As expected, Houston stayed put with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and chose South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. So what do the Texans need between now and camp in July? They are 13/5 to win the AFC South on NFL odds.
With all due respect to Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater, there was no sure-thing franchise quarterback in the 2014 draft like an Andrew Luck from two years ago. It's probably because Houston has to deal with Luck twice a year for the next decade or so, that it chose Clowney despite having a huge need at quarterback, and already possessing perhaps the NFL's best defensive end in J.J. Watt. Just think of the damage Clowney and Watt, the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, could do on opposite ends of the line to opposing offenses.
Clowney is the first player to go No. 1 overall who was also ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the nation when he came out of high school. Does he take the occasional play off? Sure. Did he look somewhat uninterested last season with the Gamecocks with only three sacks after having 13 as a sophomore? Yep. Clowney has every physical attribute a general manager could want in a player. When the 6-5, 266-pounder ran the 40-yard dash at 4.53 at the scouting, it knocked the socks out of just about everyone. Some NFL receivers don't run that fast.
The Texans chose Clowney over University at Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack, Bortles and Manziel. Some thought that Mack would be a better fit for defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel's 3-4 base scheme. Nonetheless, Clowney will stand up, and play outside linebacker, which means dropping into coverage at times, then dropping down and playing as an and in passing situations. He is already bigger than any other outside linebacker the team has.
Houston could truly have a dominant line because it also traded up in the third round to select Notre Dame tackle Louis Nix III, a guy many had a first-round grade on. He's a terrific run stopper.
I wonder what Houston would have done with that first pick of the second round had Minnesota not traded for the final pick of the first round with Seattle to take Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. I'd be willing to wager Bridgewater would have been Houston's choice. Instead, the Texans didn't look at a quarterback until selecting Pittsburgh's Tom Savage in the fourth round.
Savage has all the physical tools of a prototypical pocket-passer, and was a freshman All-American at Rutgers: the highest-rated recruit to ever commit to that school. He lost his job as a sophomore, and instead of battling for it as a junior, he transferred to Arizona. He never played a down there, leaving when the school hired Rich Rodriguez as head coach. Savage completed his final season at Pittsburgh, throwing for 2,958 yards and 21 scores last season.
New Texans coach Bill O'Brien is considered a quarterback quru, but this is a problem area for 2014. Savage will compete with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and T.J. Yates for playing time. Not exactly an impressive quartet. There was talk that Houston was trying to trade for New England backup Ryan Mallett, a guy O'Brien knows well, but apparently that couldn't be worked out. Perhaps it's revisited.
I'm also a tad surprised that the Texans didn't take a running back higher after losing Ben Tate to free agency. Arian Foster is an excellent back, but has proven to be injury-prone. Right now, his backup is former New York Giant Andre Brown, who himself has had trouble staying on the field. Maybe sixth-round pick Alfred Blue will turn out to be something? He only got 71 carries last year with LSU.
Full List Of Draft Picks
Jadeveon Clowney, defensive end, South Carolina (Round 1, No. 1 overall); Xavier Sua'-Filo, guard UCLA, (Round 2, No. 33); C.J. Fiedorowicz, tight end, Iowa (3, No. 65); Louis Nix III, defensive tackle, Notre Dame (3, No. 83); Tom Savage, quarterback, Rutgers (4, No. 135); Jeoffrey Pagan, defensive end, Alabama (6, No. 177); Alfred Blue, running back, LSU (6, No. 181); Jay Prosch, fullback, Auburn (6, No. 211), Dre Hal, cornerback, Vanderbilt (7, No. 216); Lonnie Ballentine, safety, Memphis (7, No. 256 -- Mr. Irrelevant).
NFL free picks: Texans finish second in the AFC South, and play in many low-scoring games with perhaps the best front seven in the NFL, but also one of the worst quarterback situations, lending to several ways you can place your pick.