HOUSTON -- After spending 20 years working under Bill Belichick, Houston Texans GM Nick Caserio will be given his shot to make the choice. A veteran of the New England Patriots front office, Caserio now will be in charge of all aspects of the AFC South franchise.
That includes making the right call on who to select in the 2021 NFL Draft on April 29. Houston won't select until the third round at No. 67 barring a trade up or back.
For Caserio, drafting the "best name" on the board isn't a singular determinant. Instead, he intends to select the best player who is "right" for Houston.
"There are certain physical attributes that are going to be important," Caserio said on a Zoom call Friday. "Those are going to be specific to the position, like their speed, their explosiveness. Again, there are certain things that may be a little bit more relevant physically to whatever position that they are playing.
"Those are the things that we are going to try to bring to the floor and see if we can identify players in the draft that have some of those qualities, so that when they come in here, we can actually evaluate those and see those."
New England's draft strategies of the past might not have met the customary plan teams follow when selecting. The results though speak for themselves.
For two decades, The Patriots were a dynasty, representing the AFC eight time in the Super Bowl, winning six. Having a MVP quarterback helps, but so does a stout defense.
The Patriots thrived on the defensive side, an area Caserio addressed early this offseason in free agency.
"We have like 15 defensive linemen on a team between defensive tackles and the defensive ends," Caserio said. "There's eight, nine linebackers, we have nine corners, so does that prohibit us from maybe taking a player at maybe one of those positions? Not necessarily, right?"
Caserio isn't concerned adding depth at pieces that were already "fixed" this offseason. Should the right linebacker fall, he'll be in line for Houston's selection. If the perfect running back should be available, expect the team to consider add him to the roster.
The Texans defense will be an area hoping for better results. During both the Gary Kubiak and Bill O'Brien regimes, Houston was known for their fierce front-seven and competitive secondary.
Last season, Houston recorded 34 total sacks and ranked 32nd in stopping the run. The pass defense ranked 25th, allowing an average of 256.5 yards per game and eight yards per play.
The hope is that in a new 4-3 base under coordinator Lovie Smith, Houston will rebound with the right players. Caserio understands that for a defense to reach new heights, each area must compliment the next.
"Defense is about team defense," Caserio said. "It's not about one particular player, about one particular position. It all works in conjunction with one another, so the better front you have, then it's going to help the coverage. The better coverage is going to help the front, right? Again, it's not about, like, is one more important than the other? It's about team defense."
The Texans won't limit themselves to one player come draft night. Caserio also won't target a certain position just because it's a need.
Houston is playing poker entering draft week. Remaining calm and keeping all avenues open, Caserio can start the new era off in NRG without the pressure of forcing to show his cards before they're on the clock.
“I think the most important thing is to evaluate the players, have an understanding of the board top to bottom, and whatever opportunity you have to pick, just be ready to pick the player you feel most comfortable with,” Caserio said. “You try to identify the players, make good decisions, and, hopefully, you've evaluated them properly."
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