With the number one pick in this year’s NFL Draft, the Houston Texans have been very secretive as to whom they are going to take. There are really only two candidates for them to consider, but they each fill completely different needs. The first in Johnny Manziel, the Heisman winning quarterback from Texas A&M. He has been touted as the next Doug Flutie and is drawing many comparisons to to Russell Wilson of the Seahawks too. The other player is Jadeveon Clowney, a defensive end from South Carolina. Clowney is considered the most talented player in the draft and has the ability to impact every game. Both players come with concerns too. Manziel has a history of partying too much and has an image problem, while Clowney’s problem is his work ethic as it came into question during his final season. Houston has a been very quiet, but have also met with both players and talked highly about each. Looking at their history, the Texans have proven time and agin that drafting defensive players first is their priority, and that could go a long way to figuring out who they may pick first this year.
Houston came into the league in 2002 as an expansion team. In 2006 Gary Kubiak took over as head coach and from there on, they have been a defensive minded team. 2006 is the year that started the trend when the Texans selected Mario Williams, a defensive end, with their first overall pick. They picked him over Reggie Bush, who was thought to be the best player in the league, and was the second overall pick. This pick was not a one time thing either. Since 2006, 11 of their first two picks have been defensive players and only five have been on offense.
This of course does not mean that they are a lock to pick Clowney on history alone. But what it does show is that they actually have a better track record of drafting defensive players. Of all those first two picks since 2006 they have selected four defensive ends (Mario Williams in 2006, Connor Barwin in 2009, J.J. Watt in 2011 and Whitney Mercilus in 2012) and no quarterbacks. Mercilus is probably the weakest of those four and he was still selected over offensive players like Doug Martin, David Wilson, Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffrey, Reuben Randle and Ronnie Hilman, all of whom were selected before their next pick. Clearly the Texans long history of drafting players on the defensive side of the ball first has been their M.O.
Since 2006 Houston has had five picks in the top 20; all of those players selected were on defense. It seems a bit dramatic to be that one-sided, but it has worked for them. After a rough start to their NFL existence they have ranked in the top 15 defenses in yards allowed in four of the last five years. They have passed up on a lot of offensive players to do this, but have had luck too. Arian Foster was an un-drafted rookie and he turned out to be pretty good. Since 2006 they have selected eight wide receivers, five tight ends, three running backs, seven offensive linemen and only two quarterbacks, T.J. Yates and Alex Brink (who?). Outside of that it was all defensive players and a kicker.
Houston struggled last season and it all had to do with points. The offense ranked 31st in points scored and the defense ranked 24th in points allowed; both were considerably better in yards allowed. Having the first pick in the draft is a blessing and a curse. Any player is up for grabs and they all want to be selected first, but with so many options it can be very difficult to decide who will be the best and who will bust. Head coach Bill O’Brien said that they will definitely select a quarterback in the draft, he just did not say when. They already have T.J. Yates, Case Keenum and Ryan Fitzpatrick on the roster. After losing Ben Tate (their back-up and fill in for Arian Foster) they went out and signed the injury prone Andre Brown, who is very similar to a Tate when healthy; it looks like their offense is filling up nicely. The final missing piece may be a young, exciting quarterback perhaps. It is still too soon to know for sure, and Houston said they will wait till the last possible moment to make their decision. For now, all there is, is speculation. History says the Texans will select a defensive player first (Clowney), but it is not a long shot that they take Maziel either. Of course, as the saying goes, history tends to repeat itself.
Commentary by Chris Dragicevich