Needed depth arrives in this year's Texans' draft

The Sports Xchange
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As expected, general manager Rick Smith was able to bolster depth at receiver and in the offensive line, the two most desperate areas on the team. He drafted two receivers and three linemen, and he didn't start to fill those needs until the third round. Smith also drafted a kicker for the first time in franchise history.

BEST PICK

Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus: Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips envisions Mercilus coming off the bench in passing situations. He would be paired with starting outside linebackers Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed, defensive tackles J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith and inside linebacker Brian Cushing. Mercilus probably will play weak-side end in the nickel so they can take advantage of his speed coming off the edge.

COULD SURPRISE

Wide receiver DeVier Posey: The third-round pick served two five-game suspensions as a senior at Ohio State. He played in the last three games. At 6-2, 211, he runs a 4.44. He had 60 catches for 828 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore and 53 receptions for 848 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior. There's no pressure on him to start. He'll be developed behind starters Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, both of whom will be 31 before the season.

A closer look at the Texans' picks:

Round 1/26 - Whitney Mercilus, OLB, 6-4, 261, Illinois

He'll move to outside linebacker in the 3-4 and learn behind starters Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. All three should play in passing situations.

Round 3/68 - DeVier Posey, WR, 6-2, 211, Ohio State

He's got a lot to learn after being suspended for 10 games last season, but he's got excellent size to go with 4.44 speed. It's a good opportunity for him because he could win the third receiver job.

Round 3/76 - Brandon Brooks, OG, 6-4, 353, Miami, Ohio

He's the largest player on the team, but the coaches say he's quick off the ball and has nifty feet for his size. They expect him to compete for the right-guard job.

Round 4/99 - Ben Jones, C/G, 6-3, 304, Georgia

The second-ranked center in the draft cn also play guard, according to Texans coaches. He's a younger version of Pro Bowl center Chris Myers.

Round 4/121 - Keshawn Martin, WR, 5-11, 189, Michigan State

He should provide depth as a slot receiver, and he has punt return capability that might make Jacoby Jones expendable. He scored five different ways in college, and the coaches like his versatility.

Round 4/126 - Jared Crick, DE, 6-4, 279, Nebraska

A steal in the fourth round after missing his last seven games with a torn pectoral muscle. He'll play end in the three-man front, then move inside and become part of the rotation in passing situations.

Round 5/161 - Randy Bullock, K, 5-9, 205, Texas A&M

They offered Neil Rackers the minimum, and he accepted the minimum but with Washington. That left them with no kicker. Bullock won the Lou Groza Award as a senior at Texas A&M, and now he'll return to Houston to kick for his hometown team.

Round 6/195 - Nick Mondek, OT, 6-5, 307, Purdue

The third offensive lineman drafted and the only tackle. He'll have a chance to compete for a backup job or make the practice squad.

--The Texans entered the first round of the draft wanting an outside linebacker who can rush the passer, an offensive lineman who might start at right tackle or right guard or a wide receiver to develop behind starters Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter.

The idea was to take a pass rushing outside linebacker to replace Mario Williams in the first round. If the ones they wanted were gone, they were going to take an offensive lineman.

In order, the Texans wanted outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, offensive tackle Jonathan Martin or guard/tackle Cordy Glenn.

General manager Rick Smith and coach Gary Kubiak said privately they thought Mercilus was a terrific prospect, but they added they thought there was no way he'd be there when they made the 26th pick.

Lo and behold, Mercilus, Martin and Glenn were all on the board. They thought so highly of Mercilus that they didn't consider trading down. They took him immediately.

Mercilus, 6-3, 1/2, 261, ran a 4.68 40-yard dash at the combine. In his one season as a starter for Illinois, he had 16 sacks, nine forced fumbles and 22 1/2 tackles for loss.

Mercilus entered the draft as an underclassman to help take care of his parents, who emigrated from Haiti.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips thinks Mercilus has tremendous upside since he started only one season in college. Phillips believes Mercilus is just scratching the surface as for as his development as a pass rusher.

The Texans say Mercilus is tough and plays hard on every snap. He's got a great first step and an impressive closing burst to the quarterback. And he plays hard against the run.

Here's what Phillips is planning if Mercilus develops the way he thinks he will. When the Texans go to nickel defense, Brian Cushing and Mercilus will play behind Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed, J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith.

Or Mercilus could drop down and have Reed or Barwin rushing from a two-point stance next to Cushing.

In other words, Phillips has options. And he's known as a creative coordinator. Mercilus, who'll be developed behind starters Barwin and Reed, gives his coach a lot of options.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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