*This article is part of our 2012 Path to the Draft coverage presented by Warehouse Pool Supply
INDIANAPOLIS – Coming off the first playoff season in franchise history, the Texans have few, if any, glaring needs.
That doesn’t mean they’re resting on their laurels.
“You go back to the drawing board again, no different than you did every year before,” Texans general manager Rick Smith said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “It’s a very honest assessment of where we are, where we feel like we’re strong, where we think we need to improve.”
Free agency begins on March 13. The 2012 draft is a month later, and the Texans are widely expected to target a wide receiver with the 26th overall pick. Outside linebacker would become a priority if the Texans don’t re-sign unrestricted free agent .
“I think the wide receiver position is a position where we might strengthen our team,” Smith said. “You can never have enough corners; I know I always say that. Pass rushing is a premium. I mean, it’s pretty standard. We look for guys that make plays, that impact the game. We can never find or have too many players that impact the game, whether you’re talking about a pass-rusher or guy who can take the ball and make a play with the ball in his hands.”
With missing nine games last season and quarterbacks and landing on injured reserve, the Texans’ leading receivers were tight end (54 catches, 677 yards) and running back (53, 617).
Wide receiver had 39 catches for 474 yards in 15 games. had 31 catches for 512 yards (16.5 average) in 16 games with a career-high 10 starts.
“It was a very difficult time for us not only losing our quarterback, but losing Andre,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. “I thought Kevin Walter and Jacoby played very well for our football team. But I do think it’s important that we continue to develop young players. That is one position where we can do a little better job from that standpoint.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Kevin. I think he’s a solid two in this league and has been for me since I’ve been in Houston. And I think Jacoby made some strides last year as well. You’re always trying to get better, and hopefully we’ll continue to do that at that position.”
This year’s draft class includes several wide receivers who could be options for the Texans late in the first round, including LSU’s Rueben Randle, Baylor’s Kendall Wright, Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd and Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu.
“It looks like there’s quantity,” Kubiak said. “There’s a lot of guys, a lot of good players. You’ve got to go find those guys late in the draft. Obviously, the guys early in the draft, everybody kind of knows who those guys are, but you’re able to find some good guys late in the draft at that position. So we’ll have to do our homework. We’d like to add some playmakers to our offensive football team, and obviously that would help.”
Johnson, Walter and Jones are all 6-3, but Kubiak said he doesn’t look for wide receivers with specific physical dimensions.
“I think there is a certain size where you may struggle outside a little bit, (but) I’ve seen some great players that are 5-10,” he said. “You talk about (Carolina Panthers receiver) Steve Smith. I was at the Pro Bowl and watched him on the other side of the ball and what he did to us during the season. He’s a great player, not a big guy and can play anywhere. I think you’re looking for great players. You go do what they do best. I don’t think size eliminates guys.”
Whether the Texans go wide receiver or another position – such as outside linebacker, cornerback or somewhere along the defensive line – in the first round, Smith said they will look for the best player available.
“We always do,” he said. “We stay true to our board, and that’s not a philosophy that we’re going to alter because I think it gives you the best chance to have success.
“If you assess value and you follow the value of your board and don’t stretch for need, because I think that’s where people make mistakes, we’ve not done that before, and I would suspect that we stay true to that philosophy and not do that in the future.”