The Texans go into the 2011 NFL Draft in an interesting position as a franchise. On one hand, it's completely new and on the other hand, it feels like they've been here before.
The Texans had a disappointing, mediocre season and find themselves drafting in the relative middle of the first round. That's the part that's not new. Season after season, the Texans find themselves drafting in this part of the first round.
The Texans also took a step backwards last season and find themselves maybe questioning what they have been doing over the last few years. For the first time in Gary Kubiak's tenure, the Texans took a noticeable step back. That's the part that's completely new.
These variables leave the Texans staring in the face of what might be the most important draft in the history of the franchise. If the Texans don't draft well and plug up some of the holes they have, they risk having to blow up the team and start over. If they are smart about the way they draft (and with some help from the returning players), the Texans could easily find themselves in the playoffs.
Let's take a look at some of the guys that very well maybe be given the task of plugging some of those aforementioned holes.
With the hiring of Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator comes the change to a situational 3-4 defense. By that, Phillips means that he will flip between a 4-3 and 3-4 defense as he sees fit.
With this change and the possibility that the Texans will have to have more linebackers on the field at one time comes the need to add both depth and playmakers to the linebacking corps.
Ayers fills both of those needs. He was a do-it-all type of player at UCLA. He rushed the passer, played the run, and dropped into coverage. Many times, Ayers just looked like the best athlete on the field, regardless of who UCLA was playing.
Ayers biggest asset to a team looking to play multiple defenses is his versatility. Ayers can play inside linebacker, outside linebacker, and defensive end in the 3-4 defense. In the 4-3 defense, he can play both outside linebacker spots, middle linebacker, and defensive end. He's a Swiss army knife of sorts for a defense.
With the switch to some 3-4 comes the need for a big, gap-plugging nose tackle who can take up both space and blockers.
Baylor's Phil Taylor fits the bill. First, he meets the size requirement. Taylor stands 6'4" and weighs in at 340 pounds. Taylor appeared to add weight as the season wore on and some say he is up 355. When it comes to defensive tackles, the more weight, the merrier.
Above all, Taylor was incredibly durable and productive. A fourth year player, he played in all thirteen games as a senior. Taylor racked up 62 tackles, an incredible total for a defensive tackle. Among those, 35 were solo tackles, another staggering number. Taylor was named second team All-Big-12 for his efforts.
Some may feel this would be a reach for the Texans, but the nose tackle is an essential position to have in a 3-4 defense. As currently assembled, the Texans don't have a single defensive tackle that could fill the nose tackle position in a 3-4. With a chance to add one in the draft, they have to take him.
It's no secret that the Texans need a ton of help in the defensive secondary. The experiment of starting two young, unproven corners blew up in their face, so I don't expect them to use another top pick on a corner. I can, however, see them using this pick on an athletic, multi-faceted safety like Quinton Carter.
Regardless of what the Texans do in free agency, the bulk of their corners will still be those young players that struggled mightily last season. As such, the Texans have to find safeties who can help cover. Quinton Carter is that type of player. The 2010 first team All-Big 12 selection picked off four passes this past season.
Carter is also a fifth-year senior, giving the Texans an experienced, mature player who played his college ball at the highest level. The move to the NFL from the pressure-cooker that is Norman, Oklahoma won't be much of a change for Quinton.
Carter added 96 tackles on the season, showing that he's not afraid to stick his nose in there and hit someone.
Guy (50) is exhausted after a thrilling win over rival Arizona.
With the Texans having to put a new emphasis on versatile players, Guy seems like a natural fit. Guy can play defensive end in either the 3-4 or the 4-3 and can fill in at defensive tackle in the 4-3.
Guy is a freakish athlete, particularly for someone who stands 6'5" and weighs 300 pounds. Guy totaled eight career sacks and 23 career tackles for loss. In short, he made a living wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Guy is a junior early-entrant into the draft, and that can be taken two ways. Undoubtedly some will view him as raw and unpolished. The fact that he played for a largely mediocre Arizona State team won't help that stigma. Those that choose to have a more sunny outlook would say that with Guy's size and youth, he will develop and grow into a monster on the defensive line. I choose to believe the latter.
Schilling (52) spent a lot of time creating space for Denard Robinson
The Texans finally have some continuity and depth on the offensive line. They did, however, have some injury issues. The most notable case was starting guard Mike Brisiel. The Texans love Brisiel, and by all accounts he is a hard-nosed, blue collar player who works as hard as anyone on the roster. I'm not advocating replacing him with this pick. I'm just thinking that with this pick, you have some insurance in case Brisiel finds himself on the IR again.
Schilling was an honorable mention preseason All-Big Ten pick and spent his time this season creating seams and holes for dynamic dual threat quarterback Denard Robinson. At 6'5" and 297 pounds, Schilling has the requisite size and reach for a guard.
This is a pretty good draft for guards and I think the Texans could do themselves a lot of good by snagging one of them in the middle to late rounds.
The Texans will likely lose third-string quarterback Matt Leinart to free agency this offseason. Gary Kubiak is also a big fan of bringing quarterback talent into camp to create some competition.
What better choice is there than local product and Texas A&M Aggie Jerrod Johnson? Yes, Johnson lost his starting job midway through the season to Ryan Tannehill, but that was more due to a lingering shoulder injury than poor play.
Given time to heal the shoulder that was operated on prior to the 2010 season, Johnson will be a real steal for someone looking for a project quarterback. At 6'5" and 229 pounds, Johnson has the size you like to see in an NFL prospect. He isn't all that fast, but he is elusive and has a way of extending the play.
His career as an Aggie didn't end like he had hoped, but don't let that fool you. Johnson threw for a ton of yards, re-wrote the record books at A&M, and was a great field general. He just might be the perfect project for Kubiak to take on.
Late in the draft, you have to look to add depth or players that can help you in the most ways. DeCicco gives you both.
At 6'3" and 230 pounds, he is big enough to move up to linebacker in the 3-4 defense. He is also fast enough and has the ball skills to drop back into coverage and play safety. His five interceptions and 94 tackles in the 2010 season show that he can do each very well.
DeCicco seeks out contact and isn't afraid to get dirty. A three year starter, DeCicco is an experienced, disciplined player who you can plug in right away at several different spots.