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2015 NFL Mock Draft: Uncertain About Clowney,Texans Take An Outside Linebacker In The First Round

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Lance Zierlein is an NFL Media draft analyst, and has posted his mock draft for the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. See who he has the Texans selecting with the 16th overall pick.

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We are in the proverbial "Death Valley" stretch of the NFL off-season.  The Super Bowl is over, and the NFL Combine is still a few weeks away.  What better way to fill this void than to keep up with various mock drafts?  Lance Zierlein is well known around Houston, and he has published his 2015 NFL Mock Draft.

Lance has the Houston Texans selecting Kentucky OLB Alvin "Bud" Dupree (6' 4" / 264 lbs) in the first round.  His note in the mock includes this comment:

Zierlein:  "The Texans are hoping that Jadeveon Clowney comes back at full strength, but they still need help on the other side and Dupree is a supreme athlete."

The NFL Draft Profile (also written by Lance) provides this analysis:

Strengths

Freakish athlete with chiseled frame. Outstanding power with ability to rag-doll tight ends at will. Should be an above average edge-setter. Good transition from playing run to rushing quarterback in play-action. Explosive closing burst. Willing thumper when he has a shot on running back. Can drop into space and play zone. Raw, but learning with huge growth potential as a player. Has strength at the point to be a physical edge-setter. Scouts give him plus grade for character. Will post eye-popping numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Dupree is an explosive, powerful athlete with a background in basketball. While he's been productive at Kentucky, his tape doesn't always do his potential justice. He must continue to improve as a pass rusher, but his traits are undeniable. Difference between being good and great might be his coordinator.

Weaknesses

Tall but not long. Wins with athleticism over skill at this point. Some scouts believe his instincts are below average, leading to hesitation. Will get caught taking bad angles to the ball. Needs to improve hand fighting. Still raw rushing the passer. Doesn't possess a go-to pass-rush move. Appears to lack urgency in-game.

Sources Tell Us

"He's a little slow to diagnose, which causes him to get a late start on plays. I would ask him to drop into space in zone dog looks and that's about it. To me, he's a pure see 'em, get 'em 3-4 rush end." -- NFC East regional scout

NFL Comparison

Jamie Collins

Bottom Line

Dupree is an explosive, powerful athlete with a background in basketball. While he's been productive at Kentucky, his tape doesn't always do his potential justice. He must continue to improve as a pass rusher, but his traits are undeniable. Difference between being good and great might be his coordinator.

The New England Patriots drafted Jamie Collins in the second round of the 2013 draft.  He was an immediate starter on defense his rookie year: 43 tackles and 4 passes defended.  This last season he took his game to a very high level with: 116 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles, and 3 passes defended.  If the Texans can get this type of player out of Bud Dupree, it would be a fantastic addition to the pass rush that currently only consists of J.J. Watt.

Even if Jadeveon Clowney does return to full strength, it isn't likely to be until late in the 2015 season or perhaps 2016 when you consider the lengthy recovery road he has in front of him.  Notwithstanding a new contract with the Texans, Brooks Reed is about to become a free agent.  Whitney Mercilus has one year remaining on his rookie contract, and will be back for 2015 to try and secure his future with Houston.  Given the uncertainty surrounding all three of these players, and considering the critical role of an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, it would be a great investment to draft Bud Dupree.  I would prefer that Houston acquire OLB talent in the second round like New England did, but I couldn't fault them if this was the pick.  Dupree probably won't make it out of the first round.

The issue I would have with this is the massive investment the Texans have made at OLB over recent drafts, but the reason to do it is the complete failure Houston has had in securing long-term talent at this position:

2014 First-overall Jadeveon Clowney Injured Reserve: Uncertain Return
2013 Round 3 Sam Montgomery Released
2013 Round 4 Trevardo Williams Released
2012 Round 1 Whitney Mercilus 1 year remaining
2011 Round 2 Brooks Reed Free Agent in 2015
2009 Round 2 Connor Barwin Eagles: All Pro 2014

What are your thoughts?