Into the trenches the Texans went, literally, throughout the 2014 NFL Draft. First pick in the draft they select the most highly sought after defensive lineman in years. Second pick Houston selects the best offensive guard available, then in the third and fourth rounds respectively; they addressed the tight end position, nose tackle, and quarterback. With 10 players total being drafted by the Texans, it seems as if the big men on both sides of the interior line were top priority. Jadeveon Clowney, Louis Nix, and Jeoffrey Pagan will join forces with J.J. Watt on the defensive line; shoring up a defensive line that was ranked 23rd against the run, and 25th in points allowed last season. With the 10 new draft picks, not including the undrafted rookies Houston has signed as well; let’s go ahead and review each player and their potential role on the team.
1st Rd. Pick – Jadeveon Clowney: There is no question that this guy will start from day one. The top overall prospect in the draft, and a complete freak of nature athletically; the Texans will quickly insert him on the opposite end of J.J. Watt on pass rushing situations and let those two wreak havoc on the league. In a 3-4 defensive scheme it sounds as if Houston plans on working Clowney in as a linebacker, using possibly hybrid 4-3 blitz schemes with him, enabling the potential star to do what he does best.
2nd Rd. Pick – Xavier Su’a-Filo: This is another quality pick up for the Houston Texans. Su’a-Filo was the best offensive guard in the draft, and one of the best overall lineman prospects. He’s a nasty run blocker who has played both tackle and guard along the line; helping provide versatility. He will also be a day one starter for an offensive line that struggled heavily throughout last year.
3rd Rd. Pick – C.J. Fiedorowicz: The best blocking tight end in the draft who can get down the field and find spots in soft zones. Standing at 6’5 he provides a big body receiver in the red zone, with great hands. Doesn’t have ideal speed and leaping ability to become elite at the position, but solid rock at the position. He’ll certainly be on the field in two tight end situations and play calls, but the feeling here is that Garrett Graham will remain the starter at the position.
3rd Rd. Pick – Louis Nix: One of the biggest steals of the draft, this 6’5 350 lb. behemoth of a man was projected in some mock drafts, as a late first round pick. The Texans traded up to grab this big fella’ and may plug him in as a day one starter at the nose tackle position. Nix could afford to lose some of his weight and gain some better stamina, but with his knees receiving the OK from doctors, it wouldn’t be to see him in there as a week one starter.
4th Rd. Pick – Tom Savage: With their first compensatory pick of the draft, Houston finally drafted their most needed position, quarterback. The intangibles are great for Savage. A gifted arm, quick release, and good pocket presence but one thing Savage knows himself that he needs to work on, accuracy. The former Pittsburgh quarterback was sacked 43 times last year, which may contribute to the lack of consistency the quarterback had with his throws. With some fine tuning from Bill O’Brien and an improved offensive line, Tom Savage could be a suitable starter for the future. As of right now, the starting quarterback position should be Ryan Fitzpatrick’s to lose.
6th Rd. Pick – Jeoffrey Pagan: Pagan has the size to fill in at the 3-4 defensive end position and has a quick twitch about him getting off the ball. Nobody on the Texans really have locked down the opposite end position of Watt, which will leave an interesting position battle to be had in camp. Pagan walks into camp as a back up for now, but could win the position in camp.
6th Rd. Pick – Alfred Blue: Injuries stymied this young running back’s college days at LSU. The potential is still there though, and Blue will push for time with newly signed free agent running back, Andre Brown. Is a gifted athlete who can run and receive like Houston’s starter, Arian Foster; and could be another potential steal if Blue can stay healthy.
6th Rd. Pick – Jay Prosch: The first fullback selected in the draft, Prosch is worth the look. A bruising run blocker who can catch out of the backfield, and run at the lead back position if needed. A tough versatile player who will more then likely be blocking for Arian Foster from day one.
7th Rd. Pick – Andre Hal: The Texans finally picked their first corner back of the draft, and it seems as if this was a little too late at the position. Houston was in dire need of younger and better, corner play on the team. This was probably their worst move of the draft waiting so long to address this position, and it may come back to bite them in the long run. Hal was a decent player in college but lacks the physical tools to become a starter on the team. If Hal makes the team, he will more less be used for special teams and in a reserve role.
7th Rd. Pick – Lonnie Ballentine – The last overall selection in the draft, Houston has appointed free safety, Lonnie Ballentine, as “Mr. Irrelevant” of the 2014 NFL Draft. Don’t let that fool you though, Ballentine showed great speed and leaping ability at the combine. The 6’3 safety has outrageous physical gifts, but his lack of production hurt his status in the draft. For bouncing back from defensive back and safety, Ballentine has only recorded three interceptions in his collegiate career. He will need to improve his ball skills and provide production on special teams, to make this team.
All in all it was a very strong and top heavy draft for the Houston Texans. The quarterback and defensive back positions should have been addressed a lot sooner then they were; which has caused some ire among players, like Andre Johnson. The quarterback play of last year brought down a team that thought they had a shot at the Super Bowl in 2014. In order for players like J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, Arian Foster, and Andre Johnson; they need a leader at the most glamorous position, to stand up and take over this team. Is that quarterback on the roster as of now? Only Bill O’Brien knows. Training camp is only a few months away, let the position battles begin.
Commentary by Justin Huffman
Guardian Liberty Voice Writer covering the Houston Texans