Last year we all learned that the Houston Texans were a much better team by design than perhaps some anticipated or even believed. But despite being that well-oiled machine that was a stone's throw away from the 2011 AFC Conference, a few small issues did stand in the way of their magical advancement; issues that will be addressed in the 2012 NFL Draft.
The two major focal points for Houston is getting another high profile WR to compliment Andre Johnson—a move that is paramount for making this offense even more threatening—and finding a quality DE/OLB to not only possibly fill in for the loss of Mario Williams, but also learn the new system that will be brought in by defensive mastermind Wade Phillips.
Other than the immediate mentions above, the Texans have only tertiary needs remaining which should help the organization concentrate on drafting for depth and the future, so let's take a look at who things may turn out.
Round 1: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
6' 3", 210 pounds
It’s no mystery that the Texans need another high-profile WR opposite of Andre Johnson, and at this point in the draft, Randle would be the last of the prototypical “immediate-start-type” receivers on the board.
At 6’4?, 208 pounds Randle has the size the Texans are most interested in and the skill sets to back it up.
Randle was the LSU’s most productive receiver in 2011 leading the team with 53 catches for 917 receiving yards (17.3 AVG) while hauling in 8 TDs.
He’s a terrible difficult receiver to slow down, a nightmare to press at the line, and is a solid route runner—not a bad addition indeed.
Round 2: Shea McClellin, OLB/DE, Boise State
6' 3", 260 pounds
The is still a chance the Texans may flip-flop their approach between grabbing a WR and an edge rusher, but I believe they target WR first out of bigger necessity.
The organization knows it needs another near elite edge rusher, capable of playing both as an outside backer, and a down lineman in Phillips' 3-4 scheme, and McClellin is a seemingly perfect fit.
McClellin is a solid edge rusher who knows how to keep his eyes forward. he has tremendous pursuit and above average foot movement which is essential out of the 3-4 .
McClellin left college with 33 tackles-for-loss and 20.5 sacks to his credit—just the sort of youngster Wade Phillips loves.
Round 3: Ben Jones, C, Georgia
6' 3", 216 pounds
One of the more unknown issues for Houston is the growing need for a center, now that veteran Chris Myers is testing the open market. Myers did express a desire to return to Houston, but as it stands now, there hasn't been any news suggesting his return.
In this case, if Myers does walk, the Texans must acquire another center whether it be via free agency and/or the draft. They must, however, select the best talent available if they are to target a center through the draft, such as Ben Jones.
It's almost a given that the Ravens will reach Wisconsin's Peter Konz before anyone does leaving Jones as the clear second choice, but he is far from being second best talent.
Jones played all four years at Georgia, and played like he was already an entrenched NFL starter. He has the athleticism and movement that should make the transition to the pros smooth, and the balance and experience of a zone-blocking system like the one deployed by Houston.
Round 4: Alameda Ta' amu, DT, Washington
6' 3", 338 pounds
The Ravens could take a smart approach here and draft a NT for not only the future, but also for depth purposes, considering they only have Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell slated to rotate in and out.
Ta'amu is one of the few prospects in the draft that has near elite skills, quality size and speed needed to be a successful NT and the probability of being available in the fourth round.
This isn't just a guy who you would simply spend a year developing—although that approach wouldn't hurt either—rather he is a prospect that could see some playing time in the pros by year's end, and hopefully, for the Houston's sake, it will be in a Texans uniform.
Here's a look at what the kid accomplished at the college level thanks to gohuskies.com:
Ta'amu's Career Statistics
|3 / 16
|5 / 19
|2 / 13
|6 / 19
|4 / 19
|8 / 30
|9 / 48
|19 / 68
Round 5: Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina
6' 0", 197 pounds
There's a good chance that the Houston Texans target another cover-man project, and there is an equal chance they get lucky enough to have Josh Norman fall into their lap.
With Wade Phillips deploying his version of the 3-4, the team will rely more on corners who can play as a press corner. To do this, the player must be able to do the simply things well, like backpedaling, lateral movement and spot contacting—Norman is one of the few corners in this year's draft who is very good at all of those things, but just isn't on the radar.
Norman in the fifth would be a steal to say the least.
Round 6: Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State
5' 8", 210 pounds
Houston should be fishing for a quality RB prospect who could be used on special teams and trained for possible change-of-pace duties throughout the 2012 season.
I don't think there is a team in the NFL that isn't aware of this guy's speed and elusiveness (ala Darren Sproles, or Javon Ringer) but they are aware of his limitations which could cause Baker to drop this far down.
It isn't as if this kid lacks talent, it's just that the consensus is that he is physically maxed out, and simply doesn't have the elite size to help him achieve a starter's role some day.
Still, he could very easily be used in situational roles if he develops well, and he is at the very least projected to be a game-changing return man in the beginning.
Round 7: Marcel Jones, OT, Nebraska
6' 6", 320 pounds
At the moment it isn't a very pressing need, but one that the Texans could at least look at from a developmental standpoint, as most teams do within this round.
Jones comes from a school that is already known for its O-Line production, and he comes from a system that was able to rotate as many as four tackles throughout the 2011 college season.
Jones only made 20 career starts and he will have his work cutout for him, but his size and already established abilities are hard to pass up, and could ultimately help his development at the pro level.