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2013 Quarterback recap
Pass offense (15th in the NFL) - 238.3 ypg
19 TD thrown
58.6% completion percentage
Sacked 42 times
Key offseason additions: Head coach Bill O’Brien, QB
Key offseason losses: QB Matt Schaub (traded to Oakland for 6th round pick in March 2014
4th (135 - Compensatory - pick cannot be moved)
6th (181 - from Oakland, in the Schaub deal, CAN be moved)
6th (211 - Compensatory - pick cannot be moved)
7th (256 - Compensatory - pick cannot be moved)
Quarterback Current Depth Chart
After seven years the Matt Schaub era came to an end when he was dealt to the Oakland Raiders in March. His departure, though expected, opened up the most ardent quarterback competition the organization has ever seen. The Texans signed Fitzpatrick to be the bridge to a new era, presumably with a rookie quarterback, but how long that bridge remains in place will be the main question at this position.
Head coach Bill O’Brien said weeks ago that the team would draft a quarterback, potentially two. Who? Well, these options make the most sense.
Draft options by round
1st - Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, Blake Bortles, UCF, Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
2nd - Derek Carr, Fresno State, Zach Mettenberger, LSU, Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
3rd - Tom Savage, Pitt, AJ McCarron, Alabama
4th - Aaron Murray, Georgia, Tajh Boyd, Clemson
5th - Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech, David Fales, San Jose State
6th - Keith Wenning, Ball State
7th - Jeff Mathews, Cornell
UDFA prospects - Dustin Vaughan, West Texas A&M, Kenny Guiton, Ohio State, Bryn Renner, North Carolina
Yeah, I know, I know, it seems like I have every draft eligible QB on my board. I promise it won’t be like that for every other position but this is a unique year for the Texans at this position. The seven year entrenched starter was dealt after a disastrous 2013 campaign. Furthermore, O’Brien is a noted QB tutor and particular in his desire to find a “partner” to lead his offense. Also, the team has the top pick of each and every round, most importantly the first pick in the draft. As I said, a unique year.
Throughout his coaching career, O’Brien’s had success with stylistically diverse quarterbacks. Former Penn State QB Matt McGloin was a gritty, Scranton-tough 6’1” gunslinger, learned the offense inside and out and maximized what it could truly do. Former Duke QB Thaddeus Lewis was a bit more of a dual threat quarterback under O’Brien. Current Penn State starting QB Christian Hackenberg is a classic rocket armed, pocket quarterback. Lest I forget, O’Brien also coached that Brady character in New England.
The point is that O’Brien doesn’t NEED to have a particular type of quarterback to succeed. He needs a QB that competes, grasps the playbook immediately, challenges his teammates to play at his level, executes the game plan in an up-tempo fashion and sacrifices his time/life to be the leader of this team. O’Brien can fill in the gaps. So, I won’t write off many at this point. I do think it’s easy to be enamored by arm strength because it’s the one thing that can’t be coached. Then again, playmaking skills and the “it” factor aren’t coached either.
That all said, I don’t believe that the Texans draft a QB at Number one; I’ve said that for months. Now, I can see a scenario, if there’s a willing trade partner, a valuable key in draft day trade mechanics, where the Texans stay in the top eight and select Manziel or Bortles, two of my top three quarterbacks in this draft class. Manziel is the ultimate playmaker with a competitive streak to match the one O’Brien possesses, while Bortles is the best combination of size, playmaking, arm strength and toughness in this quarterback draft class. Predictably, each is flawed in his own way - Manziel can be allergic to the pocket at times and not throw his receivers open as well as others; Bortles’ throwing mechanics and footwork need some work. If the Texans pass at No. 1, then there are three teams, at a minimum, that would gladly draft either player.
Bridgewater is my second ranked quarterback as I think his cerebral football nature and IQ are quite attractive. But, some question how his lithe body will hold up and his overall consistency. His Pro Day performance raised a few red flags, but his Louisville game tape should’ve squelched much of that worry.
As such, I think the only way the Texans end up with the former Louisville product is if they trade back up into the first round if he falls beyond the top 15. If he gets beyond the top 15, teams from 16 on down aren’t truly in the market for a quarterback and that lack of demand could precipitate a fall. But, a team sitting behind the Texans at the top of the second round may see Bridgewater sitting there in the 20s and jump above them to make the selection. I think Bridgewater will be one of the draft’s key story lines for just that reason.
Ultimately, I believe all three quarterbacks could be good fits in Houston, for the reasons I outlined above. The key is that O’Brien and this offensive staff will take what that quarterback does well and maximize his assets. Bortles is probably the one that fits best, given the assets noted above.
Mettenberger has the strongest arm of any quarterback on the board. I’ve seen thousands of throws from these quarterbacks over the past two to three years and I can’t remember a time when I reacted quite the way I did when I saw the throw Mettenberger made in the 2013 opener against TCU. After a play action fake and with two TCU defenders closing in on him with no protection, he threw a laser from the left hash to the right sideline for a first down completion. Yeah, so? Yeah, well, I did some math…the old pythagorean theorem on the throw. It was 42 yards on a rope. With defenders in his face. Now, is he coachable and willing to put in the work in the classroom to be a next level game changer? Or will he be content to let his arm do the talking and not improve the way he should? Furthermore, Mettenberger is coming off an ACL tear in the team’s regular season finale in late November. Without that injury, there’s little question that Mettenberger’s name could be heard on Thursday night and not Friday night. It still may, thanks to that cannon.
Garoppolo played in an up-tempo attack at Eastern Illinois and his game is a bit frenetic. He’ll take off out of the pocket before routes develop on occasion but the ball comes out of his hand quick and hot. He was the second best QB at the Senior Bowl behind Carr.
Savage has been the hottest name in draft circles the past two months. On the plus side, he has a howitzer and he played in a pro style attack, yet he was inconsistent, often inaccurate with ball placement. But, did I tell you about his arm? He has 4th round value on my Draft board but so many teams seemingly covet the former Pitt/Rutgers product that he’ll more than likely be drafted well before that round.
Another polarizing name on this board is Thomas. The former Virginia Tech QB had a stellar sophomore year and heading into his junior year in 2012 was thought to be a top five pick. Inconsistency, scattershot accuracy, coaching changes and limited offensive skill player resources all plagued Thomas over the last two years. But, he throws the ball as effortlessly as any quarterback in the draft. The question is whether this coaching staff can get him to throw to the good guys in the blue/red/white shirts more than he does the bad guys. Are his problems remedied by consistent and quality coaching or are the problems so habitual that he’ll never have a chance? Well, taking a flyer on him at the top of the fifth round as a sort of future stock makes sense.
Two of my favorite under the radar/day three prospects, though, are Wenning from Ball State and Fales from San Jose State. Wenning caught my attention in his junior year. He seems to have the characteristics typically found in next level quarterbacks. Fales doesn’t have the arm many in this class have but his ball placement and accuracy are on par with the best I’ve seen at the college level.
I believe the Texans will draft two quarterbacks, but if they only draft one and look to the UDFA market for a second, there could be a few solid practice squad candidates. Vaughan has good size, a quick release but didn’t face top competition. Renner is a coach’s kid with a ton of starting experience, while Guiton, a Houstonian, didn’t get much playing time, sitting behind the two time B1G Offensive Player of the Year at Ohio State.
Read Deepi Sidhu's QB 'Watch' series: