The Houston Texans enjoyed one of, if not the, best classes in the 2014 NFL Draft. The class, especially early on, is full of high upside guys who should make immediate impacts this fall. Granted, this is what you expect from a team that finished with the worst record in the league and had the luxury of the first pick in each round, but GM Rick Smith really did an outstanding job of sticking to his board.
Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina), as we all know, was the first pick in the draft, and clear and away the best prospect of this (or last years) class. Much and more was made by Clowney haters that he wouldn’t be a good fit at OLB in the 34 front or that his perceived cavalier work ethic would prevent him from realizing his immense potential. Well, get over it.
Romeo Crennel is as experienced of a DC as you can get in this league, and has a plethora of experience working with a variety of different talents and how they work in various schemes. I don’t think Clowney will really play any one position, instead he’ll be a movable chess piece. Sometimes he’ll be lined up at OLB in an odd front and sometimes in a 43 under front. Sometimes a DE in a 43, sometimes a 3-tech in a nickel or dime. Don’t let the offense game plan for where he will be, but instead where he might be.
As far as work ethic, I think it’s been way overblown. If it hasn’t, I’m convinced all-world DE J.J. Watt will keep him in line. Watt is a force off the field and the epitome of a leader off it, a QB of the defense in a way. Watt is renown for his film and workout habits, and he’s given strong indications he plans on mentoring Clowney in his ways. Encouraging stuff from a guy with 30.5 sacks the last two years. Imagine game planning pass protections for those two guys.
Bottom line on Clowney: he’s a transcendent talent with as much upside as any defensive player we’ve seen in the last decade. Great pick by Smith.
Xavier Su’a-Filo (G/T, UCLA) surprised many people by being selected at no. 33 overall, when most thought HC Bill O’Brien and co. might be looking for the future at QB. The Texans balked at QB until round 4 when they took Matt Savage (Pitt) at no. 135 overall. This is about the range most expected Su’a-Filo to go, so the value was right on, and he’ll provide immediate depth both inside and outside along the offensive line. Don’t be surprised if he wins a starting spot at some point during summer camp.
C.J. Fiedorowicz (TE, Iowa) and Louis Nix (NT, Notre Dame) were the teams third round picks. Fiedorowicz’s strong in-line blocking skills and soft hands will likely put him in the TE rotation early on with Garrett Graham and Ryan Griffin. Nix was, in my opinion, the best 34 nose to come along since Vince Wilfork, so to snag him in the third was an absolute steal. He’s a true two-gapper who can split the double and collapse the pocket.
Then the Texans took Savage, and that could also one day be remembered as a steal. He’s exactly what O’Brien wants in a QB: size and strength to stand in the pocket, plus arm strength and the ability to read defenses and make adjustments at the line of scrimmage. He’ll need some coaching up on his mechanics, but he’s got very good upside.
All of the Texans first five draft picks should make an early impact this fall. Clowney, Su’a-Filo and Nix should start, Fiedorowicz should see a lot of playing time and Savage could go either way depending on his developmental rate. There’s some guys taken in the second half of the Texans draft who could also see early playing time, notably Jay Prosch (FB, Auburn) and Jeoffrey Pagan (DE, Alabama), but obviously doesn’t compare to the early selections. A heck of a class for the Texans.