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Houston Texans Combine Preview: Top Targets, Sleepers and Prospects to Watch

Ryan CookContributor IFebruary 17, 2014

Houston Texans Combine Preview: Top Targets, Sleepers and Prospects to Watch

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    In exactly five days, the most important part of the Houston Texans offseason will begin in Indianapolis

    For once, people won't be asking questions about the Texans; instead, it will be the Texans asking questions of everyone else, as hundreds of draft prospects will line up for show at the NFL Scouting Combine, just three months out from the draft. 

    The Texans are seeking their future in the draft, someone who looks like a natural leader. It won't be all about 40-yard dash times and bench press reps this year; it'll be more about one-on-one interviews to determine who is the most valuable guy with the No. 1 pick.

    Aside from the big names, there's a lot of mid-rounders the Texans will keep a keen eye on this year, even if quarterbacks are the main focus. Nonetheless, here's a look at some of those top targets. 

     

Target: QB Teddy Bridgewater

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    Character concerns aren't a problem for Teddy Bridgewater. Nor is his accuracy, footwork or decision-making skills when throwing. 

    Out of everything, though, the weigh-in and measurements will hold the most suspense at the combine. He's one of many quarterbacks listed as undersized, but Houston should get a good feel for if this is their guy or not even if they remain undecided heading into May.

    Bridgewater's display of pocket presence and vision down the field will be of particular importance. He lead the country in completions with 71.0 percent in 2013, but scouts will be eager to see how his alleged small hands and narrow frame hold up during drills. 

    The Texans can rest knowing that Bridgewater is a smart, intelligent young guy, who is perhaps his own worst critic. The scouting combine should only prove that he is the most NFL-ready passer available. 

Prospect: QB Johnny Manziel

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    What you see with Johnny Manziel is what you get, at least on the football field. 

    The Texans are looking for a mature quarterback, meaning the interview process for Manziel this weekend is incredibly important. Since he's decided not to take part in workouts, a positive meeting with Texans personnel could more or less determine if he is taken No. 1 or somewhere much lower. 

    Manziel won't be breaking a sweat in Indianapolis, but his skill set could still leave Texans scouts worried. The weigh-in is just as vital for Manziel, because if teams don't think he is big enough to stand strong against the pass rush, they might just reconsider.

    There's also a small problem of accuracy and decision-making. Manziel had 13 interceptions last season with Texas A&M, an issue scouts probably would have liked to rectify at the scouting combine. Instead, it will have to wait until Manziel's pro day on March 27. 

Sleeper: DE Scott Crichton

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    The combine is great for revealing mid-round sleepers, and Oregon State's Scott Crichton is one of them. 

    It's unknown how Crichton might handle questions from coaches and personnel, but the bigger question is Crichton's display on the field, because he looks to be in the class of Jadeveon Clowney. 

    Crichton is a suitable defensive end for any 4-3 team, but for the Texans, he could still transition into a big-time outside linebacker. Scouts will be watching his speed at the combine and taking note of how well he uses his hands, while also seeing if his flexibility problems have improved. 

    There is no doubt the Texans will be taking a hard look at defensive ends this year, and that goes past Jadeveon Clowney. Expect some kind of attention to be shown Crichton's way. 

Target: DE Jadeveon Clowney

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    Since the season ended, Jadeveon Clowney has made plenty of statements about the combine, some of which were even directed towards the Texans and J.J. Watt.

    There's no doubt Clowney is probably the second-biggest target for the team next to Teddy Bridgewater, and while he wants to run a solid 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, the Texans will be more intrigued to watch how Clowney manoeuvres his 275-pound frame around the field. 

    But the physical workout isn't the only thing the Texans will take notes on. Again, question time will be a big deal, as the Texans want to pair J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing with a rookie who is head smart and shows the same work ethic to improve a struggling defense. 

     

Prospect: CB E.J. Gaines

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    E.J. Gaines remains a potential second- to fourth-round pick, but with a really good showing at the combine, he could help himself out immensely. 

    Coverage skills are Gaines' forte, and that's something that will be looked at heavily by scouts this weekend. Gaines excels in zone coverage, but he also looks good in man, and while he lacks the "big plays" that some of the bigger prospects have, it's hard to find footage of him ever screwing up. 

    The Texans need to find a guy who can replace Brice McCain in the slot, and that also happens to be one of Gaines' strengths. He had only seven interceptions in his four years at Missouri, but he covers the field well and is a big-time tackler. 

    Measurements will be a point of interest for all teams; however, this is still a prospect for the Texans to consider. 

Sleeper: RB Isaiah Crowell

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    Isaiah Crowell is in good company during his combine prep, practicing with Jadeveon Clowney and a few others during the lead up to the event. 

    Crowell is a projected late-round pick, but since being invited to Indianapolis, it's likely we'll be hearing a bit more about him following the combine. 

    Listed at 5'11, Crowell resembles more of a power running back, but he is still pretty speedy. He scored 12 touchdowns last season at Alabama State, and at the combine, scouts will be paying a lot of attention to his 40 time to see just how fast he really is. 

    Whether or not the Texans spend too long looking at running backs is questionable. As far as the draft outlook goes, though, finding a running back in the later rounds is a priority, and someone with Crowell's skill set who can be developed over a year or two looks promising. 

    The Texans just need to take note this weekend.

Target: QB Blake Bortles

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    The Texans will examine every quarterback closely this weekend, and that includes UCF's Blake Bortles, who many have argued is worthy of the No. 1 pick. 

    The whole combine is about one thing for Bortles: proving he is on the same level as Bridgewater and Manziel, if not better. 

    On paper, Bortles has every right to say he is just as good. He admits he isn't the fastest guy, but in terms of mechanics and numbers, he ranks as one of the best. Just like Bridgewater, Bortles completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and had only nine interceptions on the year.

    Perhaps, the thing with Bortles is he's had only one good year entering into the draft. Scouts will want to see the exact same flashiness they saw on the field at UCF this weekend at the combine, and for the Texans, it's all about how much athletic ability he shows in comparison to the other two guys. 

     

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