Yesterday we went over some possibilities for the Texans in a "best case scenario" mock draft. Here's a closer look at some of the first-round options Houston may take a look at in case they are able to make a deal to move down.
Aldon Smith, OLB/DE, Missouri
Smith is seen as a linebacker with tremendous potential. The word "dominant" shows up in a lot of his draft profiles. That's all well and good, but this defense is supposedly in "one-year turnaround" mode right now, so can this team really afford to wait - even if he is a value in the mid-late first round?
Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
Put me down for 100% in favor of this pick. Taylor is thought to be almost certain to be gone by the Kansas City Chiefs' pick at 21, and a lot of people like the Patriots to snatch him up to be the heir apparent to Vince Wilfork. There were early maturity and character concerns with Taylor, but reading up on that - it doesn't bother me, and it shouldn't bother the Texans. A college fraternity fight? That's not going to hurt his stock, even in the eyes of the Texans. I hope.
Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, Temple
Wilkerson wouldn't be a true monster NT in a 3-4, but if Wade Phillips has a lighter Jay Ratliff-type in mind to play the nose, Wilkerson could be a good fit. He projects more as a DE in a 3-4, though. He has good speed and feet for his size, and can close on the ball quickly. He's a hot name now, and is rising up a lot of analysts' boards. I'm not sure he's earned that kind of rise, but depending on how the draft falls, he could be an option.
Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Ayers was thought to be a mid-first round prospect at worst for a while, but according to draft analysts, his average Combine performance has dropped his stock. I'm not convinced. Ayers is one of those guys who plays better than his statistics. If the Texans were able to trade down and get him in the lower-third of the first round, I'd consider that quite a pull. Pass rushing seems to be his greatest strength, which of course is exactly what Houston is looking for.
Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
Houston's said to have great upfield burst, which helps to project him out to be a potentially dangerous 3-4 OLB. He can shed blocks and get to where he wants to go. To me he reads as a poor-man's Von Miller, in that he's pretty much a speed-only guy. That could of course still get him far in the NFL, but Houston needs to master some more pass rush moves (as even elite prospects still do when they enter the draft). Like Ayers, I'd be pretty happy with Houston coming to town in a trade-down scenario.
Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
You may say that even in a trade-down situation, this is too high for Paea. Don't ever underestimate people's overreactions to NFL Combine performances (it happened with Chris Johnson, and that turned out great for the Titans.) Paea lit the Combine on fire with his strength, putting on an unbelievable 49-rep performance in the bench press. That combined with his wide body and proven track record of being a run-stopping force earns him a low first round pick in my book.
Others who may be worth a look:
Cameron Jordan, DE, California - (only if the Texans don't trade down more than a few spots).
Aaron Williams, DB, Texas - Could add versatility as a possible safety or compete for a starting CB job.
Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado - Big time character issues, but could be a star in the making.
Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois - Projects more as a 3-4 ILB. Making him a pass-rushing OLB would likely take some time.