Texans move to bolster linebacker corps
The Houston Texans added depth in areas of need over the three days of the NFL draft and tackled their area of most need - wide receiver - early and late.
The Texans focused on their most glaring need, selecting Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins with the 27th overall pick on Thursday and adding Jacksonville State wide receiver Alan Bonner in the sixth round with the 198th selection.
Andre Johnson led the Texans in receiving last season with 1,598 yards and four touchdowns on 112 catches, with tight end Owen Daniels next with 62 catches for 716 yards and six touchdowns.
Kevin Walter, who was cut by the Texans earlier in the offseason, was third on the team with 41 catches for 518 yards and two touchdowns. Of the remaining receivers on the team, Keshawn Martin had the next most catches with 10 last season for 85 yards and one touchdown.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Houston has a big need for Hopkins to step in real quickly and help them. General manager Rick Smith said he was very excited about the addition.
''He was a guy that we had targeted real early in the process,'' Smith said. ''We liked so many things about the young man. As you know, we put a lot of stock in a player's career. His playing resume and what he was able to do in his collegiate career is very impressive. He was a very productive receiver.''
Kubiak said he loved watching Bonner in Indianapolis and loved his confidence.
''I think there is a big upside here,'' Kubiak said. ''There's a big step for him to take. He is going to get a big opportunity with us because we are so young at wide receiver. There is going to be plenty of reps to go around.''
Houston bolstered its linebacking corps in third round and fourth rounds by drafting LSU's Sam Montgomery with the 95th overall pick and Connecticut's Trevardo Williams with the 124th selection. The signings give the Texans depth behind starting outside linebacker Brooks Reed.
''Brooks is our starting Sam (strongside) linebacker, and he is a great player, so we are not doing anything to impede the progress of Brooks Reed,'' Kubiak said. ''He is a guy who can give us flexibility. He's done that for our football team. What we have done is add more quality players to the depth at our linebacker position. Brooks is lined up at our Sam position, and we expect him to be a great player there. We have to get these other guys to fit what they do best and what they're going to do best for this football team.''
Houston picked South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger in the second round at 57th overall before selecting North Carolina offensive tackle Brennan Williams in the third round with the 89th overall pick.
Smith said the Texans had targeted Swearinger in the second round where they took him, adding that Swearinger was an aggressive play with the skill set they were looking for.
''This guy makes a ton of plays,'' Kubiak said. ''For me with this guy, I didn't have to cut the film on very long to know what I was about to go in there and watch. He makes plays. He's aggressive. They use the term cheat in the secondary - that's a compliment. He's excellent at keying routes and keying splits. He plays with confidence. He will be a great fit for us.''
The Texans also picked Bowling Green defensive tackle Chris Jones and Connecticut tight Ryan Griffin in the sixth round. They traded with Oakland to get the 176th pick, sending the 184th pick and the Texans' seventh round selected, the 233rd pick, to the Raiders. Houston traded back earlier in the day, sending the 160th overall pick to the St. Louis Rams for the 184th and 198th picks.
Overall, Smith said he loved the draft class.
''You look at it from top to bottom, early on we added two players in the first and second round, and even in the third round even though he was an offensive lineman, but there's an element of mental toughness and aggressiveness with all three of those players,'' Smith said. ''I think what we did in the third round at the end Sam has a similar element. He plays with his hair on fire. Into the fourth round with Trevardo, the pass rushing ability those two guys have. You have to like that.''