2008 record: 8-8
Needs: OLB, RB, CB, WR
2009 top draft picks:
Rd 1 - OLB Brian Cushing
Rd 2 - DE Connor Barwin
Rd 3 - OL Antoine Caldwell
Rd 4 - CB Glover Quin, TE Anthony Hill
Despite not filling two positions of need, the Texans appear to have the best draft in the AFC South, getting good value while filling some other needs, Well-respected draft guru Rick Gosselin gave them his only A+ in his rating of all 32 NFL teams. It bodes well for Texans fans, who may soon see a franchise-first winning season.
Houston was 27th last year in scoring defense and their biggest needs were on defense. Five of their eight selections were on that side of the ball, with some superb athletes to bolster that sometimes suspect D.
Brian Cushing was a four-year starter at football factory Southern Cal, which is pretty unique. He was moved from linebacker to defensive end his senior year because of injuries at that position. Cushing should take over immediately as their strongside backer but is versatile enough to play any of the LB positions. Cushing, who visited the Titans before the draft, should now improve the Texans' rush defense, making it a little tougher for LenDale White and Chris Johnson.
The Texans' second-round pick, Connor Barwin, was another prospect who visited Tennessee and we looked at him here on Total Titans. He'll first be used as a situational player at left defensive end. He's a pass-rusher with the quickness to make David Stewart's job tougher. With Mario Williams rushing Kerry Collins from the other end, the Texans should be able to put a lot more pressure on him.
The addition of Cushing and Barwin to Pro Bowlers Williams and DeMeco Ryans could eventually give Houston one of the best front sevens in the league. Barwin will also be a force on special teams.
Houston's third and fourth-round selections will upgrade an o-line which improved under Alex Gibbs last year. That's good news for RB Steve Slaton and not so good news for the Titans, who had Slaton rush for 100 yards on them twice last season. Center Antoine Caldwell can play any position on the line and tight end Anthony Hill was drafted as a blocker to help the ground attack.
Defensive back Glover Quin, also a fourth-round selection, will be used as a nickelback and may also be tried at free safety.
The Texans used their remaining picks on another tight end, who can supposedly play seven positions, a speedy cornerback and a free safety.
Overall, I'm impressed with Houston's draft. Some players are athletic enough to make an impact on the field, both at their positions and on special teams. Five are versatile enough to be used in multiple positions. Several of them are both.
It looks like coach Gary Kubiak and GM Rick Smith have added some good tools to help them turn the franchise around.