The Texans went 2-14 last year and had glaring needs at quarterback, linebacker and in the secondary, but they were widely expected to take South Carolina Clowney, the most gifted player in the draft pool. In three seasons at South Carolina, Clowney (6-foot-5, 266 pounds) made 23 starts, recording 24 sacks and 130 tackles. He finished his collegiate career among the top five active NCAA players in fumbles caused and tackles for loss.
This is the third time Houston has had the No. 1 pick, and the second time it has taken a defensive end (Mario Williams, 2006).
Clowney joins a Texans team that retains most of the core of a team that won the AFC South in 2011 and 2012 and was a trendy Super Bowl pick last offseason. Wide receiver Andre Johnson, running back Arian Foster, tackle Duane Brown, defensive end J.J. Watt, linebacker Brian Cushing and cornerback Jonathan Joseph help form a roster that, while nagged by age and injuries, will be expected to be competitive in 2014.
In one major way, though, it is a new era in Houston. Former Patriots assistant and Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien is in his first season as an NFL head coach, having replaced Gary Kubiak, who was fired after seven seasons in his hometown. General manager Rick Smith, has been with the Texans since 2006 and in recent years has had most of his success building his roster around the defense, in particular the front seven.
Houston's next pick will be the first of the second round. The Texans have 11 total draft picks, with two picks in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.