There was no team in the NFL more disappointing in 2013 than the Houston Texans. “Disappointing” may actually be an understatement, considering they went from a team with halfway-realistic Super Bowl aspirations to the owners of the top overall pick in the upcoming draft.
From Matt Schaub‘s pick-six frenzy, to Arian Foster‘s injury bonanza, to another devastating Brian Cushing knee injury, to Gary Kubiak‘s fainting and subsequent firing, there really wasn’t a whole lot to like about what went on with this team over the course of the past season. Other than J.J. Watt continuing to be stellar, of course.
All that said, there is plenty of reason for optimism moving forward. Plenty of fans grew weary of Gary Kubiak’s archaic, predictable and generic play-calling over the years, so with him finally out the door, perhaps the offense will be reinvigorated with some new minds coming in. The excitement of holding the top overall pick also speaks for itself, especially considering there’s no clear-cut best option for Houston at that spot.
So, even though we’re still about five months away from the moment of truth, let’s explore a few of their options at this point, in no particular order:
Trading down is typically the most appealing option if there’s no player you’re completely in love with available when you’re drafting. If the Texans go through the pre-draft evaluation processes and no one player sticks out that they’re comfortable with at the top spot, then there’s likely a trade market to explore. Trading down a few places and potentially picking up an additional pick (or picks) of value in the future is a pretty nice haul for NFL teams, considering you can never have enough depth. New England has made a habit of trading down time after time through the years, and that seems to have worked out nicely for them, no?
As of now, the Texans still have the skeleton of a roster that looks like it’s ready to win now. There are depth question marks, and who knows what kinds of players will be salary cap casualties as a result of their unfavorable contracts. Obviously, Matt Schaub and his massive deal are near certainties to be on the chopping block, and it wouldn’t be all that shocking to see Arian Foster and his balky back either restructured or let go completely. But if the front office decides that a few extra picks here and there to shore things up would be worth parting ways with the No. 1 choice, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a deal. Plus, the owner, Bob McNair, has already come out and said the team would be open to such a thing.
But that’s boring, so let’s move on.
Take Jadeveon Clowney
Bob McNair has said lots of things recently, actually, and another thing that he said was that he loves South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, and went so far as to compare him to Mario Williams, whom Houston selected the last time they held the top pick. Clowney has been heralded as the top defensive line prospect in years, though he did draw criticism for his perceived lack of effort at times during his final season in college. But if he’s motivated, there’s no doubting the impact he makes on a game. Hell, he makes an impact even if he isn’t motivated, if for no other reason than for all the attention he draws from opposing offenses, but you get the idea. He’s a beast.
McNair said that Watt would make a nice mentor for Clowney, to help show him what it takes to become an impactful NFL player, among other things. The thought of Watt and Clowney along the same line is downright terrifying, and would instantly give the Texans one of the league’s most explosive and dynamic defensive fronts.
Help on the D-line is surely an area of need for the Texans, as they ranked just 30th in the league in sacks last season. They had 32 as a team, with Watt accounting for 10.5 of those.
Clowney wouldn’t be an instant cure-all, but lining him up alongside Watt has to be a tantalizing notion.
Take Teddy Bridgewater
The Texans had tons of problems, but none were more glaring than the general ineffectiveness of their quarterbacks in 2013. Matt Schaub’s oft-maligned season is well-documented, while Case Keenum faded after an encouraging beginning to his stint as the starter. While Keenum wasn’t awful, he really struggled with making the proper reads (specifically regarding the blitz) and Houston was 0-8 in games he started. Keenum may make a nice backup in the league, but there’s a reason he was undrafted out of college. He’s not the long-term answer.
Bridgewater is likely the safest of all of the passers available in this class. He enjoyed a stellar career at Louisville, capped by a phenomenal performance in the Cardinals’ Russell Athletic Bowl win over Miami during which he completed 35 of 45 passes for 447 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also showed off the mobility, rushing six times for 24 yards and an additional TD.
He could stand to add some bulk to his thin frame, but at 6’3″, Bridgewater is fine, height-wise. He has a quick release, and throws with conviction. Fear isn’t something he plays with. Considering Matt Schaub appeared to play with nothing but fear as the Texans’ starter for the last seven years, Bridgewater’s confident style of play would be a welcome change. He calmly goes through his progressions with good awareness and smart pocket presence, and has enough athleticism to escape pressure.
Bridgewater is probably the chalk pick of Houston decides to keep it.
Don’t Take Derek Carr
The Texans made David Carr the franchise’s first ever draft pick back in 2002, and he proceeded to spare everyone in the city to death during his five dreadful years at the helm. While Derek Carr may well be a fine prospect and may go on to have a nice NFL career, I’m pretty sure the Texans drafting him No. 1 overall would cause the entire city to self-destruct.
Take Johnny Football
Johnny Manziel comes with tons of risk. He’s small. He comes with character concerns. He tends to be a bit reckless with the ball. But for the Texans, he may be too high-reward to miss out on.
His style of play has some RGIII-style components to it, which obviously puts him at quite a physical risk, especially against gigantic NFL players trying to knock him on his ass constantly. But there just seems to be a sixth sense about Manziel that keeps him consistently a step ahead of opposing defenders. He is electrifying in open space, and his improvements as a passer were evident from his freshman year to his sophomore year. He doesn’t have a Matthew Stafford rocket arm, but he has plenty of zip on the ball, and the accuracy to make any throw you’d want him to make. I tend to think Johnny’s risky throws are a product of his extreme level of confidence, particularly against inferior defensive talent in college. Risk-taking can be a positive quality in a QB, but it’s probably best when tempered a bit.
McNair has been vocal about his team’s policy of drafting high-character guys, so perhaps he’ll be scared off by all of the drama that has seemed to follow Manziel to this point. However, is there any doubt that he’d instantly become one of the most popular players in the history of the franchise from day one? If there’s one thing people from Texas LOVE, it’s other people from Texas. So, here sits one of the most popular and dominant players in the history of college football that also happens to have gone to college an hour-and-a-half from your city. And he’s just sitting there, ready for you to take him.
It’s far from the safest pick, but the thought of Johnny Football running amok in a Houston Texans uniform may be too tempting for them to pass up.
Don’t like these options or absolutely love them? Let me hear us below in the comments. For more from Taylor Smith, catch him on Twitter @Breaking_Taylor.