Houston Texans 2014 Draft Preview

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Updated: 5/02 9:19 am

(SportsNetwork.com) - If you want to talk about how precarious a shelf life in the NFL can be focus on south Texas where the Houston Texans morphed from a 12-4 division championship club into a 2-14 disaster in one calendar year.

Of course, the silver lining in finishing with the NFL's worst record is that the Texans and new coach Bill O'Brien possess the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft, a nice building block to have as the club attempts its climb back toward relevancy.

One of the main reasons O'Brien was brought to the Lone Star State was to fix the quarterback problems but that doesn't mean it's a fait accompli the Texans will be taking a signal caller with the top overall selection, in fact that scenario remains highly unlikely.

If Las Vegas was handicapping the Texans' intentions, the draft's top two QBs -- Texas A&M stalwart Johnny Manziel and Central Florida star Blake Bortles -- would remain at the top of the list for O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith but not at No. 1.

The once-in-a-generation physical skills South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney brings to the table make him the obvious choice but there is a good chance that an Eli Manning-type situation could develop.

Manning was the consensus top choice in the 2004 draft but had no interest in playing for San Diego, which had the selection so the Chargers drafted him and traded Peyton's baby brother to the New York Giants on draft day in exchange for a haul which included Philip Rivers.

This time Clowney could be taken by the Texans with the intent on being traded to a team like Atlanta, which is in desperate need of a pass rusher and holds the No. 6 overall pick, a much more logical and less pressure-packed landing spot for a Manziel or Bortles.

The safety net is that Clowney would have no problem playing for Houston and teaming the potential superstar with J.J. Watt could produce the most dominating defensive line since the 1970s when units like Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain and Minnesota's Purple People Eaters ruled the NFL landscape.

The 6-foot-5, 266-pound Clowney is an overwhelming physical specimen, who ran the 40-yard dash at a blazing 4.53 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine and showed off his explosiveness with a 37 1/2-inch vertical leap, along with a broad jump easily surpassing 10 feet.

Clowney proved to be speedier than either Cam Newton or Colin Kaepernick were when they invaded Indy for their workouts and his lone questionable number -- 21 reps on the 225-pound bench press -- was alleviated by the historical efforts elite pass rushers like Julius Peppers (22), Greg Hardy (21), Robert Quinn (22) and Aldon Smith (20) put up.

To be blunt, if there were no ancillary issues with Clowney, there would be no debate over who should be the No. 1 overall pick. His ceiling as a player is akin to the heights of Empire State Building, while the rest of an admittedly deep class fighting for the second-best prospect tag might reach Yao Ming stature.

Houston, though, officially moved on from Matt Schaub this offseason, dealing the veteran signal caller to Oakland for a late-round pick, and even though the Texans signed veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, the 2014 starter will still likely come from this draft.

The Texans are well aware there are really only four elite prospects in this process and none of them play the game's most important position (Clowney, Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson, Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack and Clemson WR Sammy Watkins) so the first option remains to trade down with someone who wants to go all-in on Clowney.

Absent of that, though, O'Brien and general manger Rick Smith will be risking their reputations by choosing any player over Clowney.

"I don't exactly who we will take," Smith said. "What I do know is that I know the order of our board. I know that if we select first, it's a unique opportunity obviously to be the first pick. If we do select there, I know who we feel good about there. If we move, then obviously there are variables that come into play at that point. While I don't know exactly who we're taking, I think that we've done a nice job of valuing the board and we know how they fall."

2013 Record: 2-14

Top Needs: QB, OT, LB

First Three Picks: No. 1, No. 33, No. 65

Number of Selections: 11 (1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7)

CALLING THE SHOTS: While Gary Kubiak was shown the door by owner Bob McNair during last year's debacle and interim coach Wade Phillips was escorted out after, Smith survived and will be entering his ninth season as the Texans' personnel chief. Some think he showed a lot of gumption back in 2006 by bypassing on higher-profile stars Reggie Bush and Vince Young to take Mario Williams not realizing Smith wasn't hired until a little over a month after that draft. Now it is his turn with No. 1 overall pick and we'll see if he chooses the talent over need.

"I don't feel pressure," Smith said. "That's just my personality. I feel like we're prepared, so I'm confident in our process. I'm confident in the men and ladies that we have here working in the building that help us get ready for this process."

FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 2013 DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson); 2012 - Whitney Mercilus (OLB, Illinois); 2011 - J.J. Watt (DE, Wisconsin); 2010 - Kareem Jackson (CB, Alabama); 2009 - Brian Cushing (LB, USC); 2008 - Duane Brown (OT, Virginia Tech); 2007 - Amobi Okoye (DT, Louisville); 2006 - Mario Williams (DE, North Carolina State); 2005 - Travis Johnson (DT, Florida State); 2004 - Dunta Robinson (CB, South Carolina), Jason Babin (DE, Western Michigan); 2003 - Andre Johnson (WR, Miami-Florida); 2002 - David Carr (QB, Fresno State).

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