The Texans need a quarterback. But the best player in the draft just might be South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, whose legend grew Monday at the combine when he ran a blistering 40 time for anybody, not just a 6-foot-5, 266-pounder.
But John McLain of the Houston Chronicle notes that Clowney isn't a good fit in Houston even if new coach Bill O'Brien isn't sold on any of the quarterbacks with the first overall pick.
"At this stage of the evaluation process, the only non-quarterback worth the top pick is South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney," McClain writes. "Don't expect the Texans to draft Clowney, who is a weak-side 4-3 pass rusher and not a 3-4 defensive end or outside linebacker. Besides, the Texans already have defensive end J.J. Watt, who doesn't fit a traditional two-gap 3-4 like defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel runs."
But former NFL defensive end Stephen White, writing for SBNation, points out that not only should the Texans take Clowney No. 1, he's convinced that Clowney could excel as a 3-4 rush outside linebacker.
White concedes that Clowney has no experience in the 3-4, and that he needs to learn how to better play the run, but that doesn't change the fact that he's a truly special player.
"This kid is friggin' amazing in space," White wrote last week. "I'm not sure a left tackle or tight end successfully blocked him a single time in space in any of the games that I watched. He jumps inside so quickly that the opposing player just doesn't have enough time to react. When he chooses to stay outside against a block in space, he just about always holds the edge and quite a few times ends up making the tackle for a loss."
There's also this:
This ∞ MT @MichaelDavSmith Show me a D coordinator who can't fit Watt & Clowney into his defense & I'll show you a bad defensive coordinator— Stephanie Stradley (@StephStradley) February 24, 2014
Worth mentioning: Last month, Texans owner Bob McNair weighed in on Clowney:
"He is a remarkable player. He's one of these players that's a once every 10 years kind of physical specimen. Mario Williams was that way. I think that Clowney is a better athlete than Mario, so that tells you what kind of player he can be."
McClain mentions that J.J. Watt will become the "highest-paid defensive player in history at some point," adding, "Can you imagine the salary-cap calamity in four years?"
But the salary cap won't be in any better shape should the Texans draft a quarterback in May.
Finally, McClain writes that "The last time the Texans had the first pick and passed on a quarterback, it took them six years to reach the playoffs."
Technically, that's true. But in 2006, defensive end Mario Williams and running back Reggie Bush were the favorites to go first overall. Some fans wanted the Texans to take local favorite Vince Young. He ended up going third to the Titans but hasn't taken a regular-season snap since 2011 and is currently out of the league. The other quarterbacks to go in the top half of the first round that year: Matt Leinart, also out of the league, and Jay Cutler, who has one postseason win.
The takeaway: If the Texans have a quarterback as their top-rated player, they should take him. And the same holds for Clowney. Because if Clowney doesn't fit what Houston does defensively, the 2014 season is already in trouble.
In case you're wondering, the latest NFLDraftScout.com/CBSSports.com mock drafts have the Texans taking Clowney (Rob Rang), or quarterback Blake Bortles (Dane Brugler, Pete Prisco, Pat Kirwan).