2013 Texans draft needs: Interior defense should be primary focus for Houston

John Harris
Yahoo! Sports

LAST SEASON Rush Offense - 132.7 ypg (8th)
Pass Offense - 239.4 ypg (11th)
Total Offense - 372.1 ypg (7th)
Scoring Offense - 26.0 ppg (8th)
Rush Defense - 97.5 ypg (7th)
Pass Defense - 225.8 ypg (16th)
Total Defense - 323.2 ypg (7th)
Scoring Defense - 20.7 ppg (10th) MOST PRESSING NEEDS Offense: Right Tackle, Consistent No. 2 WR, Guard
Defense: Inside linebacker, NT and a playmaker in the secondary

Quarterback The Draft Board

5th round Landry Jones, Oklahoma (6-4, 220) 6th round Brad Sorensen, Southern Utah (6-4, 235) 7th round Alex Carder, Western Michigan (6-2, 220)
Jeff Tuel, Washington State (6-3, 221)

Not everyone in the Houston fan base is enamored with Matt Schaub being The Man, but the future is pretty clear for the Texans as the starting QB signed a five-year, $66.2 million contract in September 2012. Backup T.J Yates has a playoff win to his record and Gary Kubiak likes what he has in former University of Houston great Case Keenum.

That said, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Texans take a look in later rounds, especially on a guy with size and potential. I've seen Landry Jones too often to think that he's worthy of going before the fourth round. But, if he's available in the fifth round, it would make sense for the Texans to consider him.

Running Back The Draft Board

3rd round Johnathan Franklin, UCLA (5-10, 198) 4th round Stepfan Taylor, Stanford (5-11, 215)
LeVeon Bell, Michigan State (6-2, 244)
Mike Gillislee, Florida (5-11, 210)
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (6-0, 220) 5th round Rex Burkhead, Nebraska (5-11, 210)

The coaching staff hasn't been enamored with Ben Tate, but its philosophy indicates the Texans likely won't take a flyer on an RB in the early rounds to back up Arian Foster. If they find a one-cut, downhill RB with value on Day 3, it'd make sense to send a message to Tate with the pick.

Bell would be an intriguing prospect, especially if Tate is somehow moved in the offseason. He ran in a power-based offense at Michigan State, but I'd love to see him in a zone-blocking scheme with his one-cut running ability. Johnathan Franklin is a poor man's Cadillac Williams/Shady McCoy hybrid but he's got some juice inside the tackles and outside as well. Lattimore might be an option in the fourth round if the Texans want to consider waiting out his rehab.

Wide Receiver The Draft Board

1st round Keenan Allen, Cal (6-3, 210)
DeAndre 'Nuk' Hopkins, Clemson (6-1, 200) 2nd round Quinton Patton, La. Tech (6-2, 195)
Justin Hunter, Tennessee (6-4, 200)
Robert Woods, USC (6-1, 190) 3rd round Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas (6-2, 209) 4th round Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (6-0, 206)
Chris Harper, Kansas State (6-1, 228) 6th round Brandon Kaufman, Eastern Washington (6-4, 214)

Now, we're cooking with gas. Andre Johnson was as good as he's ever been in his 10th year but he needs some help.

Although there are a number of inside/slot receiver threats in this class, the Texans typically draft another breed of WR. Think big, physical and field stretching.

I'd love to see them add a lightning bolt like Tavon Austin or Denard Robinson, but that's not in The Plan. Each receiver on the board, for the most part, has size, can win at the line of scrimmage and catch the football consistently. Keenan Allen is hyped as the best receiver in this class, but that may not be the case. Either way, he likely won't fall to the Texans.

Ryan Swope could be a gem to target. He gets stereotypical comparison to Wes Welker, but let me tell you, he isn't Welker AT ALL. He has great run after catch abilities (he was a RB in high school) but he doesn't have to live in the slot; he can play out on the perimeter as well.

Tight End The Draft Board

5th round Gavin Escobar, San Diego State (6-5, 255) 7th round Michael Wiliams, Alabama (6-5, 272)
Vance McDonald, Rice (6-4, 260)
Philip Lutzenkirchen (6-4, 250)

The Texans have a ton of current and/or former tight ends on the roster and GM Rick Smith and Gary Kubiak have often targeted this position to complement the offense. With James Casey a free agent, the Texans may look for a mobile TE who can complement Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham.

If Gavin Escobar is there in the fifth round, the Texans would be wise to snatch him up. He's a big, athletic target who could rise up the boards in the days leading to the draft given his athleticism.

Offensive line The Draft Board

1st round T Eric Fisher, Central Michigan (6-7, 305) 2nd round G/RT D.J Fluker, Alabama (6-6, 335)
RT Dallas Thomas, Tennessee (6-5, 310)
RT Kyle Long, Oregon (6-7, 312) 4th round RT Menelik Watson, Florida St. (6-5, 320) 5th round G Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech (6-3, 302) 6th roundT Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin (6-6, 318) 7th round RT Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas (6-5, 304)
G Braden Hansen, BYU (6-5, 308)

What was a strength in 2010 and 2011 was nearly a liability in 2012 due in large part to the departures of Mike Brisiel and Eric Winston. The right side has been a disaster…and that's being nice. Guard Antoine Caldwell was unimpressive, then hurt. Rookies Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks were thrown into the mix, probably a year before they were ready. Derek Newton made minimal progress.

The Texans should look long and hard at tackle options and if a guard makes sense on Day 3, they should investigate.

Erik Fisher is an absolute pipe dream unless the Texans move up to get him. Whoever is available, the Texans' right tackle spot demands someone with athleticism on the backside of the zone-blocking scheme. Houston's need at guard isn't as much of a priority. However, a guy like Omoregie Uzzi would make sense if available later on in the draft.


1st round NT Jesse Williams, Alabama (6-3, 320)
NT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio St. (6-3, 320) 2nd round NT Kawann Short, Purdue (6-3, 315) 4th round DT Sylvester Williams, UNC (6-3, 320) 7th round NT William Campbell, Michigan (6-5, 318)

JJ Watt has been simply superb, but the remaining defensive line roster is nothing more than ordinary. DE Antonio Smith has one year left at $6 million and he should remain opposite Watt. NTs Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell have made little to no impact in the middle. There is some DL talent in this draft, although it's not something Houston has a history of drafting lately.

Jesse Williams is one of the strongest and most technically sound defensive linemen in this draft. He's great with his hands and has a knack for splitting double teams. As noted earlier, the Texans haven't made "fat" a priority but the depth at defensive line could force a change in thinking.

Linebackers The Draft Board

1st round ILB Kevin Minter, LSU (6-1, 245) 2nd round ILB Arthur Brown, Kansas State (6-1, 228) 3rd round ILB Kiko Alonso, Oregon (6-3, 242)
ILB/OLB Sio Moore, Conn. (6-1, 240)
OLB Sean Porter, Texas A&M (6-2, 230) 4th round ILB Jon Bostic, Florida (6-1, 246)
ILB A.J Klein, Iowa State (6-1, 246)
ILB Kevin Reddick, North Carolina (6-2, 240)
ILB Nico Johnson, Alabama (6-2, 249) 5th round ILB Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech (6-1, 234)

Losing Brian Cushing to injury had a significant impact on the Texans last season. The remaining inside linebackers proved that the Texans MUST look for a young running mate alongside Cushing in 2013. Inside backers aren't plentiful this year, but it's imperative that the Texans find value at the position. The outside linebacker position is in decent shape, no matter what happens with Connor Barwin, who is a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Kevin Minter is the guy I've targeted for the Texans for a while, in large part because I figured Te'o would go earlier in the draft. Minter is a tackling machine who can run all day. He explodes through ball carriers, reads extremely well and even if he's a two-down player, he'd make an instant impact in Houston.

But considering how much trouble the Texans had matching up against the Patriots, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Texans react (or overreact) and look long and hard at a smaller inside linebacker like Arthur Brown.

Secondary The Draft Board

3rd round S Jonathan Cyprien, FIU (6-0, 210) 4th round S Duke Williams, Nevada (6-1, 200) 5th round S Zeke Motta, Notre Dame (6-2, 215) 6th round CB/S Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (5-9, 178)
CB Johnny Adams, Michigan St. (5-11, 178)
S J.J Wilcox, Georgia Southern (6-0, 215) 7th round CB Terrence Brown, Stanford (6-0, 182)
S Drew Frey, Cincinnati (6-2, 202)

GM Rick Smith has always said he'd draft a cornerback in the draft, but didn't in 2012 in large part because it was a focus in 2011. Unfortunately, the two draftees taken haven't panned out. With Kareem Jackson coming off his best year, Johnathan Joseph back in the Pro Bowl, McCain back after an injury, the corner position shouldn't be a priority until later rounds. The starters at safety are solid – although neither played exceptionally well in the last four or five games of the season – but they could use some depth.

Tyrann Mathieu is the most intriguing name on the board. The Texans have a long standing history of avoiding players with character issues, but there might be a way that it makes some sense as Mathieu has Houston connections. Mathieu spent a month during the fall in Houston with John Lucas, the former Houston Rocket, dealing with his drug background.

John Harris hosts The John Harris Show for Yahoo! Sports Radio.

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