Anyone who has read anything NFL Draft related of mine in almost three years of writing here knows I have been 100% against drafting by need. The draft should be about acquiring talent and building the franchise for the long-term. I have railed against need-based drafting since the idea is very short-term to fill in gaping holes with young, not-ready-for-prime-time talent. However, the current state of the Houston Texans roster has me going against my own beliefs this year.
Currently, after the illustrious Andre Johnson, the receivers on the roster have 22 receptions for 323 yards and two touchdowns. That's the combined career totals of third-round pick DeVier Posey, fourth-round pick Keshawn Martin, and undrafted free agent LeStar Jean. If you wanted to add undrafted free agent Jeff Maehl, who is currently listed on the roster, the totals don't change. Also, Posey is on the mend from a torn Achilles' tendon that could have him out until midseason. If Darryl Sharpton can serve as an example, the Texans would do well not to rush Posey back into duty.
All of that information isn't anything new for most diehard fans. If you didn't know all of the preceding information, I'm sorry for bringing you down with the bleak realities of the receiver position. The fact of the matter is Houston has a clear void, some would argue two, in the receiving corps. If you thought getting open was difficult for Johnson and tight end Owen Daniels last year, imagine them trying to do so in 2013.
This all has fueled the locked-on desire to nab a first round receiver, but the final push comes from looking at receiver performance in 2012. Out of the top-64 receivers (that's two starters per team), first-rounders produce more than their other counterparts. Eighteen of the top-64 receivers in receptions and 20 of the top-64 receivers in yards came from the first round. That's equal to or more, respectively, than their second and third round counterparts combined. This includes three, Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright, and Michael Floyd, of last year's four first round wideouts. Thinking about each team's respective offenses, the rookie production should really stand out.
The Texans, after Johnson 10 years ago, have not drafted a single receiver higher than round three (and only two more before round six...if you count Jerome Mathis as a receiver). In those instances, Houston nabbed Jacoby Jones in a weak 2007 receiving class. After that, I'm sure fans would give the 2012 pick of Posey back to take T.Y. Hilton, which would have allowed them to use that fourth round pick on a bigger outside receiver to develop, such as a Nick Toon or Greg Childs or Juron Criner. That's all in the rear-view mirror, however. The fact is Houston hasn't invested properly in the position and now finds itself hurting at receiver. It shouldn't shock anyone.
Keenan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins, or Robert Woods have all been discussed as scheme fits to what the Texans do on offense. All would look great as a partner to Andre Johnson. The old rule of thumb was that receivers took three years to develop, but thanks to the spread offense, that is no longer the case. If Blackmon, Wright, and Floyd can produce in weak offenses with mediocre, to put it generously, quarterbacks, imagine what Allen, Hopkins, or Woods could do in an offense filled with All-Pros and Pro Bowlers. With Andre Johnson getting another year away from 30, it also isn't too short-term a move to add a quality receiver.
You should never let need dictate a draft board, but this is the perfect storm of a bad position group, overall roster strength, immediate impact, and projected talent available for that to be the case. This is why I've locked into a round one receiver. If Houston strikes out on receivers or, even worse, opts to risk that one of the few potential guys who could start from day one falls to 57, the outlook for the offense would appear bleak as they head into mini-camp.