Breaking down Texans rookies’ roles

The Texans added 10 rookies by way of the 2014 NFL Draft after having the league’s worst record at 2-14 in 2013. As the season creeps closer, minicamps wind down and training camp nears, the rookies on the squad will be soaking in all the information they can in order to get prepared to help Houston turnaround their franchise misfortunes.

The Texans were able to get some of high quality players in the draft, several of which fell to them later than expected despite having first or second round grades. As you take a look at the roster, a lot of it is young and therefore, there is a lot of opportunities for the rookies to not only play but become starters for the Texans.

Here is a look at each rookie that was drafted and what their respective roles could be in 2014.

Round 1, Pick 1: Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, South Carolina

Clowney starred during his three seasons at South Carolina as a defensive end.  He registered 130 tackles, 47 tackles for loss, 24 sacks, nine forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. His blend of strength, speed and height makes him a freak.

The question becomes where he starts for the Texans though. Right now, it appears as if the Texans are working him as an outside linebacker. There have been some whispers that they are hoping he can play a role similar to the one played by Willie McGinest when he played for the Patriots.

Clowney will likely have his ups and downs as all rookies do. Despite having to learn how to drop in coverage while still being able to rush the passer effectively, his talent is rare and he will be starting from Day 1.

Round 2 Pick 33: Xavier Su’a Filo, Guard, UCLA

Su’a Filo is a very nice addition to the Texans offensive line. He should slot right into the left guard position as Brandon Brooks mans the other guard spot. He is a road-grader type of player who will excel in the run game as he is quick to get off the ball and attack the opposition. He is also pretty good in pass protection and should shore up that left guard position, which was a point of weakness on the line.

Su’a Filo has a very good chance to start from Day 1 and have an immediate impact for the Texans.

Round 3 Pick 66: C.J. Fiedorowicz, Tight End, Iowa

Fiedorowicz is an intriguing prospect out of Iowa. He stands at 6’7" and 265 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.76 seconds. Therefore, he is a big target that can move. He can also help out in the running game coming from an offense that loves to run the ball in Iowa.

When the season starts he will be the No. 3 tight end on the depth chart but he may leapfrog Griffin at any time from the middle of the season on.

Round 3 Pick 83: Louis Nix III, Defensive Tackle, Notre Dame

What a steal of a pick this could end of being for the Texans. Nix was projected to go as high as the first round and the Texans got him in the middle of the third round. Nix is a perfect fit as the Texans switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme. Nix played that scheme at Notre Dame and excelled. His big frame (6’2", 331 pounds) means he will command double teams and help plug up the middle in the running game.

Despite regressing in 2013 from a 2012 season in which he had 50 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, he is talented enough to push for a starting spot early on in the season as Jerrell Powe has spent all his time in the NFL as a reserve player.

Round 4 Pick 136: Tom Savage, Quarterback, Pittsburgh

Savage comes in as Bill O’Brien’s guy. He was pegged as the quarterback of the future and will likely not start for a while. He has all the physical traits that you want in your quarterback as he stands at 6’4" and 228 pounds and has a rocket arm. However, he played his first full season this past year at Pittsburgh after transferring from Rutgers and losing two years of football. Despite a six touchdown performance against Duke, his numbers were fairly mediocre. Therefore, Ryan Fitzpatrick will likely play the whole season which leaves Savage to garbage time this year. He likely won’t have a fair shot until 2015.

Round 6 Pick 177: Jeoffrey Pagan, Defensive End, Alabama

In his first and only season as a starter at Alabama, he had 34 tackles, three and half tackles for loss and two sacks. He has good size at 6’3" and 310 pounds but never really established himself as a great player at Alabama. Most of his time was as a reserve player until 2013 and it looks as if he will be the same in Houston. Pagan has the size but unless he refines his technique he will see most, if not all of his time on special teams.

Round 6 Pick 181: Alfred Blue, Running Back, LSU

Blue was buried behind a lot of talent at LSU, including second round pick Jeremy Hill. This is evidenced by the fact that his numbers dipped dramatically after a 539-yard, seven touchdown season in 2011. He combined for 613 yards and three touchdowns in his final two years in Baton Rouge and finds himself in an uphill battle in Houston.

Arian Foster will see the bulk of time and Andre Brown is a viable backup. Blue has an outside shot of playing a good amount because of the injury history of both Foster and Brown. He is legitimately one injury away from splitting time with Brown. Assuming everyone stays healthy, he will have to beat out Dennis Johnson for a spot. Expect him to see time on special teams.  

Round 6 Pick 211: Jay Prosch, Fullback, Auburn

The Texans haven’t had a viable fullback since Vonta Leach left town. Prosch started every game at Auburn until he was injured after the first two games of 2013. He managed to come back for the Alabama and Florida State games and helped Tre Mason to become a Heisman finalist.

He has a very good chance of being a starter since the other two fullbacks on the roster are largely unproven. He could very well be the guy opening up holes for Arian Foster come Week 1.

Round 7 Pick 216: Andre Hal, Cornerback, Vanderbilt

Hal doesn’t have the size that the league is starting to trend towards as he stands at 5’10" and 188 pounds. However, there is something to be said about a player who led the SEC in passes defended as he had 18 of them. He also picked off three passes.

Hal won’t start as Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph will lock down the two starting spots but he could definitely push Brandon Harris for the starting nickel spot. Harris is adequate but Hal is probably more fluid because of his size to be able to work with shiftier receivers in the middle of the field. He may not see time in the beginning of the season but look for him to start playing more nickel towards the middle and end of the season.

Round 7 Pick 256: Lonnie Ballentine, Safety, Memphis

Mr. Irrelevant may not be irrelevant at all. Early reports out of OTAs and minicamp indicate that Ballentine is turning some heads at practice. He has good size at 6’3" and 213 pounds and great speed as evidenced by his 4.39 and 4.45 40-yard dash times at the combine.

Ballentine is certainly an intriguing prospect but the Texans do have several safeties that all have played significant football in their careers. It will be unlikely that he makes the team as a safety but rather a guy who they use heavily on special teams in a gunner type of position.

Follow Andrew Goldberg on Twitter @goaldieberg or email him at andgoldie12@gmail.com