HOUSTON (AP) — The first two times the Houston Texans had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, they chose quarterback David Carr and defensive end Mario Williams.
Odds are that they’ll use this year’s top choice on one of those two positions again.
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is widely considered the best player available in this year’s draft. Pairing him with 2012 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt could give the Texans the best 1-2 pass-rushing punch in the NFL.
The problem is that while Houston could use another game-changing defensive player, the need at quarterback is more dire. The Texans traded Matt Schaub in the offseason after a terrible year in which he was benched after six games. The Texans signed veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick in the offseason, but he probably isn’t the long-term solution to their quarterback woes.
Several talented quarterbacks in this draft have questions attached to them concerning whether they are can’t-miss prospects worthy of the No. 1 pick. Considered the best of the crop are Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles of Central Florida.
Some worry that Manziel’s size will be a detriment in the NFL. Bridgewater had a bad pro day. Bortles has taken criticism because of his limited mobility.
Manziel is somewhat of a folk hero in Texas after winning the Heisman Trophy in 2012. Billboards imploring the Texans to “Keep Johnny Football in Texas” dot the freeways around Houston, and Manziel, of course, has said he’d love to play here. Though the team is under different management than in 2006, Houston is unlikely to let public sentiment about not letting the homegrown player get away sway its decision.
The Texans passed on former Texas quarterback Vince Young, who grew up in Houston and led the Longhorns to a national title, in favor of Williams the last time they had the first pick.
Houston general manager Rick Smith did say this week his team would consider trading out of the top spot.
“If we take the first pick, we know who we want,” Smith said. “(But) we are obviously open to moving out of the first pick, if in fact there is an opportunity for us to do so and if we think that is in the best interest of the organization.”
Five things to know about the Texans heading into the draft:
LATE-ROUND QBs: If the Texans do use their first pick on Clowney, recent history has shown they could still pick up a solid (or better) starting quarterback later in the draft. San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick was chosen in the second round in 2011, and Seattle’s Russell Wilson was taken in the third round a year later. “I think there’s an idea of a traditional quarterback that is successful in the NFL and I think those two examples are guys that don’t necessarily fit the ideal mode. And I think they’ve also given people some confidence that you don’t necessarily need to have a traditional type of quarterback to be successful in our league,” Smith said.
CAN’T GET ENOUGH: Though Smith shied away from discussing specific needs of his team on draft day, he did acknowledge one thing. “There are two positions that I never think you can have too many of: corners and tackles,” he said.
NEW PROCESS: Smith is adjusting to new coach Bill O’Brien after working on the draft with Gary Kubiak, who was fired in December, for the last seven seasons. “The opportunity to step outside of that comfort zone, and learn something, gives me a chance to grow personally and professionally,” Smith said. “That was a fun part of it.”
NO LOVE FOR DEFENSE: Williams was the last defensive player selected with the first overall pick when Houston chose him in 2006. Before that, the last player on that side of the ball to go first was Penn State defensive end Courtney Brown to the Browns in 2000. The Texans have overwhelmingly gone with defense in the early rounds, choosing defenders with 14 of their 17 first- and second-round picks since 2004.
FINE WITH THE MOVE: This year’s draft was pushed back from its usual time in April to May because Radio City Music Hall was unavailable. Smith was perfectly happy with the change for at least this year. “To have the first pick, the extra time has been good,” Smith said. “I think that I enjoyed the schedule and the rhythm of the draft in April and would probably want to see it moved back, but I’m enjoying it the fact that it’s in May this year for our selfish purposes.”