Texans fill needs at WR, O-line
The Houston Texans came out of the draft with all of their specific needs filled.
The Texans rounded out their class of eight with five picks on Saturday - Georgia center Ben Jones (99th overall), Michigan State receiver Keshawn Martin (121st overall), Nebraska defensive end Jared Crick (126th overall), Texas A&M kicker Randy Bullock (161st overall) and Purdue tackle Nick Mondek (195th overall).
Houston took Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus in the first round and Ohio State receiver DeVier Posey and Miami (Ohio) guard Brandon Brooks in the third.
''It's just nice to see things come together,'' Houston coach Gary Kubiak said, ''not only adding quality talent to our team, but a lot of passion. Our team is about a group of guys that play very hard week in and week out, and when you look at this group, that's the first thing that stands out to me.''
Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith acknowledged before the draft that Houston needed help in the receiving corps. Star receiver Andre Johnson missed nine games with hamstring injuries in 2011, and neither Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter proved to be consistent replacements.
The Texans liked what they saw and heard from the 6-foot-2, 209-pound Posey, who served two five-game suspensions at Ohio State last year for accepting improper benefits. He finished seventh in school history in receptions (136) and eighth in yards receiving (1,955) and impressed the Texans with the way he answered tough questions at the combine.
''He is a quality young man,'' Smith said. ''He did get caught up in a situation, he made a mistake. He took a difficult set of circumstances and handled it as well as he could.''
The 5-11, 190-pound Martin caught 66 passes for 777 yards and four touchdowns last season. He was also the Spartans' punt returner, the role Jones has in Houston. Smith said Jones isn't going anywhere, at least for now.
''There were reports out there that we were attempting to trade Jacoby,'' Smith said. ''Jacoby's still on our football team.''
Houston's offensive line took two major hits in free agency, with right tackle Eric Winston and right guard Mike Brisiel signing elsewhere. The Texans set a franchise record for yards rushing (2,448) and ranked second in rushing offense (153 yards per game) in 2011, a key to its first playoff appearance.
The 6-5, 353-pound Brooks played guard and tackle in college. The 6-foot-2, 303-pound Jones will back up Chris Myers, who made his first Pro Bowl last year and signed a four-year deal in free agency.
Offensive line coach John Benton said the Texans targeted both linemen early in the evaluation process.
''One thing I always tell all our young guys coming in, `We're not drafting you for what you are, we're drafting you for what you can become,''' Benton said. ''Both these guys have a high ceiling in that way.''
The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Crick joins first-round pick Whitney Mercilus as new additions to Wade Phillips' defense. Crick made 22 tackles, including three for loss, in an injury-shortened 2011 season. He finished in Nebraska's top in career sacks (20), even after tearing a chest muscle in the sixth game of his final year.
''I'm very excited to play for a team who prides themselves on defense as Houston does,'' Crick said. ''Coming from Nebraska, where we do the same as far as pride on defense, it's very exciting to go in and have the opportunity to work for a coach like coach Phillips and the whole defensive staff.''
The Texans picked up Bullock less than a week after Neil Rackers signed with Washington. The 5-foot-9, 205-pound Bullock is the first kicker drafted by Houston. He won the Lou Groza award, honoring the nation's top kicker, after connecting on 25 of 29 field-goal attempts in 2011.
''We had him rated as the top guy in the group,'' Smith said. ''First of all, he's a really talented young man, he's got a very strong leg. I like his mental makeup, I like what he represents, I like his mental framework. I think that's a very important characteristic for a kicker.''
Bullock, born in nearby Klein, is the 14th Texans draft pick who was born in the state. Kubiak is a Texas A&M alum and was sold on Bullock after an individual workout in Houston.
''He walked in here, in front of our whole staff, our coaches, our scouts and he put on a show,'' Kubiak said. ''He was tremendous. He's kicking in a big environment, week in and week out, and we liked his maturity when we visited with him. Yeah, you're going with a young guy, but we've got a lot of confidence moving forward.''
Half of the Texans' draft class came from Big Ten schools. Smith, a Purdue alum, said that was just a coincidence.
''When we look at players, we like to watch players who like to play in big conferences,'' Smith said. ''It's possible to find players from smaller schools, but it's good when you see players play against good competition. Beyond that, there's no grand design that we targeted one conference over another.''