Houston Texans Draft Strategy: Add Playmakers


It’s day of the draft.  Do the Texans have a plan?  Do they have multiple plans?

The past two days. the free agent signings of running back Chris Polk (here) and free safety Stevie Brown (here) are very interesting in terms of the various needs that the Texans have.

I felt that the Texans at some point in this draft be looking for depth at running back behind Arian Foster, and while this move doesn’t preclude them from taking a running back, it suggests that they certainly don’t have to draft one high.  With Foster, Alfred Blue who was a pleasant surprise as a rookie, Chris Polk who can also return kicks, and Jonathan Grimes, the Texans have more than enough at running back.

Aug 24, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back runs past New York Giants safety Stevie Brown (27) during the first quarter of a preseason game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

At safety as well, we had that position fairly high on the Texans list of needs, given Romeo Crennel’s desire to play with safeties that can cover, preferably two free safeties. But signing Brown to go with the previous signing of Raheem Moore all but eliminates that need in early rounds.

This also explains the rumored shopping of strong safety D.J. Swearinger.  Swearinger has not shown that he can cover and while he has hit, he hasn’t tackled very well.  If you have a safety that can’t cover or tackle very well, do you even have a starting safety?  Short answer, no.

However, if the Texans can’t get at least a 4th rounder, is it even worth trading him considering that you can put him on special teams and just use him in a reserve role?  That is all you’re normally hoping for from a player in the 5th round or later.

So with these free agent signings, the Texans have crossed some needs off their list.  So what is left?

The biggest hole appears to be at outside linebacker with Brooks Reed’s departure, Jadeveaon Clowney’s injury status, and Whitney Mercilus‘ contract situation being up in the air. (It could be the last year of his contract depending on whether the Texans pick up his option).

The next two biggest needs are at wide receiver and inside linebacker.

The Texans filled some holes well enough at wide receiver with Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington that they could lineup and play relatively well with that group if everyone is healthy.  However, most feel that the want to add a more dynamic threat to the mix.

Nov 30, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans linebacker

Brian Cushing

(56) in action against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

At inside linebacker they still have questions around Brian Cushing’s health.  Mike Mohamed and Akeem Dent stepped up as the season went along and filled their respective roles.  The problem is that neither is a #2 inside linebacker if Cushing is healthy, nor can they replace him if he’s not. The Texans may also move on from Cushing on after this season.

Another option at inside linebacker could be the Philadelphia Eagles inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, rumored to be available.  If the Texans can acquire Kendricks, who’s younger brother is in this draft, for say their 3rd round pick, I add a wide receiver and an outside linebacker in the first two rounds and I leave the draft a very happy man!

Secondary draft needs include depth on the offensive line at both tackle and center/guard as well as possibly a cornerback that could potentially replace Jonathan Joseph next season.

And yes, lest we forget the Texans still don’t have a proven answer at quarterback.  But they are not going to be in a position to get the two top prospects, however it wouldn’t be a shock to see them nab one of the next two in Brett Hundley or Bryce Petty in the 2nd, 3rd or even the 4th if they are available.

Given the moves they’ve made and lessened their mid-to-later round needs, the Texans have given themselves a little more flexibility to move up if need be should an elite receiver fall or one of the better rush linebackers.

The Texans also have a 5th and two 6th round compensatory picks. These picks cannot be traded but with these picks and with filling a few secondary needs via free agency, the Texans could easily use their regular 5th, 6th and maybe even 4th round picks to move up in a given round to get a player they covet.

So what will the Texans strategy be?

Option one and possibly the most likely, if the players they really covet at #16 are gone, the Texans will be hoping to create a market for someone looking to trade up to 16. The hope then will be to trade back and pick up an extra 2nd or 3rd round pick depending on how far back they go, giving them four selections in the top 3 rounds.

If the Texans do trade down they could very well be drafting the same player five to ten spots later that they like as much at 16. Once they trade down, three of those four selections should be WR, OLB and ILB in some order.  With the fourth of those picks, do they take a shot with one of the quarterbacks? Maybe an offensive lineman or a cornerback?

Nov 1, 2014; Pullman, WA, USA; Southern California Trojans receiver Nelson Agholor (15) carries the ball on a 65-yard punt return in the first quarter against the Washington State Cougars at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In the trade back scenario they could be looking in the 1st round at a WR like Nelson Agholor, a cornerback like Marcus Peters or they could still go with a rush linebacker with Eli Harold. Perhaps we’ll see a wild card selection like Shaq Thompson.  Either way it will be a best player available situation.

The strategy if you can’t trade back or there is no offer worthwhile and you sit at 16 is to take the best player available with upside at a position that you can use in the next two years. That strategy would also mean adding both defensive line and cornerback as possibilities.  This was why we mocked Arik Armstead to the Texans in our mock draft yesterday as Armstead is a physical freak and has huge upside to impact the defensive front-7.

Beyond the first round the Texans should still take best player available, but generally speaking it’s at one of your positions of need and nearly every team has enough needs to do that.  The Texans are no exception.

Either way, look for the Texans to add a wide receiver an outside and inside linebacker at the very least and fill in the rest of the picks with depth or players with great upside.

Given that the Texans don’t have an answer at quarterback, another thing to keep an eye on is if the Texans trade back. Whether or not they pick up a draft pick in next year’s draft will be interesting to see. Could it be perhaps to have more ammunition to trade up to get a quarterback next year if the Mallet experiment doesn’t work out?

But forget about quarterbacks for now. Who are the dynamic players the Texans can get?

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Players that can get to the quarterback like Arik Armstead, Eli Harold, Nate Orchard or fingers crossed… Bud Dupree.

An inside linebacker that is truly starting caliber and can play all three downs like Stephone Anthony or Paul Dawson.

Players like Nelson Agholor, Devin Smith at wide receiver or Tyler Lockett or Ty Montgomery at wide receiver/kick returner.

We’d even be happy to see a dynamic multi-purpose player like Shaq Thomspon.

A couple of players from those groups and Texans fans should be relatively happy.  But whatever you do Texans, add some playmakers!

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Next: Texans Late Round Sleepers Possibilities

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