Houston Texans' Day 2 2014 NFL Draft Primer
The Houston Texans made the smart choice and selected the best overall prospect in the draft by taking Jadeveon Clowney from South Carolina. Clowney is an explosive athlete who has the potential to be a dominant pass-rusher; something the Texans desperately needed to add.
Going into this year's draft the Texans had a need for either a starter or depth at every position except left tackle and outside wide receiver. They could have gone in about a thousand different directions, but the only one that made sense to me was to take Clowney.
If there was a great quarterback prospect available in this draft then that would have been the pick, but without one, the only logical choice was Clowney. The Houston Texans selected David Carr over Julius Peppers in 2002; nice to see history not repeat.
The job of Rick Smith to return this team to the playoffs is far from done, but this was a great first step.
Day 1 Recap and Analysis
The Texans had about a dozen boxes to check off during this draft; one down, 11 to go. After months of talk and speculation as to who they had at the top of their board and whether or not they might trade down, the Texans didn't budge from their spot and took the top overall player available.
Passing on quarterback had to be a difficult decision but it was the right call with no quarterback even close to Clowney as an overall prospect. No position is more important than quarterback, but adding a pass-rusher was their second biggest need in my opinion. When your team has the top overall pick and one player is so clearly viewed as the top prospect, you take that player.
With Clowney and J.J. Watt on the roster the Texans could have the best pass rush in the league within a year or two. They already right now have two of the top five most talented pass-rushers on the planet in my opinion. With the attention those two will draw, they'll also impact their teammates by giving them more one-on-one pass-rushing opportunities.
Clowney will start at outside linebacker on day one and be an impact player. Clowney will make plays and make Texans fans forget quickly about the other options available at the top of the draft. With one big need taken care of, expect the Texans to look for a quarterback on Day 2.
Updated Needs for the Houston Texans
The Texans still have a ton of needs and 10 picks remaining as of now; their options are almost limitless. Rick Smith has a track record of moving around during the middle rounds so expect the Texans to be active during Round 2 and Round 3.
I would be shocked if the Texans finished this draft without taking a quarterback they hope will be their quarterback of the future. None of the quarterbacks on their roster right now are their future so the Texans will take a quarterback soon and likely pick up two before the draft is over.
In my opinion this quarterback class is more quantity than high quality so the Texans should stick to their board and not reach for a player over a better player at another need position. With only three quarterbacks off the board there are many attractive options available.
Every Texans fan hopes Arian Foster can return to his 2010 or 2011 form, but he'll be 28 years old when the season starts so the team should start thinking about the future. On top of that Ben Tate left in free agency so they'll have to add some young legs at some point. The running backs remaining on the Texans roster rushed for under 1,000 yards last season. I don't think Coach O'Brien is comfortable going into next season with what they currently have.
Coach Bill O'Brien told reporters including Drew Dougherty of HoustonTexans.com (h/t Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com) that slot receiver was an important position for his offense and that they would likely target one during the draft. Keshawn Martin is the only slot receiver on the roster and has been nearly a no show with only 32 career receptions over two NFL seasons. If slot receiver is important to Coach O'Brien, he'll need to add one during the draft.
Derek Newton has been a disaster at right tackle since being forced into the starting role after the Texans cut Eric Winston. Via Dave Zangaro at CSN Houston, Pro Football Focus graded him as an overall negative for last season. In my opinion the struggles in the running game and specifically with Foster have been largely the result of poor play at right tackle.
The Texans have a couple young guys in David Quessenberry and Brennan Williams who will compete for the position but they should add in another young player to make sure they get the position right.
The Texans lost two of their three starting defensive linemen from last season so adding players up front will be a priority. They added Jerrell Powe but I don't believe he'll be a starter after reading this scouting report from Patrick Starr of State of the Texans.
The Texans do have a couple players I like in Jared Crick and Tim Jamison still on the roster, but they were better fits in Wade Phillips' one gap system that was close to a 4-3 in my opinion. They'll contribute, but the Texans should add a player or two up front before the draft is over.
If defensive line isn't the thinnest position group on the roster then it has to be inside linebacker. The Texans lost both Joe Mays and Darryl Sharpton as free-agent departures and Brian Cushing is coming back from a season-ending knee injury for the second year in a row; the position is a big concern.
Clowney and Whitney Mercilus are the likely starters at outside linebacker which could mean that Brooks Reed will slide over to inside linebacker; a move that was talked about often last season. Even if he does, the Texans should still invest a mid-round pick in the position.
The Texans didn't draft a single cornerback during the 2013 draft, cut slot corner Brice McCain and haven't added one yet during free agency. The Texans immediate need is for a slot corner after the departure of McCain but they'll need an outside corner soon as well.
With Kareem Jackson going into the last year of his rookie contract and veteran Johnathan Joseph being a possible cap casualty after this season because of his high salary and advanced age, the Texans need to add more corners in case they lose one or both of them.
Top Day 2 Targets
When asked to describe what he looks for in a quarterback, Coach O'Brien told Deepi Sidhu of HoustonTexans.com that he likes a quarterback with intelligence and accuracy (h/t Josh Alper of NBC Sports).
O'Brien likes accuracy over a cannon of an arm for starting QB in NFL. Wants him to be hardest working guy on team. #Texans— Deepi Sidhu (@DeepSlant) March 31, 2014
O'Brien says his system will allow QB to make decision at line of scrimmage. Will use "formation indicators" to help him make that decision.— Deepi Sidhu (@DeepSlant) March 31, 2014
Those two attributes are two of the things many scouts like Dane Brugler of CBS list as strengths of Garoppolo. He appears to check off all the boxes for what Coach O'Brien wants and will likely be a guy they consider with their second-round pick.
Louis Nix III
Personally I'm surprised that Nix slipped this far; I thought he would have gone off the board in the mid or low 20s of the first round. Quarterback is likely at the top of the Texans wish list at this point but they have to consider Nix.
The Texans need a starter at nose tackle and there is a deep drop in talent after Nix in my opinion. CBS Sports has Nix ranked as the 24th overall prospect. The next nose tackle I like is Justin Ellis out of Louisiana Tech who CBS ranks as the 98th overall prospect. Quarterback is a bigger need but there will be quality quarterbacks available in later rounds; a nose tackle the quality of Nix will not be.
The Texans need a replacement for Antonio Smith who left and joined the Oakland Raiders in free agency. Tuitt is a perfect fit in my opinion to play the 5-technique in the Texans 3-4 defense and would be their starter at the defensive end spot opposite of J.J. Watt on day one.
Mike Reiss from ESPN.com points out that Tuitt came with some baggage as questions about his work ethic and injury history followed him from college. Those concerns are likely what caused him to drop out of the first round because I believe he has first-round talent and upside.
The defensive end visited the Texans back in April so my guess is that Tuitt sits near the top of their board at this moment.
According to the State of the Texans blog the Texans talked to Carr at the NFL combine but didn't bring him in for an official visit. They did bring in Garoppolo which means they likely prefer the Eastern Illinois quarterback, but Carr should at least be discussed.
If the Texans trade back and Garoppolo is gone when they go back on the clock, then I think Carr could be the choice. Carr is an impressive prospect with a plus arm according to Nolan Nawrocki and is one of my top three quarterbacks remaining.
If the Texans decide to take Louis Nix or Stephon Tuitt with their second-round pick, then Zach Mettenberger will likely be the best quarterback remaining at the start of the third round. Mettenberger has a huge arm and showed good improvement during his one season under former NFL coach Cam Cameron which showed to me that he has a high ceiling if paired up with good coaching.
If the Texans get their quarterback in Round 2 and both Tuitt and Nix are off the board, then Mewhort would be a good choice as their third-round pick. The Texans have a need at both left guard and right tackle which makes the versatile Mewhort an intriguing option. Mewhort started games at both guard spots and left tackle while in college giving him a little extra value.
Having a player like Mewhort would give his team flexibility when dealing with injuries and give them options while trying to decide on position battles during training camp. Not sure how high Mewhort is on their board but they did talk to him at the Senior Bowl according to State of the Texans so I wouldn't be surprised if he was one of their picks on Day 2.
What Are the Experts Saying?
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
With Clowney at No. 1, most peg a quarterback here, but Houston can get Tom Savage in the third round, get the behemoth nose tackle.
Inconsistent pocket passer with terrific size and arm strength who passed through three colleges.
WalterFootball.com: Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame
Most expect the Texans to take a quarterback here, but as Charlie Campbell reported in the NFL Draft Rumor Mill, Houston is considering waiting until Round 3 for a signal-caller because it believes a first-round talent will fall to No. 33. Such a player could be Stephon Tuitt, who would fill a need. The Texans need to replace Antonio Smith.
3 Predictions for Day 2
The Houston Texans will select a quarterback
The Texans made the right move and the obvious choice with Jadeveon Clowney in Round 1 but now have to find a quarterback. I'm not saying that the quarterback will necessarily come at pick no. 33, but they will pick a quarterback before Day 2 is over. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not their long-term answer so they need to pick a player they think can be that guy.
If I had to guess, that player will be Jimmy Garoppolo, but I wouldn't rule out Derek Carr or Zach Mettenberger. As I've discussed on other slides, Garoppolo appears to possess the attributes Coach O'Brien looks for in a quarterback so if they stay at pick No. 33, he'll likely be the guy they select.
The Houston Texans will make a trade
Rick Smith has a track record of being active and aggressive in trading picks after Round 1. He's previously moved around to pick up Ben Tate in the second round in 2010, Brandon Harris in the second round in 2011 and DeVier Posey in the third round in 2012.
I believe the biggest strength of this draft is how deep it is between Round 2 and Round 3 so it would benefit the Texans to trade down from one of their spots to pick up an extra pick.
The Houston Texans won't take a wide receiver
They need a slot receiver as I've mentioned on previous slides but this draft is very deep with quality prospects at that position. The player I've targeted as their next slot receiver is Jalen Saunders who CBS Sports has ranked as a sixth-round prospect. The Texans have bigger needs so it would be foolish to reach for a player at a position with such strong depth.
Updated Houston Texans Mock Draft
Round 2, 33rd overall: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
The Texans might consider trading down here but after losing out on Teddy Bridgewater when the Vikings jumped ahead of them at no. 32, they won't take that risk again.
What do we know about the type of quarterbacks Bill O'Brien likes? Not enough to pinpoint any particular prospect, but he has mentioned a few qualities that narrow it down. This quote on what O'Brien looks for comes from Don Banks of Sports Illustrated.
To me it's really two things. The guy has to be able to throw the ball accurately and a guy has to have intelligence. He has to have a quick mind. He's got to be able to process things in two or three seconds.
We know that Garoppolo had a visit with the Texans so they're clearly interested.
Round 3, 75th overall (Trade): Jack Mewhort, OT/OG Ohio State
The Texans have a need at both left guard and right tackle which Mewhort a great prospect to target since he's capable of playing both positions.
Guard might be Mewhort's best position due to having shorter-than-ideal arms for the tackle position. Putting him up against fast edge-rushers could be an issue since scouts like Lance Zierlein from The Sideline View also question his athleticism:
I can promise you that these same offensive line coaches will watch film on Mewhort and see just how well-coached he's been and how fundamentally sound he is in both the running game and passing game. Mewhort uses excellent hand placement but doesn't have the length to just keep pass rushers at the end of his punch. I suspect his limited athleticism will cause issues with backside cutoffs and reach blocks on the next level.
Click here for a breakdown of the trade involved with this pick.
Round 4, 101st overall: Christian Jones, LB, Florida State
Similar to the running back position, the Texans lost players to free agency at linebacker on top of having a star trying to come off major surgery. Christian Jones is a versatile athlete who can play at either outside linebacker or inside linebacker in the Texans 3-4 scheme according to Lance Zierlein of The Sideline View.
For more on this pick check out my previous mock draft.
Round 4, 110th overall (from Rams): Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
With Arian Foster coming off back surgery, the Texans at least need some young legs to provide depth at running back. If that running back they draft for depth happens to develop into a starter that would be even better because Foster, who will be 28 years old when the season starts, is quickly approaching the end of his prime.
Sims reminds me a lot of former NFL running back Charlie Garner. Like Garner, Sims is dangerous both as a runner and receiver. Sims came to NRG Stadium in Houston for a visit recently so it appears that the Texans are definitely interested in the former Houston Cougar.
He would be a massive steal in the fourth round.
Round 4, 135th overall: Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon
They didn't add a single corner during the 2013 NFL draft and released their slot corner from the last couple seasons, Brice McCain before free agency started this offseason. Cornerback remains an urgent need.
Rang from CBS Sports expands on Mitchell's skills in his breakdown of the cornerback:
Sports a lean, athletic frame with long arms and a gambling mentality that can result in big plays. Fluid hips to change directions and shows good acceleration out of his turns to run with receivers across the middle or downfield. Alert defender who reads the quarterback and receiver, responding well when the ball is in the air. Very confident in his ability to close. Will bait quarterbacks, allowing room to receivers and breaking downhill hard to close in a flash. Competes for the football, showing good timing to leap, as well as the hand-eye coordination to battle bigger receivers. Showed significant improvement as an interceptor in 2013, snaring five passes after just two combined over his previous two starting seasons.
Round 5, 141st overall (Compensatory): E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
The Texans need multiple corners in this year's draft to replace what they've already lost and are likely to lose in the future. Gaines has the combination of speed and length that I like to see in cornerback prospects.
For more on this player check out my previous mock draft.
Round 6, 177th overall: Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
A team will fall in love with Thomas with his size and arm strength. Thomas didn't preform at a high level during college but does possess good upside. The Texans brought in Thomas for a visit last month.
Round 6, 181st overall (from Raiders): Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma
Versatile player who was solid as a receiver and ball-carrier on top of being a plus blocker. Millard is the best athlete at fullback in this draft in my opinion.
Round 6, 211th overall (Compensatory): Jalen Saunders, WR, Oklahoma
Saunders is lightning quick with good hands and great moves in space. Last year at Oklahoma Saunders led the Sooners in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. The Texans need a slot receiver.
Round 7, 216th overall: Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut
Round 7, 256th overall: Lonnie Ballentine, S, Memphis
Good height/speed prospect. Might be a contributor on special teams early on. Texans brought him in for a visit last month according to State of the Texans.
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