T-minus one month until we discover who the Houston Texans select as the #1 overall draft choice in the 2014 NFL Draft. It has been a very tough race to call. Unlike the last time the Texans had the #1 overall draft pick, there are really no clear-cut favorites. Before you say, "Wait a minute! Yes, there are," consider 2012, when we had two outstanding quarterbacks, the Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck, and Washington Redskins' Robert Griffin, III. Very few flaws were mentioned, but it was heavily apparent that each man was going to be the first two draft picks - bar none.
The Texans have been rumored to select Jadaveon Clowney. They also have been rumored to select Johnny Manziel. Until his Pro Day, Teddy Bridgewater was in the mix, but not so much, anymore. Since the 2014 NFL Combine, the profile of one Blake Bortles has risen to #1 draft pick consideration.
And now, there's another.
I was watching ESPN's First Take last month when analyst Merrill Hoge said that the Texans would be disappointed if they drafted Jadeveon Clowney the #1 overall draft pick. The reasons he listed fell right in line with what I've surmised - only he went deeper. When asked who he thought the Texans should consider the #1 overall pick, he didn't bat an eye: "They should take outside linebacker, Khalil Mack from the University of Buffalo. He is the best football player I have seen come out of college in the last 15 years!"
WOW! Now that's high praise. Yet, I had to do some research on my own.
He's 6' 3" and weighs 250 lbs. Mack steadily improved each year he was in college. His specialty has been to rush the quarterback AND to drop back in coverage. In other words, he prides himself on being versatile. His strength (he benched more at the combine than Clowney) can allow Mack to switch between being a defensive end or an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
NFL Network's color commentator/analyst, Mike Mayock agrees to the point where he actually said, "Take Khalil Mack #1, Houston." What makes this pick extremely intriguing is the approach the Texans' head coach (Bill O'Brien) and defensive coordinator (Romeo Crennel) employed when they were in New England. Many players played more than one position - and had the intelligence to play the game at the same time. There is something within me that thinks the Texans will lean in this direction.
Think about it: Mack can rush off the edge. He can put his hand in the dirt. He can even cover the middle of the field along with the stalwart inside linebacker, Brian Cushing. He is the type of player the Patriots would draft. With their track record of success, he would be successful beyond measure, as well.
However, the Texans have bigger needs elsewhere. They still need to address the cornerback position. Kareem Jackson is not your answer on one side. The bloom is coming off the Jonathan Joseph rose on the other side. Even though a pass rusher opposite J.J. Watt would help matters, the Texans defense needs power more than finesse - and that spells defensive line/nose tackle.
Then, there's the quarterback position. I'm sorry, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the guy to take this talented team to the NFL's Promised Land. People may say, "A rookie isn't, either." However, look at the young crop of QBs, now. The aforementioned Luck and RG III have already a division championship in their possession. Luck has won a playoff game. San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick has won a road NFC Championship Game and has one Super Bowl appearance. Seattle's Russell Wilson has already won a Lombardi Trophy. All of these QBs have only been in the league three years or less - and they are successful.
I love Khalil Mack. You can't ever go wrong with a pass rusher - except for one instance. The success of every NFL franchise starts and ends at quarterback. The Houston Texans haven't hitched their wagon with a signal caller straight from college since 2002. Quite frankly, it's time for them to do it again.