The Houston Texans are on the clock. Not quite literally just yet, but just two days separate us from the 2014 NFL Draft, and the pressure is mounting. Then again, perhaps there is no pressure at all.
Hats off to the Texans if they have their minds made up already. All we know is that deciding who to take with the #1 overall pick in any draft isn’t easy, and will certainly come with some criticism no matter what the pick ends up being.
But the what remains the most fascinating part, and that’s why mock drafts are still being written up and speculation is still being spewed across Twitter and other social media.
We thought we’d join in by taking a look at Houston’s four logical options at the top spot:
1. Draft a Quarterback
If you don’t have a quarterback, go get one. Right?
My personal favorite is Texas A&M game-changer Johnny Manziel, but who you love isn’t the point. The reality is that there are at least three borderline elite options available and the Texans flat out need a quarterback. They already traded away Matt Schaub, so if they don’t land a difference-maker at quarterback in this draft, they’re looking at Ryan Fitzpatrick or another dose of Case Keenum.
Nobody wants that. If they don’t take a passer here, they surely will have a decent crop of quarterbacks to choose from when they pick again to start round one. But with 31 other selections in round one, they’re surely putting landing a passer they covet at great risk.
The funny thing about Houston taking a quarterback first is the potential backlash or perception that none of these passers are special. Were it not for ridiculous rumors and irrational hype or negativity, all three of Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater would be seen as completely fine options.
Bridgewater is by far the safest, but has the least upside. Bortles is probably the rawest, but at least has the size and arm you look for. Manziel doesn’t have anything conventional about him, but probably has the most upside.
My pick would be Manziel. He’s a pure game-changer with elite mobility and running ability, while he’s proven against elite competition that he can win from inside the pocket, as well. Bortles or Bridgewater would be fine by me, too. The Texans simply need to take a quarterback.
2. Draft a Pass Rusher
While I think Houston needs to take a passer, I do understand how value works in the draft. I also get that Jadeveon Clowney is a freak and really could be a once in a decade type of player. On sheer size and athleticism alone, he’s a beast with amazing upside.
The need at outside linebacker isn’t quite as great for the Texans as quarterback, though, so passing up a potentially elite quarterback prospect for this guy better end well. There’s also the talk of Clowney not having the drive, work ethic or demeanor of the Hall of Fame type of player he’s already pegged to become.
Then there’s the case of Khalil Mack, who compares favorably to Clowney in size, strenth, speed and overall athleticism, but actually is leaps and bounds more versatile. Clowney could destroy as a defensive end if Houston ever switched their scheme up, while he has the tools to be a terror on the edge as a linebacker, as well. Mack, however, can play both of those spots, but could even play outside linebacker in a 4-3, as well.
Mack has put more quality, impact plays on tape than Clowney, as well. He shows better effort and came up huge in some big games (namely against Ohio State last year).
The bad news is that Mack is a small school product. He faced weak competition at Buffalo, so it’s harder to assess just how impressive his tape really is.
With all of this being said, this is a bit of a toss up. Mack is an elite athlete with NFL-ready skills and a very high ceiling. Clowney is very much the same, but has more upside.
If the Texans must take one, it has to be Clowney. We don’t need to worry about his versatility, because he’s being drafted to play OLB in their 3-4. If they switch to a 4-3 eventually, he’ll just play as an end. In terms of pure talent, he has to be the draft’s top overall player. If Houston feels it can get a quarterback later, he probably has to be the pick.
3. Trade Down
Then again, perhaps the risk of all of these players is too great at the top spot. The #1 overall pick is generally a consensus pick. Everyone agrees that THIS IS THE GUY. This year, that’s not really the case. If there is “that guy”, it’s Clowney. But again, not everyone is even sold on him, either.
That could lead to the Texans trading down. After all, they shouldn’t be short on suitors. Teams enamored with the likes of Clowney, Mack and Manziel will be worried that if they can’t convince Houston to trade out of the top spot, they’ll then take the one guy they want the most.
Teams that are within reasonable striking distance that could be players in a potential trade are (but not limited to) the Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams.
Because Houston does need both a quarterback and pass rusher and the options are so good, it’s still going to take a hefty offer to get them to drop down.
What Will Happen
Ultimately, I think the pick is Johnny Manziel. I think it ought to be, and I think it will be. Sure Clowney is a difference-maker and a once in a decade physical specimen. But in a lot of ways, so is Manziel. Pass rushers don’t win games or Super Bowls on their own, either. The Texans already have some stout defensive players. Adding some quality talent in the later rounds will make their defense even better. Passing up on the draft’s top quarterback and settling on someone who might not be up to par in round two, well, that just might be a mistake the Texans aren’t willing to make.