Lance Zierlein's Houston Texans Combine Primer

I’m here in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine and I’m hoping to find some Houston Texans amongst the mass of draft prospects here over the weekend. Actually, I’m hoping to find some, but that is irrelevant as it will have to be Texans GM Rick Smith and head coach Bill O’Brien who find them since they are the ones who have to put the roster together.

In this Houston Texans Combine Primer, I want to give you pertinent off-season information you need to know as well as give you some players to focus on whom I believe fit the Texans needs and schemes.

Salary Cap Room  (according to OvertheCap.com)

Houston Texans+24.4M

While the Texans have a positive cap figure, don’t go too crazy. Their 24.4M figure is 23rd amongst NFL teams and it doesn’t include what they will have to spend on their own free agents including:

RB  Jonathan Grimes
DT  Vince Wilfork
DE  Antonio Smith
DE  Devon Still
LB  John Simon
CB  A.J. Bouye
S    Quentin Demps
P    Shane Lechler
K    Nick Novak

Realistically, Vince Wilfork, John Simon, A.J. Bouye and Shane Lechler are the guys likely to be targeted by the Texans, and that is if guys like Wilfork and Lechler are coming back. Bouye is going to hit the open market since the Texans didn’t franchise him so it is going to take a ton of money to get him back and the Texans will have to hope that he is willing to come back.

How the Texans Were Built
Pct of roster drafted: 35.4%
Pct from free agency: 62%
Pct from trades: 2.5%
Pct of starters drafted: 68.2%
Pct of starters from free agency: 31.8%
Pct of starters from trades: 0%

Team Needs

  1. Offensive Tackle - With Duane Brown getting a little older, Derek Newton’s health a concern and Chris Clark unable to handle the swing tackle duties effectively, the Texans have to find some new blood at tackle at some point soon.

  2. Quarterback - It is hard not to believe the Texans swung and missed badly on Brock Osweiller. There aren’t going to be any solutions via free agency and I’m not sure the Texans actually believe in Tom Savage enough to think he’s the answer. 

  3. Offensive Guard - Just not good enough. Jeff Allen was basically a band-aid for the position last year and Xavier Su’a -Filo is a replacement level player even though you can get by with him for now. Texans should be looking for help here.

  4. Inside Linebacker - Brian Cushing is getting older and carries a cap figure that could be looked at carefully by management. The fact that he doesn’t stay on the fields for passing downs makes him less valuable. Bernardrick McKinney was a tackling machine last year, but he wasn’t a cover machine and the Texans need that. 

  5. Safety - If the Texans plan on signing Bouye (which they should be trying to do), then I don’t really see that it makes much sense to re-sign Demps when there are so many talented safeties in this draft.

The Texans could also look to add running back depth, another outside linebacker if they let John Simon walk, a cornerback if A.J. Bouye leaves and a high-end playmaker at the matchup tight end position isn’t out of the question. Here are some players the Texans might be targeting from the Combine.

Offensive Tackle / Offensive Guard

Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama: I don’t think Robinson makes it to the Texans, but if he did, he would likely be in consideration. Robinson measured in at 6’6 / 322 pounds with 35.5” arms. That’s basically Greek Gods territory for tackles. He’s powerful, but has to work on consistency.

Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah: Elite athlete who will be 25 when season starts. He left for a Mormon mission after his senior year of high school and then went the juco route before going to Utah for a year. He’s a perfect fit in Gary Kubiak’s offense, but can he be in O’Brien’s?  It’s worth noting he was just 297 pounds at the combine.

Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin: He’s my favorite offensive linemen in this draft because he’s technically sound, a very good run blocker and would be an upgrade in pass protection.

Forrest Lamp, OT/OG, Western Kentucky: He’s a little shorter with shorter arms than teams like at Tackle which is where he played in college. I’m expecting him to move inside, but you never know if the Texans would try him at tackle first. He did a great job against Jonathan Allen and Tim Williams this year when they played Alabama. He would step in and start day one if he were the first round pick.

Taylor Moton, OT/OG, Western Michigan: Personally, I don’t see him as an NFL tackle even though he played there in college. He has too may holes in his pass protection, but what he does well is drive people off the ball in the run game. O’Brien prefers big, physical run blockers and Moton could be that guy in the second round.

Dorian Johnson, OG, Pitt: He was a five-star high school recruit who came in as a tackle but moved to guard. He has super long arms and can fit into any run blocking scheme. He’s an immediate starter as a second round pick.

Dion Dawkins, OT/OG, Temple: His a three year starter who played tackle at Temple but showed at the Senior Bowl he can also play guard. I like that he has the ability to play tackle or guard because it would give the Texans a chance to try him at both spots. It also helps with roster flexibility if he can play two spots. He’s tough, physical and consistent. 

Collin Buchanan, OT/OG, Miami (OH): Another player who played tackle but might project to guard. I’m a big fan of his if he can make it to the third or fourth round. He’s got the ability to play right tackle, he’s just not as long as the Texans will probably want. Good player.

Damian Mama, OG, USC; Isaac Asiata, OG, Utah; Nico Siragusa, OG, San Diego State: I included all of these guys together because they are similar players. They are big guards with good height who carry their weight well and all have successful college backgrounds. These guys should be going in rounds 3-5.

Quarterbacks

Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: For one, Watson would have to slip to the Texans at 25 which is possible based on conversations I’ve had with teams about their draft grades on him. However, I think there will be a team or two who really likes him after they spend time with him and they will start to sell themselves on what he can do rather than what his issues are. He’s a clutch quarterback with very good mobility and outstanding leadership. His issues with turning the ball over and failing to see the entire field can be an issue.

Pat Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: Mahomes has good size and good arm strength and all the swagger you can handle. The only issue is that he’s developed some bad habits that could take time to work out. He throws off of his back foot too often and he looks to improvise at times when he needs to win from the pocket. Mahomes also has times where he takes chances that will result in interceptions on the next level. My guess is that Bill O’Brien will like some of the things he sees from Mahomes, but he will view him as a developmental player who might not be worth a first round pick.

Nate Peterman, QB, Pitt: Peterman has decent size and an average arm, but he played in a system that offered him pro-style reads and throws. He throws with really good timing and can put the ball on the money on the intermediate and deep passes. He doesn’t have some of the physical tools that some of the other QBs will offer, but he might be one of the most accurate and intelligent passers in the draft.

Inside Linebacker

Haason Reddick, LB, Temple: Reddick started his career as a cornerback before moving to linebacker and then to defensive end. He’s a very good pass rusher but weighs less than 240 pounds which means he could get some work at outside linebacker, but may be making a move inside since that is where he played at the Senior Bowl. He’s very athletic and can cover in space. He can also rush the QB if you want him too. Talented player.

Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt: Outstanding instincts and a productive tackler. He seems to always know where the ball is going which puts him near the ball at tall times. He’s a little light as a tackler, but he’s also extremely talented in coverage.

Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida: Anzalone has missed time during his career with two different shoulder injuries and a broken arm. Is he injury-prone or just snake-bitten? Does it matter? I do know that he’s very athletic and has terrific speed in coverage. At the Senior Bowl, he was able to run with just about every running back he got matched up against and that is something the Texans need desperately.

Safety

Jabrill Peppers, SS, Michigan: Peppers is able to do a little of everything but would benefit from a defensive scheme that starts to sharpen his focus. He’s too small to be a linebacker, but he has plenty of experience playing in the box and helping against the run. He can play deep safety if needed and has experience matching up on slot receivers. I could see him in a nickel package bumping to inside linebacker from time to time.

Marcus Maye, FS, Florida: Maye has good size and great instincts. He always has good feel for where the ball is going and makes plays on the ball. He’s not a huge hitter, but he’s a solid tackler who can play near the line of scrimmage or deep. He has the type of football character and instincts that the Texans will probably like.

Justin Evans, SS, Texas A&M: Heat-seeking missile will hit guys as hard as he can, but he’s also got great speed with the hands of a wide receiver. Evans is a little smaller than you might like and with Andre Hal at one safety spot, that would give you two safeties with ball skills, but two smaller safeties as well. Evans has the type of athleticism that could allow him to play some man to man coverage as well.

Obi Melifonwu, FS, UConn: He is very big, very fast and very explosive. His athletic testing at the combine will probably get him over-drafted. He has some holes in his game that concern me, but teams usually love players with this kind of size and athleticism because they see moldable clay that they can coach into the kind of players they are looking for.

Josh Harvey-Clemons, SS, Louisville: Former five-star player from Georgia who got kicked out and landed in Louisville. He is a tall, long cornerback who plays near the box and some teams see him as a potential hybrid linebacker on the next level. He’s got very good range as a tackler and could be an interesting scheme fit for Texans if they are looking for a player to play some safety and some linebacker from time to time.

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