The Houston Texans are breaking out the smokescreens Spy Hunter style with a little more than two weeks until they are on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick on May 8.
While momentum has been building behind the possibility the Texans will select South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the team continues to conduct its due diligence on all of the top prospects.
While Clowney is NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated overall prospect and analysts Rob Rang and Dane Brugler both currently project him to Houston, Rang has stated for several months that University of Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack is a dark horse for the top overall spot. Now comes a report from MMQB.com's Peter King that a friend told him Texans general manager Rick Smith indeed prefers Mack over Clowney.
Mack, who had 10.5 sacks last season, is NDS' No. 3-rated prospect in this class and may be a better fit for Houston's 3-4 scheme. In addition to his obvious pass-rushing skills, Mack displays good range with the ability to chase and finish. He also has experience lining up all over the front seven - versatility that could prove extremely valuable in a 3-4.
While little known to many fans, Mack holds the FBS career records for forced fumbles (16) and tackles for loss (75, tied with Jason Babin). While there are obvious level of competition concerns, Mack did stand out against Ohio State last season, and Brugler compares him to St. Louis Rams All-Pro pass rusher Robert Quinn for his excellent blend of quickness and power in both rushing the passer and defending the run.
The Texans could still go a number of directions at the top of the draft. They are playing host this week to Auburn redshirt sophomore left tackle Greg Robinson, who is considered to have some of the best upside of any prospect in this draft.
Houston could still go the quarterback route, with Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel in play. They are also set to meet with Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, a former top-rated prospect who now appears more likely to hear his name called to kick off Round 2 than at the top of the draft.