Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 4/25/12
HOUSTON Initially, the Texans draft strategy appeared cut-and-dried. Franchise icon receiver Andre Johnson missed nine games last season, marking the second time in five years that Johnson participated in fewer than 10 games. The Texans were devoid of his leadership, and of greater importance, his production. Their offense was hamstrung without Johnson, whose injury history (Johnson has started 16 games in five of nine seasons) and standing on the wrong side of 30 seemingly solidified a primary position of need for the Texans relative to the 2012 NFL Draft. Then the Texans released stalwart right tackle Eric Winston as a salary dump, and lost right guard Mike Brisiel (Raiders) and outside linebacker Mario Williams (Bills) in free agency. What once was clear became opaque, and the Texans presumed draft focus on a premiere receiver to complement and eventually succeed Johnson shifted to include an offensive lineman that could compete for playing time, and an edge rusher to bolster the tandem of Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. The Texans will in all likelihood address those three positions before they make the first of their two fourth-round selections on Saturday. But with all eyes fixed on the 26th pick of the first round Thursday night, here are some names to consider as the Texans peer at their draft board. WIDE RECEIVER Kendall Wright (5-10, 196), Baylor Stephen Hill (6-4, 215), Georgia Tech Rueben Randle (6-3, 210), LSU Brian Quick (6-3, 220), Appalachian State Mohamed Sanu (6-1, 211), Rutgers Comment: Unless Texans general manager Rick Smith surprises everyone and trades up into the top half of the first round, Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State) and Michael Floyd (Notre Dame) will be long gone by the time the Texans make their first selection. There has been talk of late suggesting the Texans will go in a different direction with their first-round pick and will opt to exploit the depth a receiver in this draft (the Texans have four picks in the top 100), but that strategy comes with a risk. Even if the Texans take two receivers, they need one to develop into a No. 1 that can replace Johnson as he ages. The Texans cannot afford to add another No. 3 receiver to a mix currently featuring two such receivers in their rotation: Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones. OFFENSIVE TACKLE Cordy Glenn (6-5, 345), Georgia Mike Adams (6-7, 323), Ohio State Bobby Massie (6-6, 316), Mississippi Jonathan Martin (6-5, 312), Stanford Jeff Allen (6-4, 307), Illinois Comment: With right tackle Rashad Butler and right guard Antoine Caldwell in the fold, the Texans arent bereft of options to replace Winston and Brisiel. That doesnt mean that wont address their losses on the line, particularly if they can find someone capable of playing both guard and tackle (Glenn is viewed as a capable candidate). There is drop off in talent from the top two tackle prospects, Matt Kalil (USC) and Riley Reiff (Iowa), and opinions vary on who the Texans should take at 26 if they are leaning toward a lineman (options abound on mock drafts on the Web). Of note: Midwestern State guard Amini Silatolu provides intrigue, but a guard in this spot would be a real reach for the Texans. OUTSIDE LINEBACKERDEFENSIVE END Whitney Mercilus (6-4, 261), Illinois Shea McClellin (6-3, 260), Boise State Nick Perry (6-3, 271), USC Courtney Upshaw (6-2, 272), Alabama Bruce Irvin (6-3, 245), West Virginia Comment: Losing Williams to a torn pectoral in Week 5 last season enabled the Texans to get a long look at Reed under an increased workload. He held his own, but ideally the Texans would like an established rotation with an outside linebacker capable of splitting reps with Reed and Barwin. With Williams gone, the Texans must fill the void left by his departure, with the task of converting a college defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker always providing a challenge. Of course, Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has mastered that particular art, thus whomever the Texans select at this position, rest assured he is capable of fulfilling the job requirement. Taking his combine numbers into consideration, Perry could be a Williams clone. Follow me on Twitter at moisekapenda
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