Expectations for Texans rookies next season

Expectations for Texans rookies next season
May 15, 2014, 4:45 pm
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Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith (left) and head coach Bill O'Brien (right) pose for a picture with first-round draft pick Jadeveon Clowney (middle) during a press conference at Reliant Stadium.

(USA Today Sports Images)

After a whirlwind NFL draft, in which the Texans fans did not know what the team was going to do with the first overall selection. Houston came away with one of the better hauls from the 2014 draft. Adding a lot of new players to the roster is one thing, but they brought in a few guys that will also make an immediate impact. Expectations are going to be high in the Bayou City for the upcoming season, and for good reason.

With the top pick in the draft, Houston drafted Jadeveon Clowney, defensive end from South Carolina. Heralded as the unanimous best defensive player in recent memory, Clowney isn't just as addition, but a foundation. Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel will tailor aspects of the defense to him, and find multiple ways to get him involved at both defense end and outside linebacker. His top skill will be utilized in getting after the opposing quarterback, and across from former defensive player of the year  J.J. Watt, it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see Clowney rack up double-digit sacks in his rookie campaign.

Bolstering the offensive line was one of the top priorities this offseason for the Texans. The acquisition of Xavier Su'a-Filo, guard from UCLA, was their best effort in doing just that. While a lot of fans may have clamored for a quarterback with their second round pick, Houston elected to make the safe pick and brought aboard the top guard on the board. I would expect him to start at one of the guard positions entering the upcoming regular season. 

Tougher to project is their third round pick, C.J. Fiederowicz, tight end out of Iowa. Garrett Graham made a few plays last season in his first real effort as the everydown tight end. There's no way he was being looked at as a mainstay, but he tallied 545 yards and 5 touchdowns, and there looked to be room for growth. Fiederowociz on the other hand, isn't much of a pass catching threat, he's your prototypical blocking tight end. It'll be interesting to see how he's utilized, but I wouldn't expect to see too much of him until the mid-point of the season. 

Later in the third round, head coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith made what may have been the biggest steal of the draft. They traded up to the 83rd pick and drafted a falling defensive tackle in Louis Nix III from Notre Dame. At one point, Nix was the highest rated defensive tackle in the draft, and a likely top fifteen pick. Questions about his work ethic and knee's are part of the reason for his freefall, but his value in the third round was great. 

Earl Mitchell signed with the Miami Dolphins in the offseason, which opened up the nose tackle position on the Texans depth chart. Not only is Nix easy to place in the open spot, but it likely won't take him long to out perform what Mitchell did last year. So here, after three rounds, the Texans got four players that will play immediate dividends for them next season. Three that may even start after training camp.

If there was one issue fans had with the Texans effort on draft day, it was that they waited as long as they did to draft a quarterback. Some people wanted Johnny Manziel to stay in Texas, others wanted the prototypical QB in Blake Bortles... but Houston elected to address many of their other needs, and try a different route to find a signal-caller. It looks as though Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the starter for the first game of the regular season. They did draft Tom Savage from Pittsburgh, in the fourth round, but I wouldn't view him as anything more than a project. 

Savage isn't ready to play quarterback in the NFL. He has the skill set, but if he ends up playing next season, it will not be by the coaching staffs design. Arm strength is one thing, but he needs to refine his throwing motion, improve his accuracy and learn to anticipate timing. If his timing was poor at the college level, it only gets that much harder in the pros. Additionally, for any rookie QB, it's hard to come in, learn a pro-style playbook and then be expected to play your first season. Do not expect Tom Savage to have any real impact in 2014. The time may come where he's forced to play, but that would likely be detrimental to his growth and development.

After the first four rounds, there were a few other players added that will fight for spots on the team in training camp. I think Alfred Blue will have the opportunity to play a few downs at running back, but other than that, I don't see many of those guys having an impact outside of special teams. 

While positions on offense were addressed, defense was the top unit the Texans really enhanced through the draft. Between two potential starters in Clowney and Nix, the front seven for Houston will have a much different look. Athleticism and pass rushing will be the best we've seen in some time. On offense, expect more consistent offensive line play. There's the chance behind a more stable line, Ryan Fitzpatrick could have a chance for success. One things for certain though, adding four players that could potentially start in year one means the Texans had one heck of a draft.