Although the Texans' secondary was the worst in the league last season, don't be surprised if upgrading the cornerback and safety positions takes a back seat to strengthening the defensive front seven. New coordinator Wade Phillips is installing his 3-4 scheme next season, and we're hearing that before the club can think about addressing the secondary, upgrades are still needed at the DE and OLB spots.
Antonio Smith is slated to be the starting left end. He played the same position in an odd front in Arizona earlier in his career, but we have heard concerns regarding his ability to hold the point of attack. Veteran DE Damione Lewis, perhaps better suited for the role, is an unrestricted free agent. Even if Smith does pan out, adding depth at the position will be critical.
At the second level, the club should be set at inside 'backer with Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans — assuming Ryans is all the way back from a season-ending Achilles injury — but it remains to be seen who will line up outside. Connor Barwin, a 2009 second-round pick who suffered a season-ending ankle injury last season, could man one of the spots, but the club is definitely looking for an impact player at the position. PFW draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki's latest mock draft predicts the Texans will select University of North Carolina DE-OLB Robert Quinn with the 11th overall pick.
Ideally, the Texans will be able to address all three areas of the defense with their eight picks, but transitioning to a 3-4 makes finding players who can pressure the QB a greater priority than bolstering the back end.