Texans beef up defense, add receivers in NFL draft
HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans beefed up their already solid defense and addressed their need for receivers in the NFL draft.
''We picked good, solid football players that we have clear visions on what they can do when they walk in the door and in the building and how they are going to compete to make our football team,'' general manager Rick Smith said. ''I think it's due in large part to the fact that we were able to have some real good discussions and evaluations.''
Houston selected Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson with the 16th overall pick and selected Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney in the second round.
In the third round they traded away DeVier Posey and several draft picks to the Jets to get Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong. Posey had just 22 receptions for 272 yards in three seasons with the Texans and appeared in just one game in 2014.
They aren't expecting Strong, who had 82 receptions for 1,165 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, to make up for the loss of Andre Johnson, who was released in the offseason. But they had a need for a new playmaker after cutting ties with the seven-time Pro Bowler.
Strong will join an offense with receiver DeAndre Hopkins and that has quarterbacks Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer competing for the starting job. The Texans went 9-7 last season to make a seven-game improvement from their 2-14 campaign in 2013. But they came just short of the playoffs in a season plagued with quarterback injuries.
They added depth at receiver in the fifth round with Mississippi State's Keith Mumphery. Mumphery was second on the team with 495 yards receiving last season and had three receiving touchdowns and ran for a fourth score.
Coach Bill O'Brien is happy about his group of receivers led by Hopkins and that includes offseason additions Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington.
''We really feel good about the guys that are here right now,'' O'Brien said. ''Obviously DeAndre Hopkins we think is one of the best in the league ... and with the addition of Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington we really feel like we've solidified that position. We're looking forward to working with (the new) guys this week. It's still a work in progress, but we feel good at this stage about where that position's at.''
Houston met another need in the sixth round with South Florida outside linebacker Reshard Cliett. Cliett joins an outside linebacker group in Houston that could need reinforcements if last year's top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney doesn't recover from microfracture surgery. Cliett led South Florida with six sacks in 2014 and had 38 tackles.
They added Rice defensive lineman Christian Covington later in the sixth round and LSU running back Kenny Hilliard in the seventh. Covington was born in Canada where his father Grover Covington is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame for piling up a CFL-record 157 sacks from 1981-1991 with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Hilliard ran for 1,547 yards and 27 touchdowns in four seasons for the Tigers. He'll provide depth behind Arian Foster, who has struggled with injuries the last two seasons, and Alfred Blue, a fellow LSU product who ran for 528 yards and a touchdown as a rookie last year.
O'Brien raved about Hilliard.
''He's a big back,'' O'Brien said. ''He's a first- and second-down back. He's a tough running back. I think the history of success of running backs from LSU is something that's good.''
With two solid cornerbacks in Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph, the Texans can give Johnson a chance to learn from the veterans. They love his versatility and think he'll be a great addition to a defense led by 2014 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.
Johnson had 43 tackles, including 3 1/2 for losses, defended 15 passes and had three interceptions as a senior last season.
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