Houston Texans Draft Picks: Results, Analysis and Grades
Finally, after months of talking in circles and countless mock drafts, the 2014 NFL draft is here! The extra two weeks of "should the Houston Texans trade down" conversation added a few gray hairs to my head. Thanks, Rockettes.
The 2013 NFL season was long and miserable for Texans fans, but getting the No. 1 overall pick did help ease the pain. With that first pick, the Texans obviously have the pick of the litter, but that hasn't made their decision any easier.
As Texans owner Bob McNair pointed out recently at his press conference, if the best overall player available was a quarterback, their decision would be easy. However, as reported by NFL.com, McNair admits that the best player is a defensive end:
You take a guy like Jadeveon Clowney. He's obviously the best player in the draft, but he's a defensive end. He's not a quarterback. If he's a quarterback and the best player it's easy, but that's not the case. So can that defensive player have a greater impact on the success of your team than one of these quarterbacks? It's not a sure thing that he is.
Will they trade away the opportunity to select possibly the best pass-rushing prospect of the last decade? If they do, could that mean that they'll select popular fan choice Johnny Manziel from nearby Texas A&M? Either way, we'll get our answer soon.
Buckle up, Texans fans. The fun is about to start.
1st Round, 1st Overall: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
After all the huffing and puffing the Texans decided to stay with their pick and select the player that's been at the top of the 2014 NFL draft board for the last two years. Despite trade rumors that were thrown around more than the f-bomb in the movie Scarface, Jadeveon Clowney is coming to Houston which was the best choice possible for the franchise.
The Texans are getting an athletic freak that has a chance to change the game. Clowney's combine workout was very impressive, but the force plate test he took a couple weeks ago was mind blowing.
At 264 pounds, Jadeveon Clowney scored a 71 on his speed of movement test on the force plate today. Similar score to Devin Hester. ...— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 25, 2014
... To contextualize Clowney's score of 71 further, that's out of 80, which is where an Olympic sprinter would be. Pretty incredible.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 25, 2014
Sparta founder Phil Wagner laughed reading Clowney's results. Speed graded similar to Hester, strength was at average for an NFL o-lineman.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 25, 2014
His speed of movement tested out comparable to Devin Hester. Clowney stands at 6'5'' and 266 pounds compared to a cornerback/receiver in Hester at 5'10'' and 185 pounds; his ceiling is a mile high.
In the season before his often criticized junior year, Clowney dominated the best conference in America. During his sophomore season Clowney racked up 13 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles. He's a disruptive force that could turn the Texans defense into the most feared in the league very soon.
Clowney will spend most of his time as the Texans rush linebacker in their 3-4 defense but don't be surprised to see him moved around a bit. Coach O'Brien told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle that they plan to play in the nickel package around 70 percent of the time so Clowney will get a chance to play with his hand on the ground as a defensive end. Either way, he'll be lined up as an edge rusher and that's what he excels at.
2nd Round, 33rd Overall: Xavier Su'a Filo, OG UCLA
In what I think was a surprising move, the Houston Texans selected Xavier Su'a Filo to play on their offensive line. Grabbing a guard was definitely something that the Texans had to do before the draft was over, but I thought they had bigger needs to address and would find better value at the position later in the draft.
The Texans let veteran guard Wade Smith walk this offseason after being their starting left guard for the last four seasons and making the Pro Bowl in 2012. At age 33 Smith was on the decline so it was a good move to let him go and attempt to get younger at the position.
Strong upper body with a well-proportioned frame. Nimble enough to get to the second level and looks natural pulling. Smooth body control and flexible hips to seal. Natural bend, balance and base with a strong anchor to generate power in the run game, can squat an elephant. Good anticipation and engages well at the point of attack.
Lance Zierlein who I respect as an evaluator of offensive lineman because he watches more tape on them than anyone I know also likes Xavier Su'a Filo and had him rated as the second best guard available.
Su'a Filo is one of the most complete guards in this draft with good foot quickness, plus lateral movement, power and an ability to play in any scheme. Su'a Filo rarely oversets in pass protection and is able to redirect when players get to his edge. I have some concerns about lack of length as I believe there will be NFL interior linemen who are able to neutralize his power by getting into his chest quickly with their hands.
He really jumps off the field at you when asked to make 2nd level blocks since he is able to get up on LBs quickly, break down and get guys blocked. Even more impressive is that he shows the foot quickness and timing necessary to be a plus zone blocker which is rare for such a powerful player.
My only knock on the pick is where it was made. I think bigger impact players were available and would have preferred that they wait to address guard until the third or fourth round.
3rd Round, 65th Overall: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE Iowa
With the first pick in the 3rd round the Houston Texans selected Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. The Texans said they would stay true to their board and select the top overall player remaining, a strategy it appears they stuck to because they had bigger needs than a tight end.
Bill O'Brien used a lot of formations with multiple tight ends while he was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots so no surprise that they selected one during the draft, but where they picked a tight end was a surprise to me. The Texans have just two tight ends on the roster worthy of getting snaps with Garrett Graham and Ryan Griffin, so if the Texans want to use multiple tight end sets they needed to add another player at the position.
At 6'5'' and 265 pounds Fiedorowicz isn't far away from having offensive tackle size, so no surprise that scouts like Dane Brugler from CBS Sports think he'll be a good blocker at the pro level.
Good versatility, showing the ability to come off a down block to get past defenders as a receiver. Good body control and soft hands for such a large man, traits that have led Washington junior Austin Seferian-Jenkins to earn a lot of attention as a possible first-round pick. Fiedorowicz isn't as flashy as ASJ, but he's just as big and fast in a straight-line and is a much more physical and attentive blocker.
I think Fiedorowicz will be a solid player and a plus blocker in the NFL. I like that they added a tight end because of the type of offense they want to run, but I don't like where they took that player. Tight end was a need, but wasn't a bigger need than adding a quarterback, right tackle, running back, nose tackle, defensive end, slot receiver, or slot cornerback.
Fiedorowicz is not a threat as a receiver. He had just 299 receiving yards during all of last season and just 899 receiving yards total during his career at Iowa. He's a blocking tight end only.
Good player, bad value. Picking a blocking tight end, who will likely be your third tight end in the third round was a bad decision in my opinion. They should have addressed the need much later in the draft.
3rd Round, 83rd Overall (TRADE): Louis Nix, DT Notre Dame
Honestly I'm surprised Louis Nix made it to this pick; thought he had a good chance to be selected in the first round. The knock on Nix that I keep hearing and reading that apparently caused him to slide is that he's just a two down player because of how often teams have to play in their nickel package in today's pass first league.
That may be true, but getting Louis Nix this late in the draft is a huge steal in my opinion. Nix is an impact player at a huge need position and a player that many scouts had a first round grade on (CBS has him ranked as the 24th overall prospect). Even if he has to come off the field on third down, if he's dominating on first and second down who cares?
Nix isn't being drafted early because this is a passing league & NTs come out in sub packages. Why would you draft a NT who gets few snaps?— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) May 10, 2014
Plays hard with a feisty motor. Applies quick pressure by splitting gaps, using a quick arm-over swim move and bull-rushing his opponent deep into the pocket. Has the hand strength and initial get-off momentum to bully blockers on their heels, showing leverage and active limbs. Keeps his eyes on the ball and shows the awareness to anticipate and track plays.
While he flashes terrific talent, Nix wasn't able to consistently make the type of impact that many expected in 2013. Nix is light on his feet and carries his weight tremendously for a 340+ pounder with range to make plays up and down the line of scrimmage.
In my opinion Louis Nix is an impact player at one of the biggest need positions on the team; great pick.
Round 4, 135th Overall (Compensatory): Tom Savage, QB Pittsburgh
After waiting two days and selecting four other players, the Texans have finally drafted a quarterback. Problems is, the quarterback they chose was Tom Savage.
In my opinion Tom Savage is a classic example of a player with inflated draft value because he "looks the part" despite never performing at a high level in college. Every year team's fall in love with a quarterback who has great size and arm strength because they believe they can fix his numerous other flaws. In my opinion picks like this are ego picks on the part of the head coach especially when he's a quarterback guru like Bill O'Brien.
Does Savage have upside? Of course, but I hate the idea of taking a quarterback based only on projecting what he might be able to do at the next level without ever seeing the evidence on his game film. Every strength you read about Savage has to do with his physical attributes but there is way more to playing the position than just height and arm strength.
Is he accurate? Can he quickly go through his progression and get rid of the ball on time? Can he anticipate and throw receivers open instead of having to wait for them to flash open? The answer to all those questions for Savage in my opinion is no.
Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com highlights the areas in which Tom Savage will need to improve.
Needs to speed up his clock and show better awareness in the pocket. Needs to quicken his eyes, expand his field vision and learn to manipulate safeties. Tends to stare down his target. Forces some throws into traffic. Erratic accuracy. Slow of foot -- not a scramble threat. Can improve play-action fake. Had some duds -- struggled against Florida State, Virginia and Virginia Tech. Mental toughness needs to be looked into.
Prototypical size and arm strength for the position but guys like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have proved that those physical traits aren't a requirement. I trust O'Brien and his ability to get the most out of a quarterback like he did with Matt McGloin at Penn State, but I think this was too early for a developmental quarterback.
Round 6, 177th Overall: Jeoffrey Pagan, DE Alabama
The Houston Texans scratched another need off the board with the selection of defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan from Alabama with the first pick in Round 6.
At first glance the pick seems like a reach; CBS Sports has Pagan ranked as the 266th best overall prospect. There are only 256 picks in this year's draft so that puts Pagan in the range of being an undrafted free agent.
Jeoffrey Pagan does fit the size requirement of most teams for a 3-4 defensive end at 6'3'' and 310 pounds as Rob Rang of CBS Sports points out.
Built like a Coke machine - wide and heavy - and is just as difficult to move. Anchors well at the point of attack due to size and strength. Pops the offensive lineman with a strong initial punch and shows good patience to wait for the running back to come to him, before forcefully ripping free. Active hands and shows surprising burst to close when he gets a free lane.
Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com points out some of the weaknesses that led to Pagan being rated as a late round prospect to possibly an undrafted free agent.
Thick, tight hips -- cannot work the edges. Gets blown off the ball by double teams. Needs to play with better extension, refine his hand use, develop counters and quicken his shed timing. Heavy-legged when required to redirect. Limited pass-rush value. Only a one-year starter. Average production -- did not make splash plays.
Pagan fits a need but that's only if he gets on the field. As a sixth round pick that's doubtful. Personally I thought there were other prospects available at need positions that I would have rather seen them select like Storm Johnson or Christian Jones.
Round 6, 181st Overall (From Oakland): Alfred Blue, RB LSU
The Houston Texans needed to add a running back during this year's draft and did so with their second sixth round pick when they selected Alfred Blue from LSU.
Another reach pick at first glance. Alfred Blue was rated as the 323rd overall prospect by CBS Sports in a draft with only 256 picks. I liked other prospects like Lache Seastrunk and Storm Johnson better than Blue as a sixth round running back prospect.
Being a big back at 6'2'' and 223 pounds and having experience in a pro-style offense are both strengths with his game according to Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com.
Terrific size and musculature. Inside-outside ability. Nice vision, instincts and patience. Has good speed for a back his size -- opens up his stride in the clear. Strong runner -- heavy on contact. Powers through arm tackles and runs with forward lean. Wields an effective stiff-arm. Looks to have good hands in limited exposure. Flashes playmaking ability. Has tread on his tires -- averaged just 52 carries per season at LSU. Has experience in a pro-style offense and on special teams. Clear upside.
Blue was used as a reserve back at LSU and had only 209 career carries over his four seasons. Some might see that as a negative but I see it the other way because it means he still has plenty of tread left on the tire. Being a backup at most schools would be a negative, but LSU has put out a ton of NFL running backs recently so I don't think his reserve role should be a concern.
I don't dislike Blue as a prospect but thought there were better running backs available when the Texans decided to select him. If Alfred Blue was their guy, they should have traded back or waited to take him considering where he was ranked.
Round 6, 211th Overall (Compensatory): Jay Prosch, FB Auburn
Fullback is not exactly a sexy pick that will have fans rushing to their computer to order a jersey, but the Texans did need a fullback. They addressed that need late in round 6 by selecting Jay Prosch of Auburn.
The position has become devalued over recent years with the league becoming more and more pass first, so the round he was selected in doesn't accurately reflect his talent. CBS Sports had Jay Prosch ranked as the top prospect at fullback and gave him a fifth round grade.
Prosch is a great blocker who was an unsung hero in Auburn's amazing rushing attack last season. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports loves Prosch as a run blocker, loves his attitude and thinks he can contribute on special teams.
Stout frame with broad shoulders and packed muscle build...brute take-on strength and natural power to run over defenders at the POA or steer them in the direction he wants...understands leverage and pad level, staying low and keeping his feet moving...looks to finish his man, blocking through the echo of the whistle...little hesitation to his game with alert eyes and the awareness to quickly find his target and attack
impact player on ST coverage...tough and durable and hates to leave the field...self-starter with a team-first attitude and ideal character on and off the field...strong workout habits and pushes himself in the weight room...coachable with the competitive drive and heart that makes him a leader and favorite in the locker room.
Prosch will be a day one starter as the Texans fullback and has a chance to make a great impact in the running game. The Texans have drafted several physical run blockers with the earlier selections of guard Xavier Su'a Filo and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz to go along with Jay Prosch in Round 6.
The only knock I have on this pick is that they had bigger needs like slot corner and inside linebacker that needed to be addressed.
If I'm Arian Foster however, I would write a thank you note to Rick Smith for those three selections.
Round 7, 216th Overall: Andre Hal, CB Vanderbilt
The Texans had a need for a slot corner, whether or not Andre Hal is better suited as an outside corner or slot corner will have to be something they find out during training camp. If he's better suited to play outside, they could have a need there next year with Kareem Jackson entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com likes Hal's skill as a man-cover corner and thinks he can contribute on special teams; an important factor when drafting players in the late rounds.
Has man-cover skills. Good balance and flexibility to mirror receivers off the line. Enough speed to run with receivers. Good zone awareness, read-and-react and plant-and-drive. Confident and competitive. Has kickoff-return experience. Solid intangibles.
Dane Brugler from CBS Sports highlights a few of his weaknesses like less than ideal size and arm length.
Average-at-best size with shorter arms and smaller hands. Too easily eliminated by blockers and will be out-matched vs. bigger receivers. Lacks the power to consistently finish, too often sliding off the ballcarrier and struggling to break down in space. Will be trucked by aggressive ballcarriers. Lacks ideal speed and struggles to recover after a false step.
As a seventh round pick the Texans obviously aren't going to expect Andre Hal to come in and start right away. Even if Hal only develops into a reserve player, the Texans needed depth at the position with the players they've already lost and the players they could potentially lose next year.
Round 7, 256th Overall (Compensatory): Lonnie Ballentine, FS Memphis
The Houston Texans made free safety Lonnie Ballentine their selection with pick no. 256 making the former Memphis player this year's Mr. Irrelevant.
No surprise that Ballentine was the pick here, he came in for a visit with the Texans back in March. The only thing surprising about the pick is that it wasn't really a need at this point after they added two safeties during free agency.
In my opinion the best strategy for landing good players late in the draft is to pick guys that fit your height/weight/speed requirements for the position and that are fits in your scheme. Every player drafted late has flaws so you better make sure you're getting a guy that can do what you want from his position.
If the player has plus traits athletically, then in my opinion he has a better chance to eventually succeed as a developmental or project player. Players picked in the seventh round aren't going to have a lot of things about them that wow you, so I want them to have something tangible that can be coached up and developed.
Lonnie Ballentine is a good athlete with size and great speed which he displayed by running a fast 40-yard dash time according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com.
Ballentine ran the 40 twice at his pro day and posted times of 4.39 and 4.45 seconds (hand-timed). He also posted a vertical jump of 38 inches.
Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com also likes his physical attributes.
A long-limbed, rangy back-half defender with intriguing straight-line speed, range and leaping ability to compete for a job as a backup safety and special-teams performer. Has intriguing physical tools to be molded if he bows up.