Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: West Houston
Section: My Living Room
Free-agent acquisitions give Texans lots of options
By JOHN MCCLAIN
Unless his price is not right, the Texans are expected to use the first pick in the April 29-30 draft on running back Reggie Bush, the highest-rated prospect available.
The only way the Texans will not take the USC star is if his agent, Joel Segal, prices him out of the top pick. If that happens, the Texans will turn their attention to North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams, the highest-rated defensive player available.
"All I know right now is that we're going to get a real good player," said Gary Kubiak, who enters his first draft as a head coach. "Nothing's etched in stone. We're still evaluating the prospects, and there's work left to do."
Because the Texans have a reputation for overpaying players, Bush is expected to be the first pick. After Bush, it's anybody's guess what will happen, because the
Texans have done a terrific job of filling needs with the players they have acquired.
Entering the draft, the Texans aren't desperate to fill any position because of acquisitions including defensive end Anthony Weaver, receiver Eric Moulds, tight end Jeb Putzier, center Mike Flanagan, middle linebacker Sam Cowart and fullback Jameel Cook.
"I've always felt that your first-round pick's going to start, and after that, you want to be in position to draft the best player available," general manager Charley Casserly said. "You don't want to have to force the pick. You want to give yourself some flexibility. Right now, we could line up and play with the players we've got."
Chance to improve
Because they finished a league-worst 2-14 last season, the Texans are in excellent position to improve through the draft. They have four of the top 66 picks, including the first two in the third round.
Because of Casserly's draft-day trade with New Orleans last year, the Texans they have the Saints' third-round pick.
The first pick in the second round could be an offensive tackle such as Miami's Eric Winston, a cornerback such as Florida State's Antonio Cromartie, a cornerback/safety such as Tennessee's Jason Allen or a receiver, perhaps Miami's Sinorice Moss.
"You'd love to think you're going to get four players who could possibly start," Kubiak said about having four picks in the first three rounds. "At the least, I expect those players to help us a great deal."
Kubiak has been working closely with Casserly in free agency and in the draft.
Casserly's fifth draft could be his last with the Texans. After the draft, Casserly will be a leading candidate to replace Art Shell as the NFL's vice president of operations and development.
Because they are preparing for the draft, Casserly and owner Bob McNair won't comment on the general manager's job situation.
Help already on the way
The Kubiak-Casserly comb- ination has been successful in the acquisition of players who filled need positions.
Having the first pick isn't new for Casserly. The Texans used the top pick in 2002 on quarterback David Carr.
Except for one Super Bowl-winning season with San Francisco, Kubiak spent his entire playing and coaching career with Denver. During the last 10 years, the Broncos were the only team not to have a top-10 pick.
"I've never been in this position, and I never plan to be again," Kubiak said about having the first pick. "I've never studied this corps of players, because we (Broncos) were never in position to draft this type of player.
"We've approached it two ways. It's our pick, and we have to get ready to do our job with that pick. There are a lot of things we're discussing as we approach that pick.
"We have to be ready to pull the trigger, but at the same time, you have to be able to evaluate everything else going on around you to see if there's anything out there that might be lucrative for that pick."
Other than Bush and Williams, the only other player brought in who would be a candidate for the first pick was quarterback Vince Young.
For the first time, the Texans are playing a 4-3 scheme on defense. That means Casserly and his staff won't have to scout 3-4 prospects any more.
"There are different opinions on the 3-4, but you do have more options when drafting for a 4-3," said Casserly, who is a 4-3 proponent. "In a 3-4, you have to project outside linebackers and give them time to develop. In a 4-3, you don't have to worry about projecting outside linebackers and having to get two inside linebackers."
Talent to go around
Defensively, this is a good draft for outside linebackers and ends. It is average for cornerbacks, tackles, inside linebackers and safeties.
Offensively, quarterback is strong at the top. After running backs who are first-round material, there is a huge drop-off. Tight end is the deepest it has been in years, but it is an average year for offensive linemen and a down year for receivers.
"One thing Mike (Shanahan) taught me was to not go into a draft thinking I've got to have a certain player, or I've got to fill a certain need," Kubiak said. "Mike said to go into the draft feeling like you need depth, like you're looking for the best possible players, and don't feel the pressure to fill needs."
Of course, Shanahan never had to take over a 2-14 team.
"Remember, we're changing a total system," Kubiak said. "We've got to get players we can coach, players that believe in our system, players that know we're going to give them a system that'll work for them."