With a defense that ranked 30th, including 32nd against the pass, it was no surprise the Texans used their first-round pick on a player on that side of the ball.
The fact that he wasn't an outside linebacker or a cornerback shocked many.
The Texans wanted outside linebacker Aldon Smith with the 11th pick, but San Francisco beat them to him by getting the Missouri product with the seventh selection.
The Texans tried to trade up for outside linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Patrick Peterson, but the price was too high. General manager Rick Smith didn't want to part with his second-round pick.
The goal was to beef up the front seven in general and the pass rush in particular. Smith, coach Gary Kubiak and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips believe they accomplished their goal with Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt.
In Phillips' new 3-4 scheme, Watt, 6-51/2, 290, should compete for a starting job on the left side with veteran Antonio Smith. In passing situations, both are expected to move inside and be sandwiched between defensive end Mario Williams and outside linebacker Connor Barwin.
Watt entered the draft as an underclassman. He impressed the scouts and coaches with his work ethic.
"My biggest strength is my work ethic," he said. "I'm going to put a ton of time in the film room, weight room and on the field. I'm going to give you every single thing I have, every single play, and at the end of the day, we're going to win games because of it."
Like Barwin, who'll move from 4-3 defensive end to outside linebacker, his motor never stops.
"If I didn't give 100 percent on every play, I feel like I'd be doing the game a disservice," Watt said.
Watt is strong, knows how to use his hands and has quick feet for a 290-pounder. At the combine, they looked at him as an outside linebacker. Phillips said he thinks Watt could play outside linebacker or on the nose, but their plans are to use him outside on running downs and inside in passing situations.
"The idea is to try to get him one-on-one because he's going to cause some people a lot of problems," Phillips said. "Anytime you pick a guy with the 11th pick of the draft, you expect them to play. I think that's a reasonable expectation."
The Texans' next priorities in the draft will be to get an outside linebacker, cornerback and safety.
The Texans entered the draft wanting to improve their defense in general and their pass rush in particular.
New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is installing a 3-4. General manager Rick Smith used seven of their eight picks, including the first five, on defensive players.
The Texans wanted outside linebacker Aldon Smith with the 11th pick in the first round, but San Francisco took him with the seventh overall selection. Rather than draft for need and pursue another outside linebacker or defensive back, they took their highest-rated defensive player, end J.J. Watt.
Outside linebacker Brooks Reed: Some projected Reed as a first-round pick because he fits so well with a 3-4 scheme, but the Texans got him in the second round. At 6-3, 263, he runs in the 4.6s and is so explosive over his first 10 yards that the coaches believe he'll make an excellent pass rusher. He's strong, smart and instinctive, according to the coaches. They believe he won't have trouble making the transition to 3-4.
Safety Shiloh Keo: Wade Phillips coached Keo in the East-West Shrine Game. At 6-0, 219, he has excellent size. At his pro day, he ran two 40s in the 4.6s. The coaches say he has great size, hitting ability and instincts. Phillips likes for his safeties to be twins, mirror images. That's why he doesn't want one to play around the line of scrimmage like an extra linebacker. He wants safeties who can turn and run and coverage.
A closer look at the Texans' picks:
Round 1/11 - J.T. Watt, DE, 6-6, 290, Wisconsin
An underclassman who's a terrific athlete with 34 reps on the bench, a 37-inch vertical jump, 4.81 speed and the largest hands of any player at the combine. He's most effective as a 4-3 defensive tackle, but he's found his niche as 3-4 defensive end. He'll compete with Antonio Smith for the starting job. In passing situations, both will move inside to tackle to help rush the passer.
Round 2/42 - Brooks Reed, OLB, 6-3, 262, Arizona
When they didn't get Aldon Smith in the first round, they were afraid Reed would be gone in the second. They didn't waste time selecting him. The plan is for Reed to start on the strong side and drop down to end and rush in passing situations.
Round 2/60 - Brandon Harris, CB, 5-10, 191, Miami
The Texans traded back into the second round to get him. They plan to use him inside as the slot corner in nickel situations. That means he should play about 50 percent of the time.
Round 4/127 - Roc Carmichael, CB, 5-10, 192, Virginia Tech
A physical outside corner who'll be competing for a backup job as a rookie. He also will have to contribute on special teams. The coaches like his tenacity and the leadership and intelligence he showed in college.
Round 5/144 - Shiloh Keo, S, 5-11, 219, Idaho
He ran in the mid 4.6s at his pro day. He's a hard hitter and a team leader who averaged 14.2 yards on punt returns during his college career. He's got good ball skills and good range to go with great instincts.
Round 5/152 - T.J. Yates, QB, 6-3, 220, North Carolina
Gary Kubiak wanted to draft a quarterback in case they lose Matt Leinart in free agency. Yates started three seasons. His best season was his last one when so many of his teammates were suspended. He ran almost the same offense in college that the Texans use.
Round 7/214 - Derek Newton, OT, 6-6, 314, Arkansas State
The coaches wanted an offensive tackle to groom as their swing tackle in case they lose Rashad Butler. Newton played the right side in college. He's got good size and works hard but needs NFL coaching and some time in the weight room. He'll probably spend the season on the practice squad.
Round 7/254 - Cheta Ozougwu, OLB, 6-2, 255, Rice
Mr. Irrelevant, the last pick in the draft, was a defensive end in college. He'll be tried at outside linebacker with the Texans. He's a good athlete who's quick and starting to develop moves. He'll probably spend his rookie season on the practice squad.
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