Houston Texans Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Louis Nix, Notre Dame, DT – Round 3
Nix could get consideration for the boom pick as well. Over the past three seasons, he was been one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles in college football. In 2012 Manti Te’o got all the attention, but Nix ate up blockers to free up Te’o, who made plays off the disruption that Nix caused up front.

The 6-foot-2, 311-pound Nix is a physical load at the point of attack who also has quickness to cause havoc behind the line of scrimmage. He is a perfect as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense like Houston’s with Romeo Crennel. Nix needs to avoid getting lazy with his technique and standing up too high, but when he stays low and is motivated, he can be a bull in a china shop.

Nix fell to the third round in part because of concerns regarding an injured knee, but the Texans got a steal as many teams felt Nix was worthy of a late first-round pick. Plus, he would have made sense for Houston’s pick at No. 33. Nix could eat up a lot of blockers to free up J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing. Playing in front of Cushing and next to Watt and Jadeveon Clowney should allow Nix to see a lot of good looks. It shouldn’t be long before Nix is an impact starter for Houston.

Most Likely To Bust

Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, UCLA – Round 2
This was a tough selection because I don’t think any of the Texans picks in rounds 1-3 have legitimate bust potential. In fact, Su’a-Filo could be considered for solid starter or boom pick. He looks like a safe bet to develop into quality offensive lineman. However I have to pick one, so I’ll go with Su’a-Filo because of his body.

WalterFootball.com heard from league sources that Su’a-Filo has a bad body and needs to do a lot of development with the strength and conditioning coaches. The 6-foot-4, 307-pounder has some natural quickness and athleticism, but he should get stronger. Su’a-Filo needs to pack more of a punch at the point of attack. He has to turn some flab into muscle in order to handle the heavy, powerful defensive tackles.

The Texans needed to upgrade their offensive line, and Su’a-Filo should turn into a good starter at left guard, but if he doesn’t improve his body, it could lead to problems for him in the trenches. Of all of Houston’s early-rounders, Su’a-Filo is the biggest risk, so obviously the franchise had a good draft and took advantage of its high picks.

Potential Boom Pick

Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, South Carolina – Round 1
Everybody agrees that the sky is the limit for Jadeveon Clowney. The 6-foot-5, 266-pounder has natural strength with the speed of a wide receiver. He has the physical ability to be a dominant NFL player and perhaps a legend. The question mark for Clowney during the lead up to the 2014 NFL Draft was around his motivation and work ethic. Sources around the league said that was extremely overblown by the media, and they don’t believe that will be an issue for Clowney in the NFL.

The Texans were a perfect landing spot for Clowney. With J.J. Watt leading their defense, the pressure won’t be on Clowney to be the superstar. Plus, the rookie has other good talent around him including Brian Cushing, rookie tackle Louis Nix and the improving Whitney Mercilus. The Texans also have great coaches to get the most out of Clowney with defensive line coach Bill Kollar and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.

Once Kollar develops Clowney’s pass-rushing moves, the sky is the limit. It gets lost in his pass-rushing ability and crazy athletic skill set, but Clowney is a very good defender against the run. He has the athletic skill set, supporting cast and coaching staff to turn into one of the elite defensive players in the NFL.

Future Depth Player

Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt – Round 7
This was a tough call because I think the Texans landed a number of good depth players in the late rounds. Defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan (Alabama) could become a starter at five-technique in hurry with Antonio Smith being let go, and fullback Jay Prosch (Auburn) should be Houston’s long-term starter. That left me with running back Alfred Blue (LSU), safety Lonnie Ballentine (Memphis) and Hal. I decided to go with Hal because he probably won’t develop into a starter, but he could be a valuable nickel cornerback and depth player.

Last year, the nickel corner position manned by Bryce McCain got the Texans defense killed. Hal will have to compete with Brandon Harris for the position, and that competition looks wide open. Harris was a second-rounder in 2011, but hasn’t proven to be a reliable contributor. Starter Kareem Jackson is in the final year of his contract, while Jonathan Joseph is 30 years old. Thus, the Texans will be looking for some young cornerbacks to emerge. Hal (5-10, 188) played against elite competition in the SEC the past three seasons. After some development, he could turn into a quality nickel back to go against slot receivers.

Walt’s 2014 NFL Draft Grades:

1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, South Carolina: B+ Grade
I’m going to mark this pick in. Some believe Khalil Mack will be the choice, but that doesn’t make much sense, and it goes against what we reported in the NFL Draft Rumor Mill today. The Texans are unwilling to move down from No. 1 unless they receive a Robert Griffin-type package. That’s why the Falcons stopped trying to obtain the top choice. General manager Rick Smith is throwing a ton of crap out there to generate interest for this selection, but only because he wants multiple future first-rounders. He knows how great Jadeveon Clowney can be, so he’s only willing to part with him if he can get a ridiculous deal. But that’s just not going to happen for a non-quarterback. Besides, Mack over Clowney? The Texans can’t be that incompetent. A trusted source of ours actually laughed off speculation that Houston prefers Mack.

As for this actual grade, I’m not in love with this selection, but I don’t know what else Houston could do. There’s no sure-fire quarterback prospect, so that’s not really an option. The Texans can’t allow the greatest pass-rushing prospect in a very long time to slip through their fingers, so they shouldn’t take minimal compensation for this pick. Clowney is not ideal for the 3-4, but then again, neither was Mario Williams, and he still played great in that scheme. If motivated, Clowney will be dominant.

Clowney’s motivation is the big issue though. I don’t trust him to stay clean. There are major questions about his work ethic and his entourage. Perhaps J.J. Watt can help him with the former, but Clowney could still get into trouble because of the people he hangs out with – especially in a city like Houston. Still though, it’s a chance the Texans have to take because they don’t have any other realistic options.

33. Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, UCLA: B+ Grade
The Texans had to address their offensive line, and they’re doing so with a player who fits the exact range. I’ve had Xavier Su’a-Filo in the first round of my mock, but the caveat was that the Chiefs would trade into the top of the second round for him. This is a solid choice.

65. C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa: B- Grade
So, the Texans either think they can land a quarterback they really like much later, or they’re in love with Ryan Fitzpatrick. It’s strange that they didn’t take a quarterback at this spot, but the C.J. Fiedorowicz pick makes sense. Houston lost Owen Daniels, so a tight end was needed. It’s a bit early for Fiedorowicz, but it’s not a major reach.

83. Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame: A+ Grade
Wow. How the hell did Louis Nix fall this far? Nix was seen as a possibility at Nos. 25 and 29 to San Diego and New England, respectively, and no one would’ve had an issue if Houston chose him with the 33rd pick. The Texans had to find a new nose tackle, and they may have secured an instant starter with the Notre Dame prospect.

135. Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh: A Grade
Wow. I thought the Texans would pick Tom Savage in the third round. The fact that they were able to obtain him here is ridiculous. Savage was never the second-round prospect the media made him out to be, but he has good skill and could emerge as a solid starter, especially with Bill O’Brien coaching him up. Nice job by the Texans.

177. Jeoffrey Pagan, DE/DT, Alabama: B Grade
A five-tech was needed in the wake of Antonio Smith’s departure this offseason. Jeoffrey Pagan fits the range as a sixth-round prospect, so this is another solid choice by Houston.

181. Alfred Blue, RB, LSU: B- Grade
The Texans signed Andre Brown this offseason, but both of their running backs are injury-prone. They had to take a running back at some point, and I actually thought they’d do so a bit earlier. I don’t love this pick, but it makes sense.

211. Jay Prosch, FB, Auburn: B Grade
The first and best fullback is off the board. The Texans needed a player at that position, so why not take Jay Prosch at this point? This is a pretty logical choice, and Arian Foster has to be thrilled.

216. Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt: A- Grade
The Texans wanted a cornerback earlier, but couldn’t get around to it because they had too many needs. They waited until Round 7, but they managed to obtain a prospect who could have gone a round or two earlier. Not bad.

256. Lonnie Ballentine, S, Memphis: A- Grade
A solid Mr. Irrelevant pick. Lonnie Ballentine received lots of attention during the pre-draft process, so I’m surprised he didn’t go earlier than this. The Texans hadn’t taken a safety yet, so this makes sense.

2014 NFL Draft Team Grade: A- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

Houston Texans Season Preview

Fantasy Football Rankings - May 23

2025 NFL Mock Draft - May 21

NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

NFL Picks - Feb. 12