Wide receiver among Texans’ first-round possibilities

*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.”

Twitter.com/NickScurfield

Mock Draft Survey: All WR, DT for Texans in Round 1

This article is part of our 2012 Path to the Draft coverage presented by Warehouse Pool Supply

With the NFL Scouting Combine kicking off in Indianapolis this week, we surveyed 21 mock drafts around the web to see who the favorite is to be selected by the Texans with the 26th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Every mock picked either a wide receiver or defensive tackle for the Texans in round one. Of the 21 surveyed, 15 mock drafts went receiver for the Texans, while the other six went DT. Four players tied for the highest number of picks with four apiece: wide receivers Michael Floyd (Notre Dame), Kendall Wright (Baylor) and Rueben Randle (LSU) and defensive tackle Dontari Poe (Memphis).

Here are the results from our first Texans Mock Draft Survey of 2012. Click on each website/writer’s name below for their full mock draft.

 

Twitter.com/NickScurfield

 

2011 Path to the Draft: Safety

This article is part of our 2011 Path to the Draft coverage presented by Warehouse Pool Supply.

The Texans parted ways with both of their starting safeties after the 2010 season. Free safety Eugene Wilson was released, while strong safety , the team’s leading tackler in 2010, was not tendered and will become an unrestricted free agent.

Still in the fold are and , two young safeties who were late-round picks. Nolan, a seventh-round pick in 2009, had three interceptions last season in primarily a reserve role. Barber, a sixth-round pick in 2008, has limited starting experience at free and strong safety.

Nolan is a candidate to start at strong safety in 2011, and the Texans are considering moving cornerback to free safety. One way or another, safety is clearly an area that needs to be addressed this offseason.

“It’s a key position for our team,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said at the Combine in February. “We think Troy Nolan has made a lot of ground up. We think he has a chance to be an excellent starter. There has been some talk of us moving Glover. We’ll see what happens with our football team.”

Texans general manager Rick Smith played safety at Purdue, so he understands the significance of the position.

“We’ve got some options there,” Smith said at the Combine. “I think what we look for is what we look for with all positions. We’re looking for good football players who are athletic and have speed and range and make plays on the ball. We need to make more plays on the ball from a defensive perspective, and so we’re looking for those kind of guys and smart guys and guys that will put the team first.”

In an exclusive feature for HoustonTexans.com, Wes Bunting and Joe Fortenbaugh of the National Football Post examine potential safety options for the Texans in the 2011 draft:

National Football Post analysis
As we discussed on Thursday, the Texans finished dead last in the NFL in pass defense last season (267.5 yds/gm) en route to a 6-10 campaign. So it should come as no surprise if Houston decides to upgrade the secondary during this year’s draft. However, unlike last season, the safety position is devoid of elite first-round talent. 

If the Texans want to land a safety in this year’s draft, they’d be better served making a move on Friday or Saturday instead of reaching in the first round. 

DAY 2 SAFETY OPTIONS AT 2.10 AND 3.9

1. Rahim Moore, UCLA (5-11, 202, 4.59): There’s an outside shot that Moore could slip into the back end of the first round, but chances are the 2010 first-team All-Pac 10 selection will hear his name called on Friday during the second round.  Moore recorded an impressive 14 interceptions during his three seasons as a Bruin, including a ridiculous 10 picks in 2009. He possesses good instincts when asked to fill the alley, can attack downhill and does a nice job breaking down in space. The 21-year-old takes good angles, uses his length to get into the frame of ball carriers and does a nice job of wrapping up.  Most analysts would probably agree that he’s the best safety prospect in this year’s draft.

2. Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson (5-10, 195, 4.48): A safety/corner hybrid with great footwork who showcases the ability to take good angles toward the football, Gilchrist was a four-year letter winner at Clemson who led the defense in tackles (107) back in 2009.  He exhibits good balance when asked to redirect laterally and is able to get out of his breaks and up to speed quickly. Gilchrist displays good range in the deep half, tracks the football well sideline-to-sideline and possesses impressive ball skills and body control in jump ball situations.

DAY 3 SAFETY OPTIONS AT 4.8, 5.7, 6.13, 7.11 AND 7.51

1. Tyler Sash, Iowa (6-0, 211, 4.62): After racking up 13 interceptions in three years with the Hawkeyes, Sash decided to forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft. A 2010 first team All-Big 10 selection, Sash isn’t the most athletically gifted safety, but he has good instincts, finds the football and knows how to make plays on the ball. His range is a bit of a concern and he needs to work on his tackling, but the 23-year-old should be able to contribute on special teams as a rookie before possibly working his way into the starting lineup. 

2. Chris Culliver, South Carolina (6-0, 199, 4.40): Culliver’s 2010 campaign was cut short due to injuries, but the 22-year-old is still considered by the National Football Post to be the second-best free safety prospect in this year’s draft.  He’s a tall, lean safety who displays natural cover skills and range in the deep half. Culliver does a nice job keeping his feet under him, is fluid changing direction and has the type of speed to make plays sideline-to-sideline. However, he has a tendency to get a bit high in his drop, which at times takes away from his initial burst out of his breaks. Will likely begin his career as a special teams player who contributes in nickel packages.

Follow Bunting and Fortenbaugh on Twitter @ and @. Click to check out more from the National Football Post at their scouting department page.