BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL draft is still a few weeks way, but the Houston Texans are on the clock.
After a 2-14 season in 2013, the Texans own the first overall pick in next month’s draft. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney out of South Carolina tops many expert’s mock drafts, but the Texans are in desperate need of a quarterback. So who will Roger Goodell be announcing as the first pick on April 8?
Former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, who now hosts “The Fred and Ted Show” on Sports Radio 610 in Houston, joined Bob Socci on Sunday’s NFL Draft Preview Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub, and says the Texans are eyeing four players with that top pick.
“Basically, we’ve talked about four people in Houston for the last three months: Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, and Jadeveon Clowney, who some say is the next Lawrence Taylor. It’s difficult to figure out what they’re going to do, because Clowney is one of those can’t-miss type prospects,” said Johnson. “Some think he can’t fit into Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 defense though.
“He played defensive end in a 4-3, but at his Pro Day in South Carolina, Romeo had him doing different drills where he was working exclusively in space,” said Johnson. “He was dropping back into zone coverage, opening his hips and turning and running, doing a lot of things OLB do in a 3-4 defense. I think they came away convinced that they have no isues with him being a LB in a 3-4.
“But they desperately need a quarterback,” said Johnson. “I think at the end of the day it comes down to one of those quarterbacks. A lot of people want Manziel, but there is a connection with Bortles to George O’Leary, the former Georgia Tech coach who had O’Brien on his staff years ago. A lot of people think it’s going to be Bortles… Only time will tell.”
Texans fans were upset back in 2006 when Houston took Mario Williams over local quarterback Vince Young with the first overall pick. But Johnson doesn’t think people will be too upset if O’Brien passes on this year’s local kid, Manziel, as long as he puts a winning team on the field.
“I think it’s the new slate, a new head coach, and all people want is a winner,” he said. “The team was 12-4 in 2012 and there were high expectations. They beat Cincinnati in the first round and then got slapped in the face by the Patriots. All people want is a winner after a 2-14 season last year.
“At the end of the day that’s all they care about. So if Bill O’Brien gets the guy he thinks he can roll with over the next 10 years, that’s all they care about.”
O’Brien will be tested in his first year as an NFL head coach, but Johnson thinks the addition of Crennel to his staff will help him through all the challenges.
“They’re going to complement each other really well. Crennel has been in the league over 30 years and has a wealth of knowledge and experience. Bill O’Brien, being a first-year head coach, needs a guy like that on his staff to balance things out,” said Johnson.
“What I like about O’Brien is you can tell there is going to be a culture of accountability, which there wasn’t with Gary Kubiak. There were a lot of guys that were not performing like they should, and they were rewarded by keeping their starting rolls,” explained Johnson. “The way O’Brien comes in is no-nonsense, and he’s going to play the best guys. If you’re on the team you know if you work hard and do the best you can do, you’ll get a shot.”
Johnson was also asked about his draft class, which was one of Bill Parcells’ best drafts in his long NFL career. In 1995, Parcells selected Ty Law in the first round, Johnson in the second and running back Curtis Martin in the third.
“It was awesome,” Johnson recalls. “Those 1995-96 draft classes were cornerstone drafts. I’ll never forget the first day of rookie minicamp after our draft class came in, they had me, a middle linebacker, going against (Martin), and he was torching me on every single play. I called my dad that night and said, ‘this guy didn’t play his senior year because of a blown-out knee and I can’t keep up with him.’
“Those mid-90 teams were great teams. The core guys kind of set up, in a lot of ways, the championship teams,” said Johnson. “You had Tedy [Bruschi], myself, Troy Brown, Willlie [McGinest], Adam [Vinatieri], Ty Law; a lot of those staples carried us into the 2000’s.”
Listen to the interview below: