HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Texans general manager Brian Gaine has quite a challenge as he prepares for his first draft with the team.
He enters Thursday looking to upgrade a team that went 4-12 last season and has no picks in the first two rounds. Instead of worrying about the picks Houston doesn’t have, Gaine is focused on how he can get the most out of the four picks the Texans own in the third and fourth rounds.
“Although they might not be player 50 or 60, we’re still going to get four players in the top 103,” Gaine said. “So, we’re very positive that we’ll be able to get contributing players at any one of those picks in the third and the fourth round.”
The Texans don’t have a first-round pick for the first time in franchise history. They traded away this year’s choice to Cleveland to get quarterback Deshaun Watson with the 12th overall pick in last year’s draft. They previously sent their second-round pick in this draft to the Browns as part of the deal to get rid of Brock Osweiler.
Houston’s first pick will be No. 68, and it received the 80th pick from Seattle in the trade for left tackle Duane Brown. Houston got the 98th selection in the third round as a compensatory pick for A.J. Bouye signing with the Jaguars last year.
The Texans have one fourth-rounder, three picks in the sixth round and a seventh-round selection this year.
Gaine wouldn’t rule out trading up if they really like a player, but it doesn’t seem likely.
“If there’s a certain player that’s falling down on the board that we had a very good grade on, certainly we’re always going to talk about that scenario if we have the ammunition and the latitude to go up,” he said. “I would tell you, historically, I would much prefer to go down than I ever would to go up, to get more at-bats, to accumulate more good players.”
OFFENSIVE LINE NEEDS
Believing they’ve finally found their franchise quarterback in Watson, the Texans need to upgrade the offensive line to protect him. The unit took a hit last season when Brown, their franchise left tackle, was traded to Seattle, and the Texans allowed the second-most sacks in the league with 54. Houston addressed the situation by signing guards Senio Kelemete and Zach Fulton and tackle Seantrel Henderson in free agency, but could still try to add reinforcements in the draft.
Gaine will be in charge of a draft for the first time in his career after Houston hired him in January to take over for Rick Smith, who took a leave of absence to be with his wife, who is fighting cancer. Although this is his first stint as a general manager, Gaine has plenty of experience in scouting and player evaluations, having worked as assistant general manager for the Dolphins and in player personnel for the Texans and the Bills.
HITS AND MISSES
Although it’s a small sample size, the Texans appear to have hit big in last year’s draft with Watson. He starred in seven games before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in practice. Watson threw for 1,699 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions as a rookie and is on track to be healthy for the start of the 2018 season.
Another solid pick for the Texans in the last few years is Jadeveon Clowney, selected first overall in 2014. The defensive end shook off a couple of injury-filled seasons to become one of the top defenders in the league. He finished second in the NFL with a career-high 21 tackles for losses and his 9 1/2 sacks, 21 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles also were career bests.
While the Texans hit on Clowney in that draft, their second-round selection might be one of their worst misses. Houston passed on quarterback Derek Carr to take Xavier Su’a-Filo with the 33rd overall pick. The offensive guard started 31 of 32 games over the past two seasons, but struggled with consistency, and the Texans chose not to re-sign him this offseason.