The Houston Texans came off a great regular season, a 12-4 finish and first place in the AFC South. However, the disappearance from the playoffs is not what the team had in mind. Rick Smith enters his 8th season as the general manager and third as executive vice president of football operations. The Texans have been slowly but surely building their franchise to be long-term contenders. Smith is the architect behind the teams back to back playoff appearances. The Texans had a very strong defense last year, led by Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. Wade Phillips built the kind of defense he is known for; aggressive and fast paced. His roster consists of stars, and guys with star potential. That being said, no team is without its holes. The 2013 draft is a great place to continue to build a contender.
The Texans still have Andre Johnson, and he is a beast, but they are going to need more than that if they want to continue to contend. The first target should be for a speedy guy on the outside who can stretch the field vertically. That would allow Johnson to play to his strength, which is being a tough, underneath possession type receiver. I would have like to see Kevin Walter stick around, he would have fit in perfect on the inside matched up against a number 3 corner.
The Texans get an outstanding amount of production from their defensive end positions with Watt and Antonio Smith, but they need some more in the middle. Wade Phillips traditionally likes to get more production from the nose tackle, which is regarded as highly important in a successful 3-4 scheme. Being able to collapse the middle of the pocket would bring havoc to opposing quarterbacks.
Brian Cushing is an All-Pro caliber linebacker when he is on the field. However, the Texans are going to need more than just him if they hope to improve upon their 16th ranked pass defense. In the game they got eliminated in against the Patriots the middle of the field was the soft spot as New England cruised to 41 points. It's currently a hole that the elite teams will be able to exploit unless the Texans fill the gap.
The team asked Derek Newton to step into the right tackle position last year and no one has been exactly impressed with his performance. The team likes to have a strong run game with athletic lineman that can execute the zone blocking scheme. They will likely be looking at tackles they believe they can develop over the season into starters next year. Brandon Brooks will also jump into the starting role at right guard, but he is not the answer there long term either. Without help on the offensive line the team may have another rocky road when it comes to the run game this season.
Rick Smith and Gary Kubiak are smart, effective judges of talent. With the 27th overall pick in the draft they would love to see a player like Robert Woods fall into their lap and give Andre Johnson the help he needs. A big, strong receiver at 6-1, 200 lbs Woods would be able to step in the starting role and contribute to the Texans offense. Setting him up on the outside would allow him to operate in space, where he is most dangerous. He has shown the ability to routinely slip tackles and rack up big yards after the catch. He is a natural hand catcher which reduces drops and allows him to catch the ball in stride. Good quickness off the line and strong hands make him tough to deal with in press coverage as well. He was initially targeted as a top 5 talent going into this draft , but his stock slipped throughout the season. His role was diminished at USC as Marqise Lee saw his role in the offense grow. Nevertheless, Woods remains a top talent who can be molded into a steal if he is picked up at 27th. If the team decides they can get talent at the receiver position later in the draft, Johnathan Hankins would be the likely other pick. As one of the biggest defensive tackles, 6-4, 325 lbs in the draft he would likely be able to make the transition to NT in a 3-4. He is also quick for his size with a good understanding of leverage. He would be able to apply good pressure up the middle and offer a great compliment to what they already have on the outside.