The Houston Texans are in a unique position as the 2015 NFL Draft approaches, as they are going to be able to go into the draft with a very open mind. With few glaring holes in their lineup, Houston should be able to take the best player available throughout the draft, and should end up with some great values.
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The Texans draft strategy should revolve around the few needs they have on their team. However, they should also focus on getting the best possible value on every pick. This means taking the player that seems most like a steal at each draft pick, regardless of if they can fill a specific role.
While it’s very important for the Texans to answer any needs they have, they’re in a position that allows them to be sure they are always taking the best available player. With their offseason moves Houston has fixed many of the problems they initially faced.
Entering the offseason, one of the biggest questions for the Texans was at the quarterback position, but after signing former Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer and resigning Ryan Mallett, hopefully they’ve got the answer to this question on the roster. If not, it seems unlikely they’ll be able to take any of the elite quarterbacks in this seasons draft, so if they do take a passer, it will possibly be a few years before they’re ready to contribute.
The other much talked-about hole Houston has on their roster is at wide receiver. After ridding themselves of Texan’s legend Andre Johnson the team needs a threat to go along with growing star DeAndre Hopkins. The signing of former Jacksonville receiver Cecil Shorts, however, took some of the pressure off of the team to get a star wideout.
On defense, the signings of cornerback Kareem Jackson, safety Rahim Moore, and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork were huge in bolstering the defense and taking care of a few need positions. What these signings have managed to do is leave the team without any gaping holes.
As Houston approaches the draft, I hope they are willing to acknowledge this fact, and not take any chances or reach for any players out of fear for not filling a position. In the first few rounds especially, I think their best course of action would be to take the best player available.
Obviously it is very difficult to accurately predict how the NFL Draft will play out, but for some reason we keep doing it anyway. ESPN’s Mel Kiper predicts Houston will take Kentucky outside linebacker Bud Dupree in the first round, someone who will add athleticism and a strong pass rush presence opposite from J.J. Watt. If last year’s top draft pick Jadeveon Clowney can’t contribute for awhile, another pass rusher may be a good decision.
ESPN analyst Todd McShay and NFL.com’s Brian Baldinger predict Houston will take Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham first, while Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks thinks they will choose Washington cornerback Marcus Peters. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlen and Bucky Brooks think the Texans will select cornerbacks Jalen Collins from LSU or Kevin Johnson from Wake Forest, respectively.
While there is a bit of a trend, with several people thinking Houston will take cornerbacks and most thinking defense is the way the will go, there is clearly still a good bit of wiggle room as far as what the elite experts are predicting. The speculation has been even wilder, with possibilities being thrown out that the Texans will choose a player at just about every position in the first round.
Some positions (cornerback, linebacker, wide-receiver) may be a bit more likely, but it’s clearly the case that Houston has a lot of leeway when it comes to their first round draft pick this season. This freedom should translate to the entire rest of the draft as well, with Houston being able to essentially take any player they want every round.
Most people seem to agree that Houston probably needs to draft a wide receiver, a cornerback, and a linebacker at some point in this draft, but where they take each of these players is still pretty up in the air. I think it makes the most sense for Houston to attempt to take each of these three positions early in the draft, hopefully getting players that can contribute early. After that, however, the possibilities are endless.
Another position that I believe is very important for the Texans to look into drafting is the kicker. With current kicker Randy Bullock putting up field goal percentages of 74% and 86% in the last two seasons, it seems as though there’s some room to improve. Hopefully later in the draft Houston is able to find someone who can be a bit more efficient.
Strong offensive lines, as proven by the Dallas Cowboys this past season, can carry a team. Continuing to strengthen their line is something that Houston cannot possibly regret. Re-signing tackle Derek Newton was crucial, but there is always room for improvement.
Finding a long-term replacement to star running back Arian Foster may also be something Texans management should look into. With his age, workload, and injury history, he may not have much more left in his legs. Taking someone in the draft who can grow into Houston’s next starting running back may also be very helpful.
There is no doubt that Houston has a talented team, narrowly missing the playoffs this past season, even with one of the most turbulent quarterback carousels in the league. With the pieces added this offseason and the possibility of some great draft-picks, they could become a contender very soon.
However, there are clearly a lot of places in which Houston can improve. Even though there are few obvious deficiencies, there are lots of places where depth and improvement are needed. If the Texans are smart with their draft picks, they should be able to get a lot of great players, and a lot of great value. If they fall into a trap of feeling the pressure to fill spots they believe are need spots, however, they could lose this great opportunity they’ve been given.