1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE South Carolina
2. Xavier Su’a-Filo, G UCLA
3. C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE Iowa
3. Louis Nix III, DT Notre Dame
4. Tom Savage, QB Pittsburgh
6. Jeoffrey Pagan, DE Alabama
6. Alfred Blue, RB LSU
6. Jay Prosch, FB Auburn
7. Andre Hal, CB Vanderbilt
7. Lonnie Ballentine, S Memphis
The Houston Texans landed a ton of talent in the 2014 NFL Draft, especially with their top four picks. The problem with the Texans, though, since their inception is the quarterback position. Andre Johnson is less than thrilled and it is difficult to blame him as his entire Hall of Fame career has been largely wasted by average at best play from under center.
On the plus side, the Texans really were able to put their defense in a great position for a long, long time and they gave their offensive line a huge boost and continue what has been a solid run of a largely underrated group. They should have ensured they can continue running the football and protect whichever quarterback they do end up having lead their offense.
The Texans surprised many and forced John McClain to eat the front page of a newspaper when they did finally take Jadeveon Clowney. This was never a question of value. Clowney’s talent is off the charts and the question marks were of a medical nature for me as opposed to a work ethic one. He dealt with bone spurs this season which probably had a substantial impact on his ability to play hard all of the time, but what makes it surprising is how young he is while suffering from bone spurs. The question for the medical staff, which evidently gave their play, was if these would be a long term concern.
On the field, Clowney can do a number of things for the Texans. Personally, I would put him on the other end of the defensive line across from J.J. Watt and have them play a 1-gap odd man front, allowing them to isolate against opposing offensive tackles and pinch down on the run as well as give them exceptional athleticism against the pass.
The Texans could also use him as a standup rush backer and put him on the same side as Watt and force teams to try to block them both coming from one side. There is not necessarily a wrong answer here, but more of a preference. They could also mix things up and have him attack from both spots depending on the situation and strengths of the opponent. The one thing that is clear is that along with Watt, the Texans have arguably the most talented 1-2 punch in the entire NFL on paper anyway.
With the first pick of the second round, the Texans opted to secure the long term future of their offensive line by selecting Xavier Su’a-Filo from UCLA. I am a little surprised Su’a-Filo lasted that long, but the Texans opted to jump at the opportunity and Su’a-Filo could compete and possibly beat out Ben Jones for the left guard spot. If that situation were to play out that, Jones could slide back to the spot he played in college at center, replacing Chris Myers. Should that happen, the Texans would have an offensive line with their senior member just 28 years old in Duane Brown.
Along with Brown, the pair of them could create a formidable left side that could create running lanes as well as provide great pass protection. Su’a-Filo has a build like a sumo wrestler with a huge bubble butt that allows him to create a great deal of power. He also moves extremely well and can pull or slide in protection pretty easily. Su’a-Filo could also play right guard, replacing Brandon Brooks and giving them more athleticism on the right side along with Derek Newton if they wanted to go that route.
The Texans continued to attack the offensive side of the ball when they selected C.J. Fiedorowicz. I am a big fan of Fiedorowicz and of the pick. He is an extremely talented blocker that works as an extension of the offensive line at tight end with his size and strength, but he showed at Iowa and at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, he has potential as a receiving threat and just needs the opportunity to develop it. Iowa’s quarterback situation was not good, so they did not utilize Fiedorowicz as much they may have liked.
Fiedorowicz is big and strong, but he showed more burst than some might expect and that carried over into workouts. The way the NFL is going with tight ends, Fiedorowicz is pretty much the ultimate second tight end to have. The Texans have Garrett Graham as more of a pure receiving threat, but Fiedorowicz can come in and help the running game while being a big target to keep drives moving and make plays in the red zone.
In the third round, the Texans ended the slide of Louis Nix III who many expected to be gone in the top 50 picks. It is unclear if there was a medical issue with his knee or something else that caused the slide. A healthy Nix was one of the most disruptive players in college football as a redshirt sophomore and could be a huge asset next to Watt. Even when he was battling an injured knee, Nix still showed the ability to make the occasional splash play, but he never stopped trying; it was just clear he was struggling through pain, which ultimately led to the nose tackle being shut down for the year.
Presuming he is healthy, Nix will compete with Jerrell Powe for the starting nose spot in the Texans front, but regardless of the winner, both will see time and snaps. The thing is, if a fan base was told they could conceivably have a defensive line made up of J.J. Watt, Louis Nix and Jadeveon Clowney going into the season, most people would have thought the person insane. The Texans may have that setup at points of the season and moving into the future.
The Texans took a quarterback in the fourth round in Tom Savage. Savage was a complete product of hype and despite six years of college spread through three collegiate programs, he was never good at any of them. He is 24 and while he has the size and raw arm strength, everything from his mechanics, footwork and accuracy are incredibly inconsistent. Even in round four, Savage was a reach to me. If he ever becomes anything, it would actually be beating odds.
For the Texans, the argument can be made that they were screwed anyway after not getting a quarterback until round four, so why not throw Savage at the starting job and see what he can do with it since he fits what Bill O’Brien wants in a quarterback from a style and size standpoint. Personally, I think there were better quarterbacks on the board and Savage is unlikely to be anything but a wasted pick, whether that is determined this year or in three years.
The Texans picked up Jeoffrey Pagan in round 6. For where they took him, it is not a big deal, but he does have a concerning injury history as virtually every Alabama prospect does and he did need surgery after this past season. The good news is Pagan looks the part and is relatively athletic for a depth 5-technique end.
They took a couple of running backs in round 6 as well. I like the Jay Prosch pick better between the two and I think he brings an attitude and a tough mindset that could potentially be a value for the Texans as a fullback. He can be a blocking back or help as an H-Back and will compete with Brad Smelley to stay on the roster.
Alfred Blue is another in a long line of talented LSU backs that did not get a ton of opportunities because there were a ton of backs and only so many carries. Physically, he has intriguing tools but he is extremely tall for the position, but does give them a big back with some wiggle.
Andre Hal was a pretty good value in round 7. Hal looks the part, but has a lot of developing to do. He is strong and athletic, but makes a lot of missteps in coverage. Hal could end up contributing as a nickel or dime back while also giving that secondary some badly needed toughness at corner.
Overall, the Texans led by general manager Rick Smith and Bill O’Brien did good from a value standpoint and in a few years, they should get a healthy of contribution from this class, so history will probably look kindly at this draft. The hitch is the fact that a team that had a good amount of talent and was expected to compete for the playoffs the year before and largely failed because of injuries and quarterback play, made a pitiful effort to address the quarterback position.
They could end up being right by not taking any of the quarterbacks that were available, especially with the first pick of the draft, but it would be a stunning development if they get anything out of Savage, leaving them with Ryan Fitzpatrick, T.J. Yates and Case Keenum. As a result, the Texans could be a substantially improved team this year that does not show a ton of difference in the standings and will still be searching for a quarterback next season. So while it will be fun to watch Clowney, Watt and the defense operate this year, at some point the offense is going to get the ball and reality is going to set in quickly.