In years past, with a week to go before the NFL Draft, we've usually had a fairly good idea what the team picking first will do. Granted, we haven't always known exactly which player will be selected first, but we've generally narrowed the list of potential candidates down to a couple of names.
This year? As we sit here a week before the 2014 NFL Draft, at this moment I reckon your Houston Texans could do any of the following with the first pick:
1. Draft Jadeveon Clowney.
2. Draft Blake Bortles.
3. Draft Johnny Manziel.
4. Draft Teddy Bridgewater.
5. Draft Khalil Mack.
6. Trade the pick.
Would any of those results truly shock you? While I'd be more surprised by some (e.g., the Texans drafting Johnny Manziel) than others (e.g., the Texans drafting Jadeveon Clowney), none of those choices are outside the realm of possibility a mere week from the draft. The team could reasonably justify any of those decisions. As a fan, you may not agree with the team's decision (e.g., the Texans taking Bridgewater first overall will surely be met with criticism from those who don't like him as a prospect or believe he would have been available later in the draft), but I don't think you could say any of those results would qualify as being from out of left field.
On one level, that's pretty exciting. I can't recall the last time there was this much unknown at the top of a draft. On the other hand, as a fan of the team that has the top pick--really, even as a fan of any other team that has to see what the Texans will do before figuring out what his or her team could do--it's maddening.
Yet that's precisely where we are. In some respect, the question marks are due to the new members of the Texans' regime in this Post-Kubiak Era. As a first time NFL head coach, Bill O'Brien doesn't have a track record in the NFL Draft. We can't scour past drafts and soundbites for draft tendencies from the Texans' new head coach. Sure, we can speculate and try to read between the lines, but no one knows what's really going through the head of O'Brien or Smith.
Though he's not telling, Rick Smith says the organization knows who it's going to take with the top pick. If, you know, they don't trade the pick, which is far from certain. I suppose that qualifies as progress; the team has apparently narrowed the choices down to "Draft (Specific Player)" or "Trade the pick."
But for those of us outside
Reliant NRG Park, any such progress rings hollow. The rampant speculation and debate continues and seems likely to do so until Roger Goodell approaches the podium on the evening of May 8th.