I just Googled “NFL mock draft” for the hell of it and got about 33.5 million results — almost all of which, somehow, are about 2014 (as opposed to previous years that are stuck in the Google Cache somewhere). Here’s what we know: barring a trade, the top five teams picking are the Texans, Rams, Jaguars, Browns and Raiders. Absolutely no one can agree on who’s going there — and granted, this year the draft is in May, as opposed to late April, so whatever countdown clock we were going to use is pushed back 10-14 days. Smokescreens, workouts and more will change a ton between now and then; I’m sure I’ll revisit the topic a few times myself. People love the NFL Draft.
Here’s what we know about the Texans’ situation right now: they’re a long way from making a decision, but they are theoretically open to trading the pick. Alright. Bleacher Report has one post sending Bridgewater their way, Mocking the Draft has Blake Bortles as the No. 1 pick, Rob Rang at CBS has Clowney, Mel Kiper has Manziel, and Todd McShay (about a month ago) had Bridgewater in that spot. So basically, no one has any idea and opinions are all over the map.
The Texans had the 11th-best offense in the league by some measures last year, but a terrible defense — and they finished 2-14 after two straight playoff years. Although the playoff years were a bit overblown — they beat the Bengals in the wild card each time, then lost not-super-close-games in the Divisional — there was a belief as recently as a couple of years ago (maybe 2-3) that if the Texans made a few shrewd moves, they could become a Ravens/Patriots type team. They had a ton of talent, after all: Arian Foster, J.J. Watt, Andre Johnson, etc. A few things changed: Andrew Luck came to their division, the Colts got much better, Gary Kubiak forgot how to coach, Matt Schaub fell off a cliff, and now — a few years after losing by a touchdown for a chance to play for the AFC Title — they’re in rebuild. They have some salary cap issues (Schaub is going to cost them $14 million or so and isn’t expected to be on the team), but were also in the bottom third of NFL teams by average age at the beginning of last season.
Assuming they don’t trade the pick, it seems like it’s going to come down to a QB or Clowney. There’s strong arguments everywhere. For example, a good QB is obviously a cornerstone of winning in the NFL — name a consistently-good team with a poor QB — but you also build championship teams through the O/D-Lines, so there’s an argument for Clowney. Plus, Bob McNair (Texans’ owner) is an alum of University of South Carolina, and the idea of Clowney/Watt would terrify some offensive coordinators. Plus, there’s this obligatory YouTube.
The Manziel argument is simple: Tebow with more talent / puts asses in the seats / went to college near Houston. The Bortles argument goes back to the UCF-PSU game this past season; UCF won, 34-31, in its first victory ever over a Big Ten program. Bortles was the QB of UCF and PSU was coached by Bill O’Brien at the time. While O’Brien’s quotes on Bortles since taking the Texans job haven’t been over the moon or anything, there’s this:
1 #Texans – Blake Bortles, QB, UCF. | Bill O'Brien is really high on him and may take a chance on his ceiling.
— 2016 NFL Draft (@DraftRT) January 21, 2014
The Bridgewater argument is basic, too: he’s been considered a possible No. 1 pick for basically the last year and a half. Some believe he’s the ideal fit.
It’s possible that someone could rise up based on the Combine, their Senior Day, individual meetings, etc — and of course, it’s possible that the pick could be traded. Right now, if I were the Texans (and I say this with no authority despite having attended one Texans game live), I’d take Clowney. There’s concerns that he loafed on plays in college, sure, but he’s a once-in-a-blue-moon type guy. You can get a QB later (their next pick is the top of the second round), or even develop one (that’s purportedly a strength of O’Brien’s). If you get Clowney and Watt together, suddenly you have a good plan on Andrew Luck (that’s the best team in the division and is poised to be for years) and with the Jaguars and Titans a bit off (depending on what happens with Ken Whisenhunt’s ramp-up plan), you can be back in contention quickly. Clowney, to me, makes the most sense. But I also know grabbing a QB No. 1 is all the rage these days, so in many ways that seems more logical.