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The Dark Horses For The Texans In The First Round

Whether it’s Von Miller, Ryan Kerrigan or Aldon Smith, people seem to be convinced that the Houston Texans will be targeting an outside linebacker in the first round of the upcoming draft.  The assertion makes sense; the Texans are in the process of switching to a 3-4 and the first position thought of for that scheme is the rush linebacker.  The combination of this fact and the talent gap the Texans seemingly fell into at 11 for other positions of need, such as defensive tackle, corner back and safety, has led to an OLB slotted for Houston in almost every mock draft around.

What if linebacker isn’t the pick?  Whether it’s because the 'backer Rick Smith and Company liked is already gone or someone higher on their board falls out of the top ten, let’s imagine that another position is the target for the first round pick.  What position could that be and what specific player might get their name called?  I propose three options, complete with rationale, after the jump.

1. Cam Jordan – DE – California:  Not many players have improved their standing as much as Jordan at the Senior Bowl thus far.  Jordan flashed his use of hands to shed blocks, his power to set the edge, and his initial step to blow into the backfield.  Mike Mayock called him the model 3-4 defensive end because of his ability to anchor against the run, but his additional ability to play in the middle in a four-man front means he would stay on the field when Wade called that formation on passing downs.  I was previously against drafting an end this high because I believed Mario Williams and Antonio Smith would be formidable bookends.  Jordan brings two things though; in the long term, it gives the team a replacement for Smith (bfd did a good job quantifying why that’s a plus), and in the short term, it allows Wade some flexibility to get creative with Mario, i.e., stand him up every once in a while.

2. Prince Amukamara – CB – Nebraska:  Conventional wisdom thus far states that Prince will not make it to 11.  Trick question:  How many players will be selected by the ten teams that precede the Texans?  Von Miller is suddenly a surefire top five pick.  Cam Jordan might crack the single digits.  Nick Fairley, Patrick Peterson and A.J. Green are elite talents.  Several teams need quarterbacks.  I am by no means saying that Amukamara will definitely be there, but there is a lot of time between now and April, and Prince getting off the board before the Texans pick is not written in stone.  Drafting him would provide Vance Joseph with two first round picks to train, hopefully with the mentorship of a savvy, free agent corner to help.  If done correctly, a position of extreme weakness could turn into a position of strength in just a few seasons.  After all, there is no quick fix for this secondary short of a free agent spending spree.

3. Kubiak’s Favorite Offensive Tackle:  At least one reader just had an aneurysm.  It is seen as a foregone conclusion that the Texans will go to the defensive player well early and often in the draft, but what if Wade doesn’t love any of the players at 11 and feels he can get what he needs in the second round and later?  All of the sudden it turns into best player available.  This is where many Texans fans would lobby for Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones at that point, but you don’t need a do-everything receiver opposite of Andre Johnson, you need a deep threat, which can be had much later in the draft.  If the Texans decided to take a tackle, they could have their pick as they would likely be the first team to draft that position.  I would hate this pick, as would most of a fan base that expects immediate changes to a historically bad defense.  For that reason, I don’t think it will happen, but the current regime hasn’t exactly shown the awareness or desire necessary to keep fans happy.

What do you think?  Do you foresee the Texans taking anyone other than the usual outside linebacker suspects?