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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – You would think leading a franchise without any glaring holes would be a nice problem to have for general manager Rick Smith and coach Gary Kubiak as they get set to enter the 2012 NFL Draft beginning Thursday night.
But coming off the franchise’s most successful season and with many predicting the Texans will go deeper into the playoffs this upcoming season, this just might be the most challenging draft Smith and Kubiak have had together.
While the Texans may not have any gaping holes they still need to pick up an impact player with the No. 26th pick during Thursday’s first round. The obvious desire is to have a young and speedy wide receiver to line up opposite Andre Johnson and there should be more than a couple available.
But if the Texans hold true to their value of picking the best available player sitting there on the board when they pick and that player happens to be an inside linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle or cornerback the goal has to still be to land an immediate impact player.
Now does that mean an instant starter? Maybe. Maybe not. But that player does need to be someone who comes in and contributes right way on Sundays in some meaningful way. That is where it gets tricky picking at No. 26 and with the expressed desired of taking the best available player in disregard to position or need.
Preparation will be the key going into Thursday. But when dealing with the human element preparation is key but being lucky and being smart as the Texans were in the 2011 draft will be key this week, too.
“In theory it might be easier because you don’t have as many needs but we’ve never been a team that drafts for need so our preparation hasn’t changed,” Smith said of the nuances of drafting in wake of a successful season during a press conference Tuesday in which he revealed little about which way the team is lean going into the three-day draft. “You certainly are feeling like we’ve got a good football team and you can add players who can make a contribution.”
The home run choice and the one most predict the Texans to make is selecting a wide receiver with the first round pick and then likely addressing some depth needs along the offensive line where the starting right side was blown up with the release of tackle Eric Winston and the loss of guard Mike Brisiel in free agency.
With Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd figuring to be long gone off the board when the Texans make their selection in the first round, the likely wide receiver candidates are LSU’s Rueben Randle, Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill or Baylor’s Kendall Wright.
The Texans, however, could have to pass on a receiver in this spot if say South Carolina’s lockdown corner Stephon Gilmore was still on the board over even the Gamecock’s versatile defensive lineman Melvin Ingram, who is capable of playing defensive end, defensive tackle or outside linebacker.
About the only area the Texans likely would not turn to with their first pick is offensive line and that is because Smith made clear by impact player on offense he meant someone who handles the football.
“What we will do is what we always do and that’s stay true to our board, access the value we think those players have at their positions,” Smith said. “The way that it falls is the way we will pick them.”
The value could change depending on where the Texans select. It seems unlikely they would try to move up in a draft day deal, but if the best player available isn’t a need it sounds like Smith might be willing to move down or even out of the first round for a chance to add more picks.
“We are certainly open and have always been open to moving up and back,” Smith said. “That’s one of the things we are doing now which is what you do the past few days prior to the draft, you spend time trying to get a feel for what’s happening around you. I’m talking to GMs around the league and making sure we have a good feel for who is open to moving and when those opportunities might present themselves and being prepared about what it might take to get the deals done.”