Best Trading Partners for the Houston Texans at No. 1 Overall in 2014 NFL Draft
When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the podium to kick off the 2014 NFL draft, the Houston Texans will go on the clock with the first overall pick.
Or will they?
As we enter the final two weeks before things get going in New York, buzz is growing that the Texans are strongly considering trading down in a deep first round.
On Thursday, ESPN's Ed Werder tweeted that several NFL teams "expect" the Texans to deal the No. 1 pick. Werder's tweet came two days after Gil Brandt of NFL.com wrote there's a "good chance" the Texans will deal the first pick, possibly during the draft itself.
Given the sort of windfall the Rams reaped two years ago for trading the second-overall pick, it's not hard to see why the Texans would be tempted, but which teams make the most sense as potential trade partners?
Let's take a look.
Make no mistake, if a team pulls the trigger on moving up in this year's NFL draft, it's going to be to target one player.
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney may not be a surefire 10-time Pro Bowler, but his ridiculous athleticism makes him the sort of defensive prospect who just doesn't come along every year.
In fact, Clowney's old college coach, Steve Spurrier, thinks the Texans should just stand pat and draft Clowney themselves. As Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk reports, Spurrier told The Dan Patrick Show “He’s a really good football player, and obviously pass rushing is what he does best. He’s a pass-rusher like nobody I think I’ve ever seen in college football.”
Giving up a bevy of picks to move up to No. 1 only makes sense if you think the player you're targeting is a true game-changer.
Clowney can be that kind of player.
There have been trade rumors swirling around Clowney and the Texans for the better part of a month.
During last month's owners' meetings in Florida, Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei reported the Texans were "trying hard" to move down in May's draft, mentioning the Buffalo Bills as a potential trade partner.
However, of the three "leading candidates" to make a play for this year's top pick, the Bills are probably the least likely to pull it off.
For starters, a trade with the Bills would involve moving back to the ninth overall pick. That may be farther than the Texans are comfortable dropping, with John McClain of The Houston Chronicle going so far as to say there was "no way" it would happen.
Still, the Texans could stay inside the top 10, and the Bills could make up for the larger drop in the first with better picks in the rest of the package.
Of course, that begs the question of how much is too much for the Bills, especially given that the defensive line isn't exactly Buffalo's biggest need at the moment.
If the Buffalo Bills are the least likely candidate to move up to the first-overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars may be the one that makes the most sense for both sides.
Clowney's speed and athleticism makes him a perfect fit as the "Leo" pass-rusher in Gus Bradley's 4-3 "under" front in Jacksonville, and the Jaguars badly need to upgrade in that regard.
Meanwhile, a deal with the Jaguars would only involve a drop of two picks for the Texans. As ESPN's Todd McShay pointed out, that could still afford the Texans a chance to add a key piece on defense:
JAX-HOU trade would make sense. JAX gets cornerstone in Clowney at 1. HOU gets great player/fit in Mack plus ammo to target QB later 1st rd
— Todd McShay (@McShay13) April 22, 2014
The biggest stumbling block to this deal? Probably the fact that the Jaguars and Texans play in the same division, and the Texans may not relish the thought of facing Clowney twice a year.
The prevailing school of thought is that if a deal gets done that involves the Houston Texans moving out of the first-overall pick, the Atlanta Falcons will be on the other end.
That's the word from a number of sources, including Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports:
There are no shortage of execs in the league who believe the Texans best odds of trading out of 1st overall is w/ Atlanta to get Clowney
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) April 24, 2014
Of course, this is hardly the first time the Falcons have mentioned as having interest in trading up to land Clowney.
The Falcons signed Osi Umenyiora in free agency last year, but that failed to remedy a pass rush that finished 2013 29th in the NFL in sacks.
That lack of a pass rush contributed to Atlanta's free-fall last year.
Now, with the sixth pick in the 2014 draft and 10 picks overall, the Falcons may feel like they're in a position to make a move for an immediate impact player.
It's not without precedent. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff pulled a very similar move a few years ago to land Julio Jones.
The Falcons also paid a hefty price to move up that year. A similar package could be hard for the Texans to pass up.