"I don't think there's any question that we'll draft a quarterback in the draft," first-year coach Bill O'Brien told NFL.com's Steve Wyche from the NFL owners meeting. "Where we draft that quarterback, I don't think we know that yet. We're still in the process of studying all of these prospects, and in the process of putting a grade on them and place them where they would be in the draft. And I think that the big thing is it's such a long process."
The consensus is that three quarterbacks stand out above the rest but O'Brien doesn't see it that way (or, at the very least, that's the story he's spinning publicly).
"I think the thing is, to me, there's not a lot of separation," he said when asked if any player was worth the top pick in the draft. "And there are more quarterbacks than just three. Obviously the three guys that everybody talks about -- Blake [Bortles], Teddy [Bridgewater] and Johnny [Manziel]. They're good players. They've had great college careers.
"But there are other guys out there. You've got [AJ] McCarron. You've got [Zach] Mettenberger. You've got Logan Thomas. You've got [Tom] Savage. You've got [Jimmy] Garoppolo. I mean, I can go right down the list. To me, you've got 10 to 12 guys you've got to do a great job of evaluating and make the best pick possible wherever you pick these guys. So I just see a lot of good quarterbacks. All of the guys have potential, which is a dangerous word, and you're trying to make sure you're doing what's best for your organization -- what fits best for your organization when you make that pick of a quarterback."
(Conspicuously absent: Derek Carr. Most years, that might be an indication of a team's interest in a player but given the Texans' history with the Carr family, we're guessing O'Brien's oversight means exactly what you think it does.)
Put another way: If O'Brien and the Texans aren't sold on one name as their next franchise quarterback, there's a chance they target another position with the No. 1 selection. The most obvious choice: South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who some evaluators think would be even more dangerous as an outside linebacker in Houston's 3-4 scheme.
Such a move would almost certainly mean the Texans would be willing to go into the season with backup Case Keenum, or recently signed Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter. It's not ideal, but the Chiefs went from 2-14 to 11-5 with Alex Smith serving as a bridge quarterback to whomever that organization deems as its next franchise QB.
It wouldn't be unprecedented in Houston, either; back in 2006, the team passed on running back Reggie Bush with the No. 1 pick and took defensive end Mario Williams. It proved to be the right decision.
Whatever happen this time around, the team has plenty of options (such are the benefits to winning two games and having plenty of roster needs). If you're wondering, only one of the five CBSSports.com mock draft experts have the Texans taking Clowney. The other four like Bortles.