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The Houston Texans aren’t blowing up my phone to ask me for advice about which direction to go with the first overall pick in May’s draft. I do, however, have some advice for the team.
There are so many ways the Texans and first-year coach Bill O’Brien can attack the draft. They can make Blake Bortles the first overall pick, get their franchise quarterback right off the bat, and fill the rest of the team’s needs in the ensuing rounds. Or they can take the highly coveted Jadeveon Clowney, create an unfair pass-rushing tandem with J.J. Watt, then find a signal-caller in Rounds 2 or 3.
Which way Houston opts to go remains a mystery. It doesn’t sound like the team even knows right now.
All we know at this point is the team will select a quarterback. … at some point. And to me, that point does not have to be right off the bat.
There’s an increased pressure to get a quarterback early for fear another team comes in and sweeps your guy off the board, then you’re forced to settle for a prospect lower down on your board. That’s a fair position, but in this year’s draft it just seems unlikely.
The Texans might like Bortles the most, but it is a weak quarterback class. I am one of people under the impression that neither Bortles, Johnny Manziel, or Teddy Bridgewater are the next level of elite young quarterbacks. I don’t think any of them are going to alter the direction of a franchise, and at most, would be great pieces of the puzzle as serviceable players under center. Spending the No. 1 overall pick on a player that’s the best of a bad class does not seem like the right thing to do.
Instead, I’d elect to draft Clowney. Heck, I would grab Khalil Mack or Greg Robinson or Sammy Watkins ahead of Bortles or one of the other “top three” quarterbacks. I understand that the Texans have a major need at the quarterback position; I just don’t believe Bortles is so much better than a Zach Mettenberger or Jimmy Garappolo that could be picked in Rounds 2 or 3 that he is worth missing out on an elite prospect at another position.
The Texans are far from being a contender, so why doesn’t the team fill all of its holes and then find a quarterback. That’s how the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers did it. Back in 2012, for instance, Russell Wilson was drafted in the third round after Seattle drafted pass-rusher Bruce Irvin and linebacker Bobby Wagner in the first and second rounds, respectively. The team opted to draft other positions of need, getting the best available according to their boards, and waited for a quarterback they felt could come in and compete for a starting job.
The Texans should follow that same model. Don’t pass up on Clowney simply because the team needs a quarterback. To me, it’s insane to pass up the draft’s best prospect just to address another position of need. The entire franchise will not be shifted back into contention by selecting Bortles first, but will be by addressing each need by selecting the best players available. The key to striking at the right time, just as the Seahawks proved.
Prospects like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were far and away better quarterback prospects in the 2012 draft than Wilson or Nick Foles who were taken in Round 3, so electing to wait wasn’t an option for the Indianapolis Colts or Washington Redskins. But with prospects further off the radar, like a Wilson or Foles — or in this case, a Mettenberger or Garappolo — you can afford to be patient.
If O’Brien wants my advice, I’ll be glad to pick up the phone. But this franchise can serve as its own model. The Texans became contenders shortly after Mario Williams was the No. 1 pick in 2006 over Matt Leinart and Vince Young, both of whom were in high demand by fans. The team made the right move, grabbing the best overall prospect in favor of the more popular quarterback, and look how it paid off. The Texans then went from 8-8 to 9-7 to back-to-back trips to the postseason. Follow the same trend in 2014, then allow O’Brien, who’s earned a reputation as a quarterback guru, to find his guy in the middle rounds. It’s the new model in the NFL, and it’s one that Seattle proved wins championships.
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