Houston Texans 2014 Mock Draft: Round-by-Round Best-Case Scenarios
Houston's offseason began a few weeks ago, and while a few other teams are still enjoying football, general manager Rick Smith now has four months to play with as he tries to bind a new head coach and a new quarterback together to start next season off right.
If the Texans are setting any kind of bar, it should be to draft someone in the first round with the same kind of impact Mario Williams had in 2006. Followed by some smart thinking in the later rounds, of course, to fill the long list of needs.
The Texans need a lot this year, but here's an early mock to get things started.
Round 1: Teddy Bridgewater
It's OK if you're not in love with this pick, but when you earn the first overall spot in the draft, you have to take the best player available, and that's Teddy Bridgewater.
Matt Schaub and Case Keenum won't start for this team again, leaving the guy from Louisville a perfect opportunity to come in and show the skills that he has under what will probably be a totally fresh, new offense.
Houston's quarterbacks combined for 20 interceptions last season, meaning there is a serious accuracy issue on the team. Bridgewater threw only four interceptions in 2013, and when he does get himself into trouble, has the footwork to roll away from pressure and run with the football.
Bridgewater offers a lot; he's a smart user of the football but could be listed as undersized. Then again, at 6'3" and 196 pounds, people said the same thing about Drew Brees, and look how that turned out.
Round 2: Kony Ealy
Creating turnovers has become a problem the Texans never used to have. And drafting a physical defensive end could solve that.
Houston would be relying on a lot to see Kony Ealy fall to the second round. He's grown higher on people's list since his monster day in the SEC Championship Game where he had a sack, five tackles and three more for losses.
In that game, though, Ealy forced two fumbles, which is where the Texans need help.
Ealy has the kind of ability to rip the ball away from the carrier and possesses some solid hand strength that will push him forward. His tackling is also worth noting, even though he has shown on occasion a tendency to go for the big pop rather than wrap up.
Houston might be lucky to see Ealy hit the second round; he'd be worth Smith's time, though.
Round 3: James Hurst
If the Texans want a franchise quarterback for the next 10 years, then they better start drafting some offensive linemen to go with him.
James Hurst is one of the best middle-round picks available. Out of North Carolina, he spent most of his 2012 season blocking for Gio Bernard's 1,228 yards and likes to put his body between the defender and the ball-carrier.
Hurst could fall to the third round at this stage, and it is said that he needs to add a bit more strength in the weight room.
But even if his strength on the bench is unknown, his strength in run blocking is just what the Texans need. Arian Foster struggled to find holes before injury, and Ben Tate had a season of hit and miss. A guy with some size is needed.
Round 4: Jordan Zumwalt
Forcing turnovers is one problem, but so is pressuring the quarterback.
The Texans had only 32 sacks to show for themselves last season, 10 less than all of their opponents in 2013. Containing guys like Russell Wilson was also a problem on the ground, and with the on-again, off-again injuries of Brian Cushing and others, adding an extra linebacker couldn't hurt.
Jordan Zumwalt may be the best of the later-round choosings. Last season with UCLA, he had 6.5 tackles for a loss and plays particularly well in the box. He might need to add some weight at 230 pounds, but Zumwalt is a durable defender who could fit in well with any scheme.
Round 5: Ryan Carrethers
Ryan Carrethers is one of the little-known defensive tackles in this year's draft, but he could turn out to be a big steal for anyone who does their homework.
In a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette earlier in the year, Carrethers had 16 tackles to his name, a work rate that most defensive linemen rarely see in a single game. At 330 pounds, Carrethers is a workhorse and one of Arkansas State's top tacklers for the season.
Houston needs someone on the defensive line who can make plays and also spy on the quarterback a little. Making the roster might be hard from this spot, but the Texans need depth on the defensive line, even though choosing Carrethers provides a lot more than just a benchwarmer.
Round 6: Ty Zimmerman
Ups and downs have been Shiloh Keo's season, but with the Ed Reed project not working out, a safety is needed to repair a secondary that was burned constantly by top receivers this season.
With corners Kareem Jackson, Brice McCain and safety D.J. Swearinger struggling a lot last year to clamp down and hold receivers close, someone needs to be drafted in May to shore up the coverage issues the Texans had downfield.
Ty Zimmerman's coverage abilities have looked tops throughout most of his career at Kansas State. His run defense is also stellar, which would help to rejuvenate the Texans' once-top-ranked rush defense that fell to 23rd in the league last year.
Round 7: LaDarius Perkins
Sooner or later Tate is going to take his talents elsewhere, and the Texans will be left with a bit of a problem.
Foster will always be the starter in Houston, but the Texans do need to think about what may lay ahead with Tate, so drafting a running back like LaDarius Perkins in the later rounds could be a smart move.
Perkins ran for 1,016 yards in his junior season with Mississippi State, but he also acts as a good receiver in the screen game and can throw a few blocks here and there. Last season, Houston struggled with blocking the quarterback's blind side, and it resulted in fumbles. Having someone in the back field who can block is a must.