If the Houston Texans have honed in a bit on quarterback Blake Bortles as the likely No. 1 overall pick at the 2014 NFL draft, then first-year head coach Bill O'Brien is doing a heck of a job playing coy.
Both O'Brien and GM Rick Smith stated at the combine in February that the Texans were still a long way from deciding on how to use that first pick, and O'Brien essentially reiterated that stance Monday while speaking with the NFL Network's Steve Wyche.
"I don't think there's any question we'll draft a quarterback. Where we'll draft that quarterback, I don't think we know that yet," O'Brien said. "We're still in the process of studying all these prospects and in the process of putting a grade on them and trying to place them where they'll be in the draft."
O'Brien further added to the mystery by telling Wyche that there are "10 to 12 [quarterbacks] you've got to do a great job of evaluating".
[si_video id="video_BCB68056-988E-F4E4-E318-D56F2E9FEF80" height="470"]
"There's not a lot of separation, and there are more quarterbacks than just three," O'Brien said. "The three guys everybody talks about -- Blake, Teddy [Bridgewater] and Johnny [Manziel] -- those guys are good players, have had great college careers. But there are other guys out there. You've got [A.J.] McCarron, you've got [Zach] Mettenberger, you've got Logan Thomas, you've got [Tom] Savage, you've got [Jimmy] Garoppolo, I could go right down the list."
The Texans' eventual choice will set in motion what could be a frantic Round 1, regardless of whether or not O'Brien's squad plucks a QB off the board early. Should Houston turn its attention elsewhere, South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney appears to be the most likely focus. O'Brien also left the door open for one of the offensive tackles to be the No. 1 choice.
Even if Bridgetwater or Manziel fall (for now, Bortles appears to be the safest bet to stay in the top 10), odds are all three of those projected top quarterbacks figure to be selected in the first round. As O'Brien pointed out to Wyche, there will be other options later in the draft -- O'Brien did not even mention Fresno State's Derek Carr, believed by many to be the fourth-best QB available.
The three-day draft format, which arrived in 2010, does work to the Texans' advantage. Not only are they "on the clock" for the next several weeks leading up to Round 1, but also they'll have about 24 hours to plan out their Round 2 attack (pick No. 33 overall), then get another break before Round 4. Last year, the Jaguars traded the fourth round's opening selection to Philadelphia.
"It’s not only important to get that [No. 1 overall] pick right, but it’s also important to understand this is a unique situation," Smith said. "You get a chance to really set your board three different times and pick the best player on the board three separate times the way that the draft is set up."
Passing on a QB in Round 1 could lead the Texans to take aim at that position atop Round 2, where the McCarrons and Mettenbergers of the draft world ought to be in the conversation.
All O'Brien settled in the interim is that Houston will draft a quarterback ... somewhere.
[si_video id="video_75A17B84-16E4-4EC7-5827-DA9F6A51C6AF" height="470"]