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NFL Combine: Texans GM Rick Smith An Advocate Of Best Player Available, Talks Scouting Changes To 3-4

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Unfortunately, at this hour, there’s not much of a transcript up anywhere from Rick Smith’s press conference at the combine, but here’s selected bits and pieces taken from Twitter and ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky.

From Mocking The Draft’s Dan Kadar

On taking defensive tackles high:

It’s tough because they’re pushing and fighting grown men. That’s a postion that takes longer to grow into. There’s an understanding it may take a (DT) a while to grow.

Upside: it seems like Smith knows that there are some groups of players that aren’t ready to play right away, too bad cornerback isn’t one of them.
Downside: Amobi Okoye just got another excuse.

On the draft board:

We try to stay true to our board. We try to draft for need and not reach for need. Smith says he lets his board dictate where the Texans are going in the draft. “You have to draft for value.” You can draft for need, but you can’t reach for it.

The truth, of course, lies somewhere inbetween. Especially in a draft where it’s possible free agency might even happen, it’s important to balance need and talent hand-in-hand.

On the switch to the 3-4:

Smith on moving to 3-4: You’re loooking for different types of players. We’re open to options that were not there before. Says Brian Cushing could be a good fit at the Mike linebacker. “I get excited with the thought process of where we have him now.”

I found that phrase interesting, that he was open to more players that he hadn’t been open to before. I wish that had been expounded upon a bit more, because to me it doesn’t make sense to completely remove someone from a board just because they project better as a 4-3 or 3-4 guy. It sure didn’t stop the Texans from drafting Connor Barwin where they did in 2008, despite a lot of draftniks saying his best position would be 3-4 outside linebacker.

Omar Kelly, South Florida Sentinel:

On the 3-4 switch, again:

Houston GM Rick Smith said it’s either a pass rusher or a cornerback who is the most important position on defense.

Interesting that he sees the two of them hand-and-hand. I think a lot of people would pick the pass-rusher first, and worry about the cornerback later. Perhaps this means that the Texans actually will try and sign Nmandi Asomugha if there is a free agency?

Oh, and speaking of if there’ll be a free agency:

With free agency coming after the draft Houston GM Rick Smith said “if you aren’t careful you can draft for need.”

I’m really hoping that’s a misattribution, because I’m confused reading it. If you’re not careful, you can draft for need? What does that even mean? Preparation? I was really hoping for more of an answer relating to how the unknowns of free agency would affect the draft.

Finally, ESPN AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky on what the scouts have had to learn.

Texans general manager Rick Smith rounded up his scouts during Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Ala., for a meeting where he spelled out the needs for Phillips’ scheme.

"We had to get in a room and educate our staff about the things we’re looking for," he said. "It’s not too difficult to get them caught up to speed. … We’ve really opened ourselves up to some potential options that were not there before some guys who may not be the great defensive ends or the great athletes, may have a little more stiffness, but have some pass-rushing ability or a knack that way that fit in a 3-4 and don’t necessarily fit in a 4-3."

You’re all as terrified as I am, right? I think I’d prefer some veteran 3-4 scouts to have been brought in. I’m not advocating for the scouting staff to lose their jobs or anything, I’d just like to have someone on staff besides Wade Phillips who has done the job on these guys before.

Another update to come when a full transcript is released. Gary Kubiak also spoke today, so it may come in tandem with that.

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