This article is part of our 2011 Path to the Draft coverage presented by Warehouse Pool Supply.
The Texans return six cornerbacks from a pass defense that ranked 32nd in the league last season. Aside from Jason Allen, who was claimed off waivers in November, all of those cornerbacks were drafted by Houston in the last three years.
Glover Quin, a fourth-rounder in 2009, and Kareem Jackson, a first-round pick in 2010, formed the second-youngest starting cornerback duo in the league last year. The Texans also have 2010 fifth-round pick Sherrick McManis, 2009 sixth-rounder Brice McCain and 2008 third-rounder Antwaun Molden.
The Texans could add an experienced cornerback in free agency, if and when free agency occurs. They're also considering moving Quin to free safety if they can bolster their cornerback rotation.
"We're still going to be a relatively young secondary," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said at the Combine in late February. "But I think if a guy like Kareem makes the jump that he's supposed to make, if we're able to get better in the draft at that position, (then) Wade (Phillips) feels good about it. That's all that matters."
Just how early in the draft will Phillips, the Texans' new defensive coordinator, and Vance Joseph, the new defensive backs coach, recommend that the Texans add another cornerback?
In an exclusive feature for HoustonTexans.com, Wes Bunting and Joe Fortenbaugh of the National Football Post examine potential cornerback options for the Texans in the 2011 draft:
National Football Post analysis
With eight selections in the 2011 NFL draft, the Houston Texans would be wise to target a defensive back. This is a team that lost CB Dunta Robinson to free agency prior to the start of the 2010 season and responded by finishing dead last in the NFL in pass defense (267.5 yds/gm) last year.
DAY 1 CORNERBACK OPTIONS AT 1.11
1. Prince Amukamara, Nebraska (6-0, 206, 4.43): With top cornerback prospect Patrick Peterson (LSU) likely off the board by the time the Texans go on the clock in the first round, Amukamara would be the team's next best option. The 2010 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Amukamara recorded 155 tackles and five interceptions during his four years as a Cornhusker. He's a good athlete for his size, possesses remarkable instincts in coverage and has a real feel for the pass game. Amukamara does a nice job quickly locating the football, putting his foot in the ground and clicking and closing on the pass in front of him. He has the talent and upside to be a top-10 selection.
2. Jimmy Smith, Colorado (6-2, 211, 4.44): Arguably the most polarizing cornerback in this year's draft, Smith is a love-hate player that has divided many draft rooms. He was named first team All-Big 12 in 2010 and finished his four-year career at Colorado with 160 tackles and three interceptions. Smith is a tall, long-armed DB who is at his best when asked to press off the line. He does a nice job keeping his base down off the snap, extending his inside arm initially and re-routing receivers on contact. However, his work ethic and dedication have been called into question, making this a somewhat risky pick at No. 11.
DAY 2 CORNERBACK OPTIONS AT 2.10 AND 3.9
1. Brandon Harris, Miami (5-9, 191, 4.53): Should the former Hurricane slide a bit come draft day, the Texans would be getting a steal with the 42nd pick. Harris was named second team All-ACC in 2010 and is loaded with first round potential. He's a good-looking cornerback prospect who possesses a long set of arms, good coordination and knows how to go up and make a play on the football. Harris looks more natural as an off/zone corner, but he possesses natural bend when asked to sit into his stance and is much more patient with his footwork when asked to play off the line.
2. Ras-I Dowling, Virginia (6-2, 205, 4.4): After being named second team All-ACC in 2009, Dowling was limited to just five games in 2010 as he battled a variety of injuries throughout the season, which has caused his draft stock to plummet considerably. The former Cavalier showcases good ball skills and body control when asked to make a play on throws down the field. In addition, he locates the ball quickly and displays the timing and coordination to consistently go up and get his hands on the football. However, Dowling isn't real flexible when asked to sit into his stance, doubles over at the waist and allows his pad level to get too high when asked to turn and run. The guy could have been a first- or second-rounder had he come out in 2009, so this could be a nice value pick for the Texans in the third.
DAY 3 CORNERBACK OPTIONS AT 4.8, 5.7, 6.13, 7.11 AND 7.51
1. Buster Skrine, Chattanooga (5-9, 186, 4.41): Named first team All-Southern Conference for the second consecutive year in 2010, Skrine has the talent to come in and compete for a spot in nickel situations and eventually could fight for playing time on the outside. He ran the fastest unofficial 40-yard dash of any defensive back at February's Combine (4.29) and has the natural fluidity, balance and overall skill set to play corner at the next level. However, he's a bit raw and his footwork can be choppy at times. Will need time to develop.
2. Justin Rogers, Richmond (5-10, 180, 4.49): A three-time All-America selection from the Football Championship Subdivision, Rogers is a gifted athlete who showcases natural range and ball skills when asked to track the football. He does a nice job quickly clicking and closing on the football on plays in front of him and has a real feel for the pass game when he is able to keep his eyes in the backfield. However, Rogers isn't real physical in any area of the game, is undersized and needs to continue to add more strength. He could be a nice target for the Texans in the seventh round.