2014 NFL Draft primer: Houston Texans
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The 2014 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, May 8, and every team will look to infuse youth and talent into their rosters. This is the first of our NFL Draft two-a-days that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit.
PICK NO. 1: HOUSTON TEXANS
2013 record: 2-14
Key offseason acquisitions: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, S Kendrick Lewis, DT Jerrell Powe, head coach Bill O'Brien.
Key offseason departures: QB Matt Schaub, RB Ben Tate, TE Owen Daniels, DT Earl Mitchell, DE Antonio Smith.
Biggest holes in roster: Quarterback, nose tackle, linebacker, offensive tackle
Sometimes, it's not bad to be the worst.
Take the Texans. After two consecutive seasons that ended in playoff appearances, Houston had a surprising down season in 2013, losing its final 14 games of the season. This was with pretty much the same cast of characters as 2011 and 2012.
The culprit? Turnovers. The Texans had 31 of them on offense (sixth-worst in the NFL) and forced a league-worst 11 on defense. Quarterback Matt Schaub threw 14 interceptions, leading to his Week 7 benching and offseason trade to Oakland. On defense, Johnathan Joseph led the team with three picks, while J.J. Watt had two fumble recoveries. But most of the core pieces are already on the roster, so the Texans could address either side of the ball to kick things off on May 8 in Manhattan.
At the moment, it appears that the most appealing option at the top of the board is South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney is by far the best defensive prospect in the draft (and possibly the best overall prospect) with an elite mix of size (6-6, 266 pounds) and speed (4.53-second 40-yard dash). Don't let his 40 tackles and three sacks in 2013 fool you. He consistently blew plays up in the backfield and made an impact in ways that aren't reflected in the box score. There have been questions about his conditioning and work ethic, but pairing Clowney on the same line as Watt would be a nightmare for QBs.
Early in the offseason, most mock drafts (including Newsday's) projected a quarterback as the top pick. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on April 17 that the Texans are "unlikely" to take a signal-caller No. 1 overall, but if the Texans have a change of heart - or if they decide to trade back into the late first round at some point - they have a bevy of options to choose from.
Of the first-tier QBs, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater is the most NFL-ready, based on film. He has good arm strength, makes good decisions about where to go with the ball and has the accuracy to put it where he wants. He has the ability to recognize the defense pre-snap and adjust accordingly and is incredibly tough. (For proof of that last part, watch the hit Bridgewater took from Florida's Jon Bostic in the early moments of the Cardinals' 2013 Sugar Bowl win.)
Despite this, Bridgewater has seen his stock slide in the past month due to what many have called an average pro day. There also are concerns about whether or not he's "peaked" early, as well as his 6-2, 214-pound frame. There even have been reports that he could slide out of the first round altogether. Still, he would be an immediate plug-and-play option for the Texans.
Then there's Blake Bortles. The UCF junior looks the part of an NFL QB at 6-5 and 232 pounds. His overall athleticism is reminiscent of Ben Roethlisberger, and he has immense potential. Plus, new head coach Bill O'Brien has a history of success with taller quarterbacks. However, he's still a bit raw as a passer. If the Texans are OK with letting Fitzpatrick take the reins for a season, Bortles would be afforded the chance to learn and develop while on the bench.
Lastly, there's Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel. "Johnny Football" is the most dynamic of the top quarterbacks, but also the most polarizing. He has the uncanny ability to make something out of nothing -- be it with his legs or his arm -- when a play breaks down. He improved as a passer in 2013, making better reads and showing improved decision-making from his Heisman-winning freshman campaign.
However, Manziel has more than his share of red flags that need to be addressed. His lack of ideal size (5-11 3/4) coupled with his penchant for taking a lot of risks have left scouts wondering whether or not he'll physically be able to hold up at the next level. He also had some off-field concerns in college, which have led some to question his maturity.
Possible Day 2/Day 3 options include LSU QB Zach Mettenberger, Pitt QB Tom Savage, Alabama QB A.J. McCarron and Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas.