The Texans missed out on the playoffs yet again last season, and the blame can be placed solely on the defense. The defensive unit struggled in both run and pass defense, while the offense was among the league leaders in basically every offensive category. I expect the Texans to take a lot of defensive players in the 2011 draft.
Matt Schaub has proven his worth as a franchise quarterback, as he led one of the better offenses in the league. As long as he is the starter, the Texans will have a chance to win—even if the defense loses the game for them in the end.
Arian Foster came out of nowhere last season to lead the league in both rushing yards and touchdowns. The depth is very solid on this team, with former starters Derrick Ward and Steve Slaton competing for carries along with former second-rounder Ben Tate. Andre Johnson is one of the best receivers in the league, and is a big weapon in the passing game.
The rest of the receivers are solid, but there isn’t really a true No. 2 threat among the group. Owen Daniels is a big-time receiving threat at tight end, and the depth is solid. The offensive line performed pretty well last season. Duane Brown and Eric Winston will man the tackle spots, while Antoine Caldwell and Wade Smith are adequate starters at the guard position.
It’ll be interesting to see who will be the Opening Day starters for the defense next year. Mario Williams will man one defensive end spot in the new defense, but it’s currently unknown who’ll start opposite him. It could end up as a training camp battle between multiple players.
The nose tackle position is a huge concern for this season, as Earl Mitchell, Shaun Cody and Amobi Okoye are too small to start at nose tackle. DeMeco Ryans is a team leader who will lock down one inside linebacker spot. The other could go to either Darryl Sharpton or Brian Cushing. Both of them will be starters, but I’m not sure which one will start next to Ryans.
Conner Barwin is a solid pass rushing threat, but the Texans could use an impact pass rusher for their defense. The secondary played very poorly last year, and multiple upgrades are needed. Kareem Jackson will start at one cornerback spot, but Glover Quinn will most likely be replaced as the starter. They have a huge need for the free safety position, and they may even upgrade Bernard Pollard at strong safety due to his struggles in pass protection.
1. (20) CB Kareem Jackson, Alabama: Jackson has been a starter since day one basically due to necessity, but he seemed to improve as the season progressed. 16 GP/16 GS
2. (58) RB Ben Tate, Auburn: He missed the entire season due to a knee injury, and he probably won’t get the chance to start because of Arian Foster’s breakout year. 0 GP/0 GS
3. (81) DT Earl Mitchell, Arizona: He was a solid rotational player last year, and he may get a chance at the nose tackle position in 2011. 15 GP/0 GS
4. (102) OLB Darryl Sharpton, Miami: A solid player who started at multiple positions last year, and he might get a chance to be a full-time starter next season. 12 GP/6 GS
4. (118) TE Garrett Graham, Wisconsin: He should be a nice compliment to starter Owen Daniels at tight end in the future. 6 GP/ 0 GS
5. (144) CB Sherrick McManis, Northwestern: He played well as a reserve in 2010, and he should fill either the nickel or dime role again in 2011. 14 GP/0 GS
6. (187) OG Shelley Smith, Colorado State: Last year was a redshirt year for him, but he will compete for a backup role in 2011. 0 GP/0 GS
6. (197) WR Trindon Holliday, LSU: He spent the entire year on injured reserve, and he will get a chance to make an impact this year. 0 GP/0 GS
7. (227) TE Dorin Dickerson, Pittsburgh: Dickerson was moved to wide receiver, but he has the potential to develop into a nice player in the coming years. 7 GP/0 GS
Summary: This class didn’t make a ton of contributions in 2010. But a lot of these players could be solid contributors in the future for this team. Jackson must continue to develop into a number one cornerback, and Tate must contribute next year for this class to ultimately be considered a success.
The Texans were one of the worst pass defending teams in the league last year, and they need to find some upgrades for 2011.
Kareem Jackson struggled early on, but he looks like he could end up as a solid starting cornerback in the future. Glover Quinn really struggled last season, but he is more suited to being a backup at cornerback anyway. The Texans need to find another starting cornerback for this unit to improve next season.
The depth is also a major concern for the Texans, as only Sherrick McManis looks like the only backup worthy of a roster spot at the moment.
Round 1: Prince Amukamara, Jimmy Smith
Round 2: Aaron Williams, Johnny Patrick, Ras-I Dowling, Curtis Brown, Brandon Burton
Round 3: Davon House, Jalil Brown, Kendric Burney, Rashad Carmichael, Curtis Marsh
Round 4: Marcus Gilchrist, Chimdi Chekwa, Shareece Wright
Round 5: Chykie Brown, Buster Skrine, DeMarcus Van Dyke
I think the Texans would pounce all over Amukamara if he fell to them, but there is a very strong possibility that he won’t. The can still find a solid starter in Round 2, like Williams or Burton, that will be an upgrade over Quinn. They may look for another corner in Round 4 or Round 5 to help improve the depth at this position.
Switching from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense will be a difficult transition—even more so without a true nose tackle in the middle of the line. It’s possible that the Texans may try and use Shaun Cody, Amobi Okoye or Earl Mitchell at nose tackle, but none of them are really big enough to fill the role effectively. This will be a position that they will need to address if they want a successful transition to a new defense.
This isn’t a great draft class for the nose tackle position, but it is something that the Texans will consider at almost every pick.
Round 2: Phil Taylor
Round 3: Kenrick Ellis, Jarvis Jenkins, Cedric Thornton, Terrell McClain
Round 4: Jerrell Powe, Sione Fua
The Texans would have to get lucky to see Taylor still available for them in the second round, but he most likely will be gone. Someone like Ellis or Fua in Round 3 or Round 4 will give them a big player who can stuff the running lanes from the 3-4 position.
The free safety position is in need of a huge upgrade. Eugene Wilson struggled mightily last season, and he was recently cut because of his poor performance. The Texans won’t use a first rounder on a safety, but they could opt to use a mid-round pick to find a new starter. Bernard Pollard is an excellent run stuffer, but he can struggle at times in coverage. He is a free agent, and it’s possible the Texans won’t bring him back next year.
The Texans will have to find at least one new starter at safety now that Wilson has been cut. I think that we could see them use a second-round pick on the safety position.
Round 2: Rahim Moore, Jaiquawn Jarret
Round 3: Ahmad Black, Tyler Sash, DeAndre McDaniel
Round 4: Shiloh Keo, Quinton Carter, Jeron Johnson, Deunta Williams, Robert Sands, Da’Norris Searcy
Round 5: Eric Hagg, Jermale Hines, Will Hill, Joe Lefeged
I think that Moore would be a perfect fit for the Texans in the second round, especially considering that he is the best safety in this draft. The Texans could also use a mid-to-late-rounder on another safety if they think that Pollard won’t be back. I think he will be, but they may want to improve the depth, as there isn’t much currently on the roster.
Andre Johnson has been one of the best receivers in the NFL the past few seasons, and he will continue to be the No. 1 receiver for many years on this football team. The problem with this group is the depth behind Johnson, as they don’t really have a solid No. 2 option. Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones are solid third and fourth options, but neither one of them will draw double teams away from Johnson.
The Texans won’t use a top draft pick on this position, but they could use a mid-round pick on a guy who can come in and contribute as a No. 2 or No. 3 option.
Round 2: Leonard Hankerson, Jon Baldwin, Torrey Smith, Greg Little
Round 3: Greg Salas, Vincent Brown, Niles Paul, Dwayne Harris, Randall Cobb, Jerel Jernigan
Round 4: Edmund Gates, Jeremy Kerley, Cecil Shorts
Round 5: Jeff Maehl, Ronald Johnson, Ryan Whalen, DeAndre Brown
The Texans won’t likely use a high pick on this position, but I think guys like Paul or Gates could be solid contributors on the team next season. Even though they need a No. 2 wideout, I think that they have more pressing needs that won’t allow them to immediately upgrade the No. 2 receiver position.
Connor Barwin and Brian Cushing will most likely be the starters at outside linebacker for the Texans in their new 3-4 scheme. Both of them are solid players, but the Texans really need to get some better pass rushers. Teams can always use as many pass rushers as possible, and I expect the Texans to try and improve the depth of this position.
The Texans don’t have a lot of players currently who fit the 3-4 scheme well, so the Texans will use this draft to improve the personnel of the defense.
Round 1: Robert Quinn, Von Miller
Round 2: Brooks Reed, Dontay Moch
Round 3: Sam Acho, Jeremy Beal
Round 4: Lawrence Wilson, K.J. Wright
This position won’t necessarily be a top priority—at least in my opinion—but they could get a solid rotational player in the mid-rounds that they can bring in on obvious passing situations. However, they also may want to bring a top pass rusher in, which is why they will consider Quinn or Miller if they're still available.
Defensive Line: The Texans will need some depth at both the end and tackle position as they transition to a 3-4 defense.
Offensive Tackle: Eric Winston and Duane Brown are both solid starting offensive tackles, but there is little depth behind them.
Quarterback: Matt Schaub is very good as a starter, but Matt Leinart will most likely be elsewhere next year and they will need a backup.
It’s pretty obvious what the weak unit is on this team. The defense struggled mightily last year, and I think they could yet again next season. Switching to an entirely new defensive scheme is a difficult task, especially when you don’t exactly have the personnel to do so. The Texans will look to upgrade multiple starting defensive positions in this draft.
This will be a defense-heavy draft. You may not even see them take an offensive player until the later rounds. With so much changeover on this team, I doubt that they will make it to the playoffs next year. But they could be contenders in 2012 once they get the proper defensive personnel in place.