Most mock drafts have the Texans taking a wide receiver. But a rookie wideout would be fourth on the depth chart behind starters Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter and backup Jacoby Jones, who's been a part-time starter. With Johnson, tight end Owen Daniels and running back Arian Foster figuring prominently in the passing game, there wouldn't be a lot of opportunities for a rookie.
Eight of their last nine first-round picks have been on defense. They haven't selected a skill position player in the first round since Johnson in 2003. In the first round, expect the Texans to draft an offensive lineman if one they want - like Georgia's guard/tackle Cordy Glenn -- slips to the 26th spot. Or an outside linebacker who can rush the passer like Nick Perry or Andre Branch. They're expected to draft a receiver in the third round. They like Greg Childs, A.J. Jenkins and Nick Toon. General manager Rick Smith isn't likely to trade up, but dealing down is a possibility. He's not shy about making trades during the draft.
Nice fits: Guard Cordy Glenn, outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, wide receiver Greg Childs.
Guard: Antoine Caldwell, the new starter on the right side, has a history of nagging injuries. He's made 13 starts in three seasons. Left guard Wade Smith is solid but turns 31. They have no other guard on the roster who has started a game.
Wide receiver: Starters Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter turn 31 before the season. They want to add a young, talented receiver who works hard and is patient. As a rookie, the new receiver would play in four-receiver sets, which they don't use much. One thing their best receivers have in common: Johnson and Walter are 6-3. Not counting Trindon Holliday, who was a sixth-round pick in 2010 selected to return kickoffs and punts, the Texans haven't drafted a legitimate receiver since Jacoby Jones in 2007.
Outside linebacker: Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips says a 3-4 scheme never has enough outside linebackers to rush the passer. Last season was a perfect example. After recording five sacks in the first five games, Mario Williams suffered a season-ending injury. With Williams gone, they need a third one to rotate with starters Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. They found Reed in the second round, and he had a terrific rookie season with six sacks in 10 starts and 3.5 in two playoff games.
Offensive tackle: Left tackle Duane Brown is coming off an outstanding season and enters the last year of his contract. Right tackle Rashad Butler, who has replaced Eric Winston, has four career starts. They have no backup tackles who have started a game. Derek Newton, a seventh-round pick last year, saw action at tackle in the last game of last season when a lot of starters were rested for the playoffs.
Center: Starter Chris Myers is coming off a Pro Bowl season, but they have no backup. If he had been injured last season, right guard Mike Brisiel would have been forced to play center. Brisiel signed with Oakland. Backup guard Thomas Austin, who has no starts, played center in the second half of the last game against Tennessee and had some bad snaps.
--When the Texans began their offseason conditioning program, quarterback Matt Schaub assured everyone that he would be ready for the start of camp.
In the 10th game of last season, Schaub injured the Lisfranc joint in his right foot and underwent season-ending surgery.
Schaub, who threw 15 touchdown passes and six interceptions to help the Texans start 7-3, has been rehabbing for five months. Last week, he had a scheduled procedure on his foot to have "hardware" as he called it, removed from his foot.
"All I know is, come time for training camp, I'm going to be 100 percent ready to go, and that's all that really matters, in my mind," Schaub said. "Let the incisions heal up and move forward and keep going. I'm right on schedule. I have a lot of time left to get ready, and there's no doubt I will be ready."
Playing without injured receiver Andre Johnson for six games, Schaub still led the offense to an average of 27.3 points a game. He was replaced by Matt Leinart, who suffered a season-ending collarbone injury in the first half of his first start. To the rescue came rookie T.J. Yates, a third-round pick who was supposed to carry the clipboard all season.
Instead, Yates found himself in the middle of a playoff race and a quest to win the AFC South for the first time.
With coach Gary Kubiak adopting an ultra-conservative approach to play-calling to protect the rookie, the Texans averaged 18 points with Yates as the starter. That's 9.3 fewer points with Yates in the lineup.
Now Yates is the backup. Sometime between the draft and camp, the Texans will acquire a third quarterback. Leinart was one of the salary-cap casualties, and he'll have to be replaced.
Other offensive players who didn't return are right tackle Eric Winston, right guard Mike Brisiel, tight end Joel Dreessen and fullback Lawrence Vickers.
"We've kept a lot of our weapons in place," Schaub said. "I think we've shown over the years that we can be a pretty good offense and move the football, put some points on the board, and as long as we eliminate penalties and mistakes and turnovers, we're hard to stop. We're looking forward to continuing that trend."
As long as the Texans have Schaub, Johnson, running back Arian Foster, running back Ben Tate, tight end Owen Daniels, left tackle Duane Brown and center Chris Myers, they should be able to score a lot of points.
"They don't need me to be great," Winston said after he was released to free up $4.5 million in salary-cap space.
"I'm very confident in what they can do," Schaub said. "They're guys that have played in this system, so they have experience. I'm looking forward to just getting them out there and getting a more integral role in what we're doing.
"It's the harsh reality of this business when you lose some players, whether in free agency or trades, but it is part of the business. We have a spectacular core nucleus of guys looking forward to climbing the ladder and taking the next step. We're excited to be here and excited to get going with workouts and the offseason."
The players can't work with the coaches until the OTAs in May. They're preparing for the draft, anyway.
The Texans need to add depth in the draft and with more free-agent signings between the draft and the start of training camp.
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