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The Importance Of The Deep Threat

Last week, TexansDC posted about the need for a West Coast receiver. While draft disagreements are nothing new between us (the Robert Quinn Papers would have reached the size of the Federalist ones if we had let them), I think the answer for the Texans is a little more complicated than that.

Andre Johnson's importance to this team was spelled out last season by just how lost T.J. Yates looked without him down the stretch. After teams got some film on Yates when the Texans clinched the division in Cincinnati, he had a couple of stinkers in a row without Johnson. Against the Titans, he had a great first drive with Johnson, and then Andre made a big difference in the playoffs for him. In fact, he was just about the only receiver Baltimore couldn't cover.

In a vacuum, do teams that run a more West Coast-style passing game need outstanding deep threats? Not really. But, to channel Mr. Kubiak, does it also make them a heckuva lot harder to defend? This much, I think, is conclusively true.

For the first draft in Texans' history, this team has no real need to force a pick, especially since I'm not totally convinced that Rick Smith couldn't find two free agent receivers with a chance to be better than Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones will be going forward. They are certainly weaker at some spots than they are at others, of course.

However, drafting someone like Alshon Jeffery or Michael Floyd -- and I'd even throw Kendall Wright in this crowd -- gives the Texans a chance to use a low-value first-round pick on a very important enterprise: having a potential replacement for Andre Johnson.

Andre Johnson has been, without a doubt, the best player to ever put on the deep steel blue and liberty white. I tread lightly because judging on personal experience, there isn't much that I doubt he can do if he sets his mind on it. But even idols watch their skill sets fade and their health fall into question. Anyone remember a certain division rival struggling with that this past season?

The main argument I have against TDC's piece was that it was concerned a bit too much with the present. Should the Texans fix their holes? Yes. At the same time, Johnson has missed 3/4 of a season over the past two years. He'll be 31 when next season begins. I didn't perceive much drop off when he was on the field, but he's such a fulcrum point for this offense that I think it's important to have someone who can step in and deliver what he can on the football field. Age happens to everyone, even the most awesome. A pick of an elite-tools receiver may have some thinking that the Texans are trying to build a Madden offense -- I say that it's a pick aimed towards 2013 and 2014 first.

Would using a first-round pick on a physical freak with questions be a risky move? Unquestionably. But that is how teams as good as Houston get high-caliber players late in the first. If Jeffery or Floyd had no red flags, then the Texans would never be in a position to obtain them. For all the hoopla about how Dez Bryant is completely inept off the field, you sure don't hear Jerry Jones and company complaining about how that pick worked out, do you? How about Hakeem Nicks? Roddy White? Of course, for every one of those guys, there is a Buster Davis or a Rashaun Woods. I'm not denying the inherent risk here -- I'm simply pointing out that just because a pick doesn't have a 70 percent chance of being a solid starter doesn't make it a bad pick.

And sure, the Texans have traditionally stayed away from "bad character" guys. I don't think that's generally a bad philosophy, though I do think there are times it can be a bit overblown. I also don't think that, in Floyd's case, the fact that he likes to drink alcohol makes him a stupid person. The fact that he was a college football player that didn't know how to hide the drinking worries me more than that, if that makes sense. Either way, I understand that these guys wouldn't traditionally fit in Rick Smith's box, but Rick Smith also hasn't ever drafted this low very often, and the last time he did, following the character pattern, he wound up with Kareem Jackson. Womp womp.

Look, I'm not fully "on board" with anybody at this point of the process. I just think it's silly to throw out potentially good value at a position of need because they don't fit in a neat box for next season. I understand that the Texans don't necessarily need a deep threat or someone who can run the whole route tree, but I think they'd be doing themselves a disservice to not investigate the possibility. This pick could go in any number of directions: wide receiver, replacing Shaun Cody (I won't call this a "nose" because TWO-DOWN PLAYER!!!!), pass rusher, maybe even cornerback, offensive line, or quarterback.

Drafting in the bottom part of the first round tends to make your picks more risky -- I'll take a calculated risk on a possible elite receiver over drafting a "safe" receiver that can only play underneath any day. Particularly in a class that runs deep in receiving options like this one. You can find "safe" receivers in the fourth round these days. It's the Andre Johnsons that make your passing engine hum.