Nov 15, 2014; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Jesse James (18) runs with the ball during the third quarter against the Temple Owls at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Temple 30-13. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O
3. Interior Offensive Lineman – After releasing veteran center Chris Myers, the Texans are most likely placing last year’s left guard, Ben Jones to center. Jones has experience as a center and it shouldn’t be a difficult transition to change positions.
The bigger question mark is for last years second round pick, Xavier Su’a-Filo, who will slide into the starting spot at guard. Although I am a biased, USC Trojan undergrad, the ex-UCLA Bruin lineman was completely unable to show worthiness of being the 33rd overall selection in 2014’s draft. Even if he is able to start this year, the Texans will be looking to add depth to the interior. Duane Brown and Derek Newton are great starting offensive tackles on the exterior.
4. Running Back – We all know how great Arian Foster is, but also know his injury history. In order to keep Foster on the field, it is in the best interest to find a backup running back to start splitting the workload. Even a 75-25 split between Foster and a rookie back could lessen his risk of injury. Finding a pass catching running back a la the Shane Vereen type is necessary to help Foster’s hamstrings.
Another reason for drafting a reason is Foster’s contract, which is over in two seasons. I imagine the veteran running back will want to stay in Houston and his market value won’t be huge given his heavy workload. The Texans should be able to re-sign him after his contract is over, but may not want to if they can find his replacement within the next two draft classes.
Todd Gurley is the best running back available and would be a top 10 pick if he didn’t tear his ACL in his final season in college. Gurley’s stock is reportedly raising and now might be drafted before the Texans pick in the first round. Melvin Gordon is also a lock to be a first round pick and will be a future star.
If the Texans are addressing the position later in the draft like they did with Alfred Blue last year, then they could be looking at Jay Ajayi, TJ Yeldon, Duke Johnson, Tevin Coleman, Jeremy Langford, or Mike Davis. I expect the Texans to find a running back in the second, third, or fourth round.
5. Tight End – Last year, the Texans’ tight ends combined for a 32/316/3 stat line. That is horrible!!! Even John Carlson had 35 receptions and 350 yards for the Arizona Cardinals. Thats embarrassing because nobody outside of the greater Phoenix area knows who Carlson is.
The need for production from this position is even greater this year with Andre Johnson gone. Garrett Graham is not a great receiver and neither is Ryan Griffin. Last year, the Texans invested a third round pick in C.J. Fiedorowicz but he failed to produce anything last year. He only had 4 catches and 28 yards. Not a great start to his future.
This tight end draft class isn’t great. Maxx Williams and Clive Walford are the top two prospects but are expected to be selected at the end of the first or the second round. I highly doubt the Texans are willing to fill this need this early.
Instead, look for Jesse James out of Penn State. Coach Bill O’Brien has coached James during his brief stint at the university. James is a great fit with the Texans because he is massive. At the combine, he towered in at 6’7″ and 261 pounds. This type of size screams red zone production, something that I mentioned as a need above.
The versatility the big tight end brings is also a plus. Multiple times last year, James was used in the slot because his athleticism allowed him to run a wider variety of routes. In this highlight tape, he scored touchdowns from the slot where he exposed defenses out in space, where smaller defensive backs are forced to tackle somebody that weights 60-70 pounds heavier. CBSsportsline.com projects Jesse to be drafted in the third or fourth round.
Next: One Last Need