost value over the years as well, which could push him down on draft weekend.
Houston's special teams suffered on its coverage unit in 2012, and a major reason for that was injuries to the linebacking corps. Keeping a stable of fresh, young legs to run and hit on special teams is something the team cannot disregard. Stewart's immediate impact in the NFL will be on special teams, where he also had experience playing in college.
The former Aggie has the ability to fill in on defense, if needed. He'll fit in just fine inside Houston's 3-4 where he'll have plenty of help around him to chase down ball-carriers and gang tackle. Wade Phillips has used as many as four inside linebackers on game day, so Stewart could get on the field sooner than later.
Don't be surprised if the Texans end up drafting two inside linebackers. Stewart would be terrific value at this point in the draft.
The Texans have been known to snoop around for defensive backs in the later rounds. One of the true sleepers of this draft who isn't getting much hype is South Florida cornerback Kayvon Webster.
Webster has the size (5'10", 195 lbs) and arm length (32.5") to play outside in the NFL. He ran a 4.41 at the combine (per NFL.com) and checks off in terms of speed needed to cover at the next level.
The feisty corner was used in a number of ways at South Florida, from press-man to off-zone. He wasn't showcased in one particular role, but proved he could handle either. As a physical tackler not afraid to stick his nose in there, the former Bull has the makings of becoming a complete cornerback.
Some have projected him to go as late as the seventh round. The fact that the South Florida Bulls fielded a terrible defense that featured one of the worst pass defenses in the nation is going to hurt his stock. Texans scout Mike Martin, who has seen plenty of Webster, spoke about those concerns via Joey Johnston of The Tampa Tribune:
"Those overall numbers don't come into play, unless the guy is being targeted and exposed,'' said Houston Texans scout Mike Martin, a former Vanderbilt defensive back who played at Jesuit High School. "Kayvon held up pretty well. He's an excellent tackler. His abilities and talents come through. He's a good prospect.''
Houston already had an official team meeting with him at the East-West Shrine Game. He's clearly on the organization's radar screen. Kayvon Webster could prove to be one of the better values of the draft as a late-round pick for the Texans.
Jose Jose, another prospect the Texans have met with, is an under-the-radar nose tackle prospect with some considerable baggage.
He has enough talent to warrant being drafted, but weight issues and off-the-field incidents have plagued him and killed his stock. He's a classic late-round low-risk/high-reward nose tackle pick who a 3-4 team like the Texans could work with over time and develop.
With his great size (6'3" 345 lbs), you can see why the NFL would have interest in him. However, he had trouble getting on the field at Central Florida, but much of that was due to butting heads with the coaching staff.
The Texans likely wanted to meet with him to clear the air on a number of issues. Whether he helped his cause or not remains to be seen, but he's on the radar screen; otherwise, they wouldn't have wasted their time meeting with him.
Houston needs size inside in a big way. The position should probably be addressed sooner than this, but the Texans could wait this late in the draft with all the other holes on the roster that need to be filled.