Overview: Nothing would make the Texans happier than the focus shifting from their tumultuous offseason to the draft. Following the departure of OLB Mario Williams to Buffalo and a pair of surprising cost-cutting moves — ORT Eric Winston being released and ILB DeMeco Ryans being traded to the Eagles for a fourth-round draft pick — the Texans could use a strong draft class to fill holes and restore good will with their players and fan base. Houston has eight picks, starting with No. 26 overall, and while it has areas it surely would like to improve, there is really only one glaring weakness on the roster.
Need No. 1: Wide receiver
The Texans caught a glimpse of just how poor their receiving corps is without Andre Johnson in 2011. No. 2 WR Kevin Walter and No. 3 option Jacoby Jones couldn’t pick up the slack, forcing Houston to be overreliant on RB Arian Foster and TEs Owen Daniels and Joel Dreessen in the passing game. A consistent and dynamic wideout who can test defenses deep is needed to take the pressure off Johnson and Schaub. It also will lighten Foster’s load. The Texans prefer big, strong wideouts, but if a smaller burner like Kendall Wright is on the board, he might be too tempting to pass up.
Need No. 2: Outside linebacker
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips can never have too many pass rushers. Ideally, he would like to have a third option who stands up and comes off the edge. Even with Williams no longer on the roster, Phillips still has two very good pass rushers in Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed, but they will be much more effective with a third guy who can come in and spell them. Houston likes 2011 undrafted rookie Bryan Braman and veteran Jesse Nading, but neither guy has the potential to come in and make an impact similar to the one Reed made last season.
Need No. 3: Offensive guard/offensive tackle
The Texans think OT Rashad Butler and OG Antoine Caldwell can adequately replace Winston and Mike Brisiel. The good news is that both Butler and Caldwell have the athleticism and experience to get the job done. The bad news is that with both former backups stepping into the starting lineup, the depth along the offensive line has taken a hit. Bolstering the interior could be a bit higher priority than tackle, as Houston is excited about the prospects of 2011 seventh-round OT Derek Newton. In fact, the team didn’t want to risk losing him by putting him on the practice squad last season.