NFL DRAFT: Texans could draft WR to add Osweiler's offense
HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans got a much-needed upgrade at quarterback in free agency.
Now they need to find a new target in this year's draft to catch Brock Osweiler's passes.
Houston addressed its biggest need during free agency by luring Osweiler away from the Denver Broncos with a huge $72 million contract to take over at quarterback for Brian Hoyer, who was released this week.
The Texans return star receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who made his first Pro Bowl last season after finishing third in the NFL with 1,521 yards receiving. But they could use the 22nd overall pick to find a receiver to play opposite Hopkins and take some pressure off the 23-year-old who faced near constant double teams last season.
Top receivers who could still be around when Houston's spot comes up are Will Fuller of Notre Dame and Baylor's Corey Coleman.
Though receiver is clearly Houston's biggest need, there's certainly no guarantee the Texans will use their first pick on the position.
''If you know anything about the way we draft, we try to always evaluate the draft class independently of need,'' general manager Rick Smith said. ''So that's what we will do and we will continue to use that philosophy.''
Though the Texans officially started their offseason workouts this week, Osweiler got going early by inviting several teammates to Arizona to spend some time working together this month. Several receivers and backup quarterback Tom Savage took part in the informal practices at Arizona State, where Osweiler went to school.
''We got some great work in, as far as throwing routes,'' Osweiler said. ''I was able to hear some of the language from this playbook. Those guys were coaching me up on the field ... it was a great week of work. We really got to know each other.''
The Texans have a strong history with taking receivers in the first round. Hopkins was the 27th pick in the 2013 draft and has started every game in his three-year career. He came to Houston 10 years after the Texans took Andre Johnson with the third overall pick in 2003. Johnson was a seven-time Pro Bowler who spent 12 years with the Texans and is the team's all-time leading receiver with 13,597 yards.
Some things to know about the Texans as they prepare for next weekend's draft:
HOUSTON'S OTHER DEFENSIVE END: The Texans have J.J. Watt returning to lead their defense. But who'll be the team's other defensive end is far less clear. Jared Crick, who started 31 games opposite Watt in past two seasons, signed with Denver. They'll likely need to add a DE in the draft with Jeoffrey Pagan and Dan Pettinato as the only other defensive ends on the roster. Pagan appeared in six games last season and had just one tackle, and Pettinato did not appear in a game as a rookie.
BROWN'S PROGRESS: Left tackle Duane Brown, Houston's starter since 2008, tore a quad muscle in the regular-season finale and likely won't be ready for the start of training camp. But he should be ready for the season opener. Even if he is, it couldn't hurt for Houston to add depth on the offensive line to help protect the new $72 million quarterback.
DEFENSE FIRST?: Houston's biggest need is on offense, but it wouldn't be a surprise if the Texans went with defense instead. The Texans have selected a defensive player with their first-round pick in 10 of 14 drafts. Their first-ever draft pick was quarterback David Carr, but they drafted defensive players the other two times they had the top overall spot, adding end Mario Williams in 2006 and outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney in 2014. They also took a defender with their first pick last year, Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson.
CLOWNEY'S FUTURE: Houston is still waiting for Clowney to live up to the expectations of a No. 1 pick. Clowney missed 12 games as a rookie before having season-ending microfracture surgery on his right knee. He recovered from that procedure in time for the season opener last year, but had trouble with consistency and missed three games and Houston's wild-card playoff game with various injuries.
''Clowney's got a great future,'' coach Bill O'Brien said. ''The big thing's going to be the consistency to be healthy, to be able to play a 16-game season. That's a big thing for JD, but JD is a heck of a football player.''
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