Like the Kansas City Chiefs before them, the Texans are hoping for a quick turnaround. If a couple of the latest mock drafts are to be believed, that turnaround may happen a lot quicker than most people thought.
Because the stars may be aligning for the Texans to commit the NFL draft equivalent of The Great Train Robbery.
For most of the past several months, the consensus has been that the Texans would go one of two directions.
Either the team would draft one of the draft's top quarterbacks (Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Central Florida's Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M) or the Texans would select one of this season's top defensive prospects (South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or Buffalo's Khalil Mack).
It now appears that Houston may be able to have their cake and eat it too.
If their latest mock drafts are any indication, two leading draft experts believe the Texans will land both that defensive star and a top signal-caller when the NFL draft kicks off May 8.
Both ESPN's Mel Kiper and Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated think the Texans will make Clowney the first overall pick. For Kiper, it's a matter of rolling the dice on the sort of talent that just doesn't come along every season:
I believe that while more than one "safe" pick exists in this draft, it's hard to play it safer in terms of upside than selecting a generational physical talent, a guy who has exceptional physical skills and the ability to bring immediate impact and create consistent matchup problems up front as teams deal with the reality of how to block both Clowney and J.J. Watt. The questions on Clowney still aren't enough to diminish the potential impact. He's the top prospect in a draft full of very good ones, and I think Houston will feel the same.
It's then that things get interesting.
Burke forecasts a little draft day wheeling-and-dealing, with the Texans sending a package of picks (including this year's second and third-rounders) to the Arizona Cardinals for the 20th pick, which Burke then has the Texans using on Bortles:
Rarely do teams have the opportunity to secure the two players they want most in the draft. Houston accomplishes the feat within the top 20, landing a potential superstar on defense and now a QB that Bill O’Brien might able to mold into a long-time starter.
Kiper, on the other hand, has the Texans standing pat, only to have Bridgewater fall into their proverbial laps at No. 33:
Let me be clear: This is the top-rated quarterback on my Big Board, a player I have rated higher than Bortles, Manziel or Carr. (It's very close on the top three, however.) But my reading of the tea leaves in speaking with many evaluators around the league is that Bridgewater could drop if he slides past a couple of points early on.
Granted, a pair of mock drafts saying this scenario will play out doesn't make it so. For starters, mock drafts are not generally known for their precognitive accuracy.
Burke's scenario involves a hypothetical trade taking place. Kiper eschewed such trades in his mock, but admits "If I could project trades, I'd have someone taking him later in Round 1 having moved up."
However, just the possibility of something like this playing out should have the Texans and their fans doing cartwheels.
And it could happen.
Obviously, it would mean taking Clowney first overall, but that's where the majority of current mock drafts have him slotted.
Even John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, who has steadfastly maintained throughout draft season that the Texans would take a quarterback first overall, has now switched his pick to Clowney, calling him " "
What's really making this plan possible, as Peter King of Sports Illustrated reports, is the falling stock of this year's top signal-callers in the eyes of teams picking early in Round 1:
I’ve heard that at least four quarterback-needy teams—Houston (first pick), Jacksonville (3), Cleveland (4) and Oakland (5)—are strongly considering passing on quarterbacks with their first picks and waiting until their second or third selections. Simple reason: They’re not in love with any of the quarterbacks, and there are too many other good players who are surer things than a quarterback you have sincere doubts about. For that reason, there could be more quarterbacks taken in round two than round one.
Once again, cartwheels.
To say that this is a best-case scenario for the Texans is putting it mildly.
Yes, the Texans lost 14 games in a row last year, putting on a clinic in futility in the process. Still, as the two years that came before it attest, these aren't the Texans from 2005. This team doesn't have a ton of holes.
However, after Matt Schaub's implosion last year there's a big one at quarterback. The Texans brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick as a stopgap, but that's all the 31-year-old is.
Adding a young signal-caller this year is a priority.
Being able to add one of the draft's top quarterbacks after pairing Clowney with J.J. Watt on the Houston defense?
That's the kind of draft haul that will have the Texans back in the AFC South race sooner as opposed to later.