OK, so Texans general manager Rick Smith's revelation that he "absolutely" knows who he wants to take with the first overall pick of the draft isn't really a huge surprise. He should know by now, a week before the NFL draft starts.
But, the Texans' silence and the extra time before the draft has made this one of the most interesting first picks in a while.
Nobody knows what the Texans are going to do. Well, Smith knows.
“I absolutely know who I want,” Smith told Fox Sports Southwest, via the Texans' official site. “I know the guys we like. The fortunate thing about having the first pick is I’ve got the pick of the litter, so I will know exactly who I want at that point.”
Time to read between the lines again.
Smith never said he's going to take the player he wants with the first pick. It's possible he could move down, perhaps to No. 6 in a trade with the Falcons, and take his player there. (Johnny Manziel? Blake Bortles?)
The Texans would have no problem finding a trade partner for the first pick, the problem is finding one that has a pick early enough in the first round. The Texans aren't moving from the first pick to the middle or end of the first round. They want an impact player, and maybe pick up some extra selections along the way by moving down. It'll actually be anti-climactic if the Falcons trade up for No. 1 and pick South Carolina end Jadeveon Clowney, because it's so obvious for both teams.
What if the Texans can't find a trade partner with a top-10 pick and do have to stay at No. 1? That's when it gets interesting. And it could happen. The Falcons gave up five draft picks in 2011 to move up and take Julio Jones a few years ago, and while that worked out, it's tough to turn around and trade a bunch more picks three years later for Clowney. And it won't be cheap to get the first pick. The Houston Chronicle's John McClain speculated it would take the sixth pick, a second- and fourth-round pick this year and a first-round pick next year for Atlanta to get to No. 1. That's a huge price. It's pretty easy to see the Falcons deciding the price is too high, sticking at No. 6 and taking Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack or a top offensive tackle like Auburn's Greg Robinson. Either player would fill a need, is elite and won't cost a boatload of extra picks.
If the Texans don't trade, we'll see who Smith covets. Is it Clowney? The longer the pre-draft speculation goes on, the more it seems that Clowney will be the first pick, no matter what team ultimately ends up with that pick. Clowney would presumably play a 3-4 outside linebacker spot in Houston, which is not natural for him, but he'd be fine. He's the most talented player in the draft, so it would make some sense to take him even though the team needs a quarterback. McClain, who said for most of the offseason that he believed the Texans would take a quarterback first, recently changed his mind.
It's a week before the draft and we're still all guessing on what will happen when it starts. The Texans have done well to keep it all a secret and drive up interest for the first pick. The NFL, and the television viewers that are sure to pour in for the draft, probably don't mind.
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