Now that the NFL scouting combine are in the books, a nation full of draftniks will begin furiously churning out their mock lists and debating on who the Houston Texans should take with number one overall selection next May. From this vantage point, the decision is clear. We all know that Houston needs a quarterback and we also all know that the “safest” thing an organization can do is to draft a quarterback when they’re coming off the worst season in the NFL. Not coincidentally, this usually gives the new coaching staff and/or new management, which is so often coming in at the same time as a franchise has the number one pick, just a little bit more time if not the complete benefit of the doubt.
Think about it, when quarterbacks are drafted high and they fail, the organizations are rarely blamed. Fans will be making fun of Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, and others for years to come. When was the last time you heard anybody make fun of the San Diego Chargers for drafting Ryan Leaf? You don’t, it’s almost as if the team is the victim when the high round bust is a quarterback. Any other position, and it’s the team that gets the blame when the pick doesn’t go right. It probably hasn’t been six months since the last time you heard a crack or snide remark, for example, about the Detroit Lions drafting Charles Rogers and Mike Williams. All this is said to say that it usually makes sense when you’re 2-14 sitting at number one to go ahead and draft that precious QB.
That said, the whole point of this premise is that the Houston Texans are not your usual 2-14 team. Much like Kansas City last season, the Texans are team with a significant amount of talent who are built to win now. In fact, this writer would say that their talent including, but not limited to, Andre Johnson, J.J. Watt, Arian Foster, Brian Cushing etc. exceeds that of the 2012 Chiefs who managed to finish with the league’s worst record despite having several Pro Bowl performers. In 2012 Houston was the AFC South champion and one of the AFC favorites for the Super Bowl coming into this past season. We all know the disaster that was this season for the Texans, but it would be a mistake to place it all at the feet of quarterback Matt Schaub.
This is important because Houston not only has the chance to add a piece to a team that, theoretically, could challenge for the conference title in 2014, but as a building block for the future. From this vantage point, when a team is bereft of talent, the first round of the draft is always all about taking the best player available,with the position of quarterback excepted in most cases when there is a total rebuild. Despite the wailing of the talking heads in our quarterback obsessed culture, there is no necessity to draft a quarterback at the top of the first round in order to get one who can take you to a championship. All those who genuflect at the altar of the “elite” quarterback, say such an exalted being is necessary to win a Super Bowl now contort themselves to explain how the Seattle Seahawks managed to circumvent this media fueled and historically inaccurate concept.(Of course, they could just admit that Russell Wilson either is, or is on his way, to being elite, but to do that would completely screw up their “you need to draft a QB high” mantra). Additionally, look at the development of young quarterbacks like Mike Glennon or Nick Foles. If they had been drafted at the top of the first round, can you imagine the mega media adulation. Lastly, Kansas City showed that a good quarterback, surrounded by talent, can win a lot of football games.
Hopefully, you are now convinced that no matter how loud the media screams at you in the next two months, the Texans don’t absolutely need to draft a quarterback high to some day win the Super Bowl. Further, this is an exceptionally deep quarterback class. There are no less than a half-dozen solid quarterback prospects. We have a need as fans to identify the “top two or three” and act like there is a wide chasm between them and everyone else. It’s simply not the case in this year’s quarterback group, as signal callers who are not getting the hype of Bortles, Bridgewater, and Manziel have just as much, or possibly more, upside in the NFL. This group includes, but is not necessarily limited to, Zach Mettenberger, Derek Carr, Aaron Murray, and Tahj Boyd.
Which brings us, finally, back around to Jadevon Clowney. He is the best prospect in this draft, pure and simple. Understand that this is not something regurgitated out in the euphoria of his stellar performance in the Underwear Olympics, more popularly known as the NFL Scouting Combine. Rather, that performance just solidified the raw athleticism and instinct for the game that many of us have seen throughout Clowney’s collegiate career at South Carolina. His first step and ability to either speed or bull rush the opposing tackle, not to mention swim or spin away from him, is simply dynamic. I know many point to his relative lack of stats in his final season at South Carolina and wonder about his “motor”. Some of the lack of statistics can be attributed to teams running away from him as well as double teams. This is not to say that he may not have been as invigorated as others would have liked to him to of been, but doesn’t really tell us anything about what he’ll do on Sundays in the NFL? Here’s all you need to know in regards to what Clowney did as a collegian: Clowney had more sacks as a sophomore than JJ Watt did is in his two years at Wisconsin. Ziggy Ansah, last year’s darling of the off-season, only had 4.5 in his entire BYU career and went on to lead the NFL in sacks by a rookie this past season.
Conversely, when you hear people dumping on Clowney for “only” racking up three sacks this past season, just remember who led the SEC in sacks this year. That’s right, Michael Sam. You sure as heck aren’t going to hear most of the same people who criticize Clowney for his lack of numbers extolling the virtues of Sam at the expense of a fairly disappointing scouting combine. This is not to say that Jadeveon Clowney is the perfect football player. I’m not sure that that individual actually exists, or will ever exist. However, the tape doesn’t lie, and Clowney is the best defensive line pass rush prospect to come out of college in more than a decade. He grades well as a 4-3 end or possibly a 3-4 outside linebacker. Houston simply cannot pass up on a player of this ability – assuming that they hold on this pick and do not trade it down for additional selections – in a fervent rush to get a high profile quarterback to satisfy the masses and the media. The Texans should take Clowney and find their 2014 quarterback either in free agency or at the top of the second round, were there will be a very good prospect available for them. Much of the hoopla in bringing in new coach Bill O’Brien is his supposed expertise in working with quarterbacks. Well, take the closest thing to “can’t miss” at a vital position, and let the new coach earn his money.
Houston, we shouldn’t have a problem.