Houston Texans

Houston Texans Ultimate 2014 Draft Primer

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMay 7, 2014

Houston Texans Ultimate 2014 Draft Primer

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    Anonymous

    2013 was going to be the year for the Houston Texans.

    The Texans were the two-time defending champions of the AFC South. They'd won a playoff game in each of those seasons.

    They were going to take the next step. Super Bowl or bust.

    The Texans took a step, all right. Right off a cliff.

    After winning their first two games last year, the Texans dropped a staggering 14 games in a row. A team some thought could win the Lombardi Trophy instead won the rights to the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

    That pick has been a hot topic of conversation. Will the Texans trade down? If not, who will they make the first overall pick. A quarterback? A young defensive star?

    However, that No. 1 overall pick is hardly the only question facing the Texans as they try to get back in the playoff chase.

    With that in mind, here's an in-depth look at the first team to go on the clock May 8.

List of 2014 Draft Picks

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    Anonymous

    The Texans have no shortage of picks with which to do some damage in 2014.

    In addition to the first overall pick, Houston has 10 more selections, including five picks in the first four rounds.

    The Texans picked up an extra sixth-rounder when they traded quarterback Matt Schaub to the Oakland Raiders, and the team received three compensatory picks for free agents lost a season ago.

    Here's a breakdown of the Texans' picks:

    Round 1, Pick 1 (1)

    Round 2, Pick 1 (33)

    Round 3, Pick 1 (65)

    Round 4, Pick 1 (101)

    Round 4, Pick 35 (135) [Compensatory]

    Round 5, Pick 1 (141)

    Round 6, Pick 1 (177)

    Round 6, Pick 5 (181) [Acquired from Oakland Raiders for Matt Schaub]

    Round 6, Pick 35 (211) [Compensatory]

    Round 7, Pick 1 (216)

    Round 7, Pick 41 (256) [Compensatory, "Mr. Irrelevant"]

Position-by-Position Big Board

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    As we get ready for the 2014 NFL draft, here's a look at a Big Board of sorts for the Texans.

    Mind you, this isn't strictly a ranking of players by position. These are players who should be available to the Texans at various points throughout the draft and, as such, are realistic targets.

     

    Quarterback

    1. Blake Bortles Central Florida
    2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
    3. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
    4. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
    5. Brett Smith, Wyoming

     

    Running Back

    1. Tre Mason, Auburn
    2. Storm Johnson, Central Florida
    3. Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State
    4. Lorenzo Taliaferro, Coastal Carolina
    5. DeAnthony Thomas, Oregon

     

    Fullback

    1. Jay Prosch, Auburn
    2. J.C. Copeland, LSU
    3. Gator Hoskins, Marshall

     

    Wide Receiver

    1. Cody Latimer, Indiana
    2. Robert Herron, Wyoming
    3. John Brown, Pittsburgh State
    4. Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma
    5. Albert Wilson, Georgia State

     

    Tight End

    1. Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
    2. Arthur Lynch, Georgia
    3. J.D. Duncan, Dixie State
    4. Colt Lyerla, Oregon
    5. Blake Annen, Cincinnati

     

    Offensive Tackle

    1. Morgan Moses, Virginia
    2. Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
    3. Michael Schofield, Michigan
    4. Wes Johnson, Vanderbilt
    5. Parker Graham, Oklahoma State

     

    Offensive Guard

    1. Joel Bitonio, Nevada
    2. Dakota Dozier, Furman
    3. Charles Leno, Boise State
    4. Donald Hawkins, Texas
    5. John Martinez, USC

     

    Center

    1. Travis Swanson, Arkansas
    2. Bryan Stork, Florida State
    3. Matt Armstrong, Grand Valley State

     

    Defensive End

    1. Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
    2. Will Sutton, Arizona State
    3. Brent Urban, Virginia
    4. Shamar Stephen, Connecticut
    5. Bruce Gaston, Purdue

     

    Defensive Tackle

    1. Louis Nix, Notre Dame
    2. Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech
    3. Ryan Carrethers, Arkansas State

     

    Inside Linebacker

    1. Chris Borland, Wisconsin
    2. Shayne Skov, Stanford
    3. Avery Williamson, Kentucky
    4. Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky
    5. Chris Young, Arizona State

     

    Outside Linebacker

    1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
    2. Khalil Mack, Buffalo
    3. Kyle Van Noy, BYU
    4. Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
    5. Prince Shembo, Notre Dame

     

    Cornerback

    1. Bradley Roby, Ohio State
    2. Jason Verrett, TCU
    3. Marcus Roberson, Florida
    4. Jaylen Watkins, Florida
    5. Walt Aikens, Liberty

     

    Safety

    1. Deone Bucannon, Washington State
    2. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
    3. Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State

     

    Kicker/Punter

    1. Chris Boswell, Rice
    2. Tom Hornsey, Memphis
    3. Cairo Santos, Tulane

Round 1, Pick 1 (1)

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    Stephen Morton

    Team Needs: Quarterback, Cornerback, Outside Linebacker

    To pick or not to pick. That is the question.

    As ESPN's Ed Werder tweeted, there's a growing sentiment among NFL teams that the Texans are planning to trade down from No. 1.

    Those flames were fanned when the Atlanta Falcons (long rumored to be one of the teams most interested in moving up) had South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in for a second visit, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.

    That visit spurred Will Brinson of CBS Sports to include that hypothetical trade in his April 24 mock draft, forecasting that the Texans will slide back and grab Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. "Pro-ready quarterback as a consolation prize?" Brinson wrote. "Not too shabby."

    However, if the Texans stand pat and make the first overall pick themselves, the general consensus seems to be that it will not be a signal-caller.

    At least that's the word from ESPN's Adam Schefter (h/t Rotoworld), who recently stated that "the sense" is that the Texans will use the No. 1 overall pick on Clowney, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack or trade down.

    Clowney's old friends and foes in the SEC seem convinced he's the pick.

    South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier told The Dan Patrick Show (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk) he thinks the Texans "have to" make Clowney the first overall pick, calling him "a pass rusher like nobody I think I’ve ever seen in college football.”

    Alabama head coach Nick Saban (himself both a former defensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL) agreed, telling Jonathan Jones of The Charlotte Observer, "I feel like he’ll be a great professional player."

    Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/04/24/4863576/alabama-coach-nick-saban-visits.html#.U1p2IsfsUeO#storylink=cp 

Round 2, Pick 1 (33)

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    John Raoux

    Team Needs: Quarterback, Cornerback, Outside Linebacker

    What the Houston Texans do to kick off the second day of the 2014 NFL draft will depend a great deal on how they begin the first.

    If the Texans stand pat on Day 1 and take Mack or Clowney, there's going to be a lot of pressure on the team to draft a young quarterback to pair with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

    Part of that pressure is borne of the fact that the stock of many of this year's top quarterbacks has been slipping of late. So much so, in fact, that the NFL Network's Mike Mayock told Jim Corbett of USA Today he believes there could be several options open to Houston when the second round gets underway:

    There's four or five guys who are in that next level after (Johnny) Manziel and (Blake) Bortles. In no particular order, it's Fresno State's Derek Carr, LSU's Zach Mettenberger, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo, and Alabama's A.J. McCarron. Different teams like different flavors. They're the five most obvious ones who could go at the end of the first, the beginning of the second.

    Of course, if the Texans drop back and select a quarterback later in Round 1, then we're dealing with an entirely different kettle of fish.

    The depth of this year's class has left an embarrassment of riches for teams picking at the back of the first round or top of the second.

    Want to improve a secondary that was exposed at times in 2013? This is a very deep draft at the position, and players like Ohio State's Bradley Roby and TCU's Jason Verrett could fall into Day 2.

    Or the Texans could address the right side of the offensive line by adding fast-rising Nevada guard Joel Bitonio or Virginia tackle Morgan Moses.

    Pass rush more your speed? The Texans could look inside or out, bolstering the line with Notre Dame's Louis Nix or the linebackers with BYU's Kyle Van Noy.

    Whichever direction the Texans choose, one thing appears certain.

    The Texans are in an excellent position to add a pair of players in the first two rounds who should be immediate contributors. 

Round 3, Pick 1 (65)

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    Ross D. Franklin

    Team Needs: Inside Linebacker, Offensive Tackle, Cornerback

    It's a pretty safe assumption that by the first pick of the third round, the Texans will have addressed the quarterback position.

    Some pundits believe that the falling draft stock of this year's top signal-callers could allow one to slide to Round 2. Others, such as Bleacher Report's Alessandro Miglio, think the Texans may use some of their 11 picks (including this one) to move up and grab a quarterback.

    However, if the Texans have already grabbed a quarterback by Pick 65, there are plenty of other directions the team can go.

    In addition to the help at outside linebacker the Texans need, the team could also use a boost inside, especially given Brian Cushing's injury woes the past couple of years.

    There could be a couple of physical run-stuffers available at this juncture who would contribute immediately for the Texans in Wisconsin's Chris Borland and Stanford's Shayne Skov.

    Right tackle and cornerback have been sore spots for some time in Houston, so players such as Ohio State's Jack Mewhort and Florida's Marcus Roberson are also potential targets. 

Round 4, Pick 1 (101)

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Team Needs: Cornerback, Running Back, Offensive Tackle

    The Texans will kick off Day 3 of the draft the same way they did the first two. How those first three picks unfold will no doubt have a considerable impact on how the Texans attack their eye-popping eight third-day picks.

    One of those picks (at least) will probably be spent on a running back, especially given that starter Arian Foster and new backup Andre Brown both missed significant time due to injuries last year.

    Should the Texans choose to go that route with the first pick of the fourth round, there should be no shortage of candidates.

    The draft stock of even the best running backs isn't what it was 10 years ago. In fact, Central Florida's Storm Johnson, whom Bleacher Report's Ryan Riddle called the top prospect at the position in 2014, is projected as a Day 3 pick by Rob Rang of CBS Sports.

    In fact, the May 2 mock draft of Walter Football's Walter Cheripinsky predicted that Auburn's Tre Mason, considered by many as this year's top prospect at the position, could be available when Day 3 begins.

Round 4, Pick 35 (135) [Compensatory]

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Team Needs: Offensive Tackle, Offensive Guard, Defensive End 

    Pick 135 is the first of three compensatory picks the Texans will receive in 2014. With 11 picks overall in 2014 and fewer holes to fill than one might expect from a 2-14 team, the Texans have a lot of flexibility in the middle and late rounds of the draft.

    Every team in the NFL is looking to upgrade the offensive front essentially every season. That's especially true of the Texans at right tackle and left guard.

    That could lead the Texans to take a look at a player like Michigan tackle Michael Schofield, whom Dane Brugler of CBS Sports wrote is a "try-hard overachiever and leaves it all on the field with a top competitive nature."

    However, the Texans have a hole on the other side of the line opposite J.J. Watt, created by the departure of Antonio Smith. Virginia defensive tackle Brett Urban is one of a handful of players who could be a fit here as a mid-round pick who projects well as a 3-4 5-technique.

Round 5, Pick 1 (141)

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    David J. Phillip

    Team Needs: Tight End, Wide Receiver, Running Back 

    Houston won't have to wait long between their fifth and sixth picks, and given how many Day 3 picks the Texans have, it would hardly be a surprise to see the team use those picks to either move up in pursuit of another player or deal picks in return for compensation in 2015.

    However, if the Texans decide to use the 141st pick, it might be a good time to address the offensive skill positions.

    The Texans watched Owen Daniels join the Baltimore Ravens in free agency, leaving a hole at tight end.

    A player like Dixie State tight end Joe Don Duncan, whom Rob Rang of CBS Sports said "possesses reliable hands and enough fluidity to use as a "move" tight end or H-back," likely isn't going to unseat Garrett Graham on the depth chart. That doesn't mean the 6'3", 268-pounder can't make a contribution in Houston.

    Or the Texans could go the small-school route at running back with Isaiah Crowell, a "dynamic athlete with the explosive feet and shifty moves," according to Brugler and Rang.

    The character concerns that led to Crowell's dismissal from Georgia and subsequent enrollment at Alabama State are, of course, a worry, but the 5'11", 224-pounder's talent is undeniable.

    A slot receiver more your speed (to pardon a pun)? The Texans could look to tiny Pittsburgh State and the equally tiny John Brown, a 5'10" burner with 4.34 wheels.

Round 6, Pick 1 (177)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Team Needs: Inside Linebacker, Offensive Guard, Safety 

    When the sixth round gets underway with the Texans at Pick No. 177, many NFL teams will be wrapping up their drafts.

    The Texans, on the other hand, will still have quite a ways to go, with five picks over the last two rounds of the draft.

    Granted, those late picks won't necessarily be counted on as immediate contributors, but there's always the chance (slim though it may be) that an NFL team will find the next Alfred Morris or even Tom Brady late.

    Outside those "lottery pick" types, there's another direction the Texans could go: adding a player who is more likely to be a role player and special teamer than to ever crack the starting lineup on a consistent basis.

    Charlie Campbell of Walter Football thinks the Texans may be able to get a bit of both worlds at the top of the sixth round with Western Kentucky linebacker Andrew Jackson:

    Jackson was one of the most physical players in college football as he constantly laid the wood on linemen and ball-carriers. Jackson is a thumper of a linebacker. He has good instincts and some quickness, but his pass coverage is going to be the big issue that makes him a two-down linebacker.

    Those coverage deficiencies may cap Jackson's NFL upside, but the Texans could use some depth behind and/or a strong-side inside linebacker next to Brian Cushing.

Round 6, Pick 5 (181) [Acquired from Oakland Raiders for Matt Schaub]

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Team Needs: Offensive Line, Safety, Running Back

    The Houston Texans pick twice near the top of the sixth round, the second courtesy of the offseason trade that sent quarterback Matt Schaub to the Oakland Raiders.

    Given the luck that teams have had with the likes of Morris and Zac Stacy late in the NFL draft, perhaps the Texans will add the running back we've mentioned before at this point in the draft.

    There should still be more than a few viable options available, from 220-pound bruisers like Coastal Carolina's Lorenzo Taliaferro to complementary speedsters like Oregon's DeAnthony Thomas, whom Rob Rang of CBS Sports called "without question, the most electric player in the 2014 draft."

    The Texans could also stand to add depth along the offensive front, and Charlie Campbell of Walter Football thinks that could lead the Texans to look at versatile lineman such as Vanderbilt's Wes Johnson.

    Johnson is an undersized, but versatile, offensive lineman. He played well in 2013, including a good performance against South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Johnson started at center, guard and tackle in his career and played left tackle in 2013.

    Or after an uneven rookie season from strong safety D.J. Swearinger, the Texans may want to warm up the seat under the youngster by adding a player like Baylor's Ahmad Dixon, whom Dane Brugler of CBS Sports writes is a "excellent size/speed athlete with the fluidity and natural speed to cover the entire field."

Round 6, Pick 35 (211) [Compensatory]

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Team Needs: Quarterback, Tight End, Offensive Line 

    Compensatory picks are a bit like found money in the NFL. Sure, the vast majority come fairly late in the draft, but there isn't a team in the league who is going to pass up an extra bite at the proverbial apple.

    Two years ago, the Washington Redskins turned some heads during the draft. After selecting quarterback Robert Griffin second overall, the Redskins then went the signal-caller route again in the fourth round with Michigan State's Kirk Cousins.

    That ended up working out relatively well, opening the door for another NFL team to adopt a similar strategy.

    Like, say, the Texans with a player who is a personal favorite of one of the NFL draft analysts here at Bleacher Report.

    On a recent appearance on the Kellogg's Komments podcast, Ryan Riddle revealed a surprise second-ranked quarterback on his big board: Brett Smith of Wyoming.

    The 6'1", 205-pounder, who threw for over 3,300 yards in 2013, "is an underrated passer who has the talent to be drafted among the top 100 picks," according to Rob Rang of CBS Sports.

    Houston could do worse as a developmental third quarterback.

Round 7, Pick 1 (216)

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Team Needs: Defensive Line, Offensive Line, Defensive Back 

    Sure, every team in the NFL hopes to hit it big with a late draft pick, uncovering the next Shannon Sharpe or Marques Colston.

    Both were seventh-round picks.

    However, the reality is that most seventh-round picks have a hard time making a 53-man roster, much less any real dent in the National Football League.

    That isn't to say Pick 216 has no value. If nothing else the Texans could look to bolster their depth up front or in the defensive backfield, areas in which every team needs help just about every year.

    Along the offensive front, the Texans could choose from the likes of Oklahoma State tackle Parker Graham or Texas guard Donald Hawkins, both of whom have the ability to serve as depth at both tackle and guard.

    Draftek's consensus mock also has the Texans using this late pick on the offensive line, predicting that Houston will add Missouri tackle Justin Britt.

Round 7, Pick 41 (256) [Compensatory, "Mr. Irrelevant"]

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    Dave Einsel/Associated Press

    Team Needs: World Peace, Happiness for All Mankind, A Lombardi Trophy 

    In 2014, the honor of drafting Mr. Irrelevant falls to the Houston Texans by virtue of a compensatory pick.

    That title, bestowed on the final pick of each year's draft, rates the recipient an honor of sorts, as he's invited to Newport Beach, California, to participate in Irrelevant Week, during which the player is awarded the Lowsman Trophy.

    No, I'm not kidding.

    However, odds are the Texans won't be looking for a whole lot from the last pick in 2014. Last year's Mr. Irrelevant, tight end Justice Cunningham, had one catch for four yards as a rookie.

    With that said, though, there has been one player rise from Mr. Irrelevant to starter: Kansas City Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop, who was drafted in 2009.

Latest Draft Buzz

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    USA TODAY Sports

    With the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft, there's sure to be no shortage of draft buzz and speculation where the Houston Texans are concerned.

    Here's some of the latest: 

    • Beat writer John McClain of The Houston Chronicle has predicted for months that the Texans would draft a quarterback with the first overall pick. With one week to go until the draft, however, McClain wrote that, "As it stands, I believe the Texans are trying to decide between defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and quarterback Johnny Manziel with the first overall pick."
    • We may not know who the Texans are taking first overall, but it appears they do. That's the latest from Brian Smith of The Houston Chronicle, who tweeted that general manager Rick Smith said, "If we take the first pick, we know who we want. ... We are open to moving the first pick."
    • There's been more than a little speculation that the Texans could have a potential trade partner for the first overall pick with the Atlanta Falcons, who pick sixth. However, at least one source doesn't see it happening. According to SportsRadio 610 in Atlanta, "The Falcons are interested in trading up to acquire a player they value above their spot at No. 6, but they do not believe that player is worth picking with the No. 1 pick."
    • There's been no shortage of talk regarding the possibility of the Texans trading down in the first round this year, but team owner Bob McNair said no decisions have been made in that regard. Speaking with Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston, McNair said, "Really at this point we don't know and we really won't know until right up at the time we have to make a decision because people are talking to us about the possibility of trading down and it's a question of what people offer, whether their offer is such that it's worthwhile to trade down."
    • According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the odds of the Texans drafting Clowney may be dropping. Rapoport tweeted on May 4 that "in talking to people who know Texans GM Rick Smith well, I no longer believe it’s a certainty that Jadeveon Clowney would be their 1st pick."
    • If the Texans' past drafts are any indication, then Clowney or Mack will be the first overall pick in the draft. As The Houston Chronicle points out, since 2004 the Texans have taken a defensive player with their first pick eight of 11 times, the highest percentage in the NFL over that span.
    • ESPN's Ed Werder suggested Wednesday that if the Texans trade down the team has a Plan B in mind. Rotoworld reports that while appearing on "On The Clock," Werder said that "his sense" is that if the team trades down "the most likely target" is Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles.

     

    Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.

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