*This article is part of our 2012 Path to the Draft coverage presented by Warehouse Pool Supply
Over the next three weeks, HoustonTexans.com will take a position-by-position look at the 2012 NFL Draft (April 26-28) in our annual "Path to the Draft" series. Each article will feature a "State of the Position" from HoustonTexans.com's Nick Scurfield, followed by exclusive analysis on potential Texans draft picks from Wes Bunting and Joe Fortenbaugh of the National Football Post.*
State of the Position (@NickScurfield)
The interior of their offensive line looks set heading into 2012, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Texans draft a guard or center with one of their eight picks in the April 26-28 NFL Draft.
The Texans locked up Pro Bowl center Chris Myers, the anchor of their line, with a long-term contract on March 13. They lost starting right guard Mike Brisiel in free agency to the Oakland Raiders, but Antoine Caldwell was a third-round pick in 2009 who already has 13 career starts. Starting left guard Wade Smith has two years remaining on his contract.
The question marks on the interior are depth and what future seasons might hold. Caldwell is in the final year of his rookie contract, and the only backups currently on the roster are guards Shelley Smith and Thomas Austin and center Cody Wallace – none of whom has significant NFL experience. Caldwell was previously the backup at both guard spots, while Brisiel was the backup center. Kasey Studdard, who started 14 games at left guard in 2009, is an unrestricted free agent whom the Texans have yet to re-sign.
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak doesn't plan to hand out any starting jobs this offseason, so Caldwell could face competition for his from a draft pick. Or the Texans could bring in a draft pick to bolster their interior depth.
DAY 1 CENTER/GUARD OPTIONS AT 1.26
1. David DeCastro, Guard, Stanford (6-5, 310): It's somewhat unlikely that a talent like DeCastro will fall to No. 26 for the Texans, but should the unexpected occur, Houston could be well-served investing in the former Stanford standout. The best offensive line prospect we've evaluated since Maurkice Pouncey in 2010, DeCastro showcases the ability to get a push in-line and is a dominant player on the move as well. He's fluid/natural in pass protection, and with a little more power in his base, DeCastro could become one of the league's best guards early in his NFL career.
2. Cordy Glenn, Guard, Georgia (6-5, 348): Named first-team All-SEC in 2011 after a stellar junior campaign, Glenn is a thick lineman who isn't a real natural bender sitting into his stance as an offensive tackle. He struggles to keep his base down, doubles over at the waist and pops upright initially off the ball in the run game. However, Glenn is so strong he can work his legs through contact and create a push, which is likely why he'll excel at the guard position in the NFL rather than making a run at playing tackle.
DAY 2 CENTER/GUARD OPTIONS AT 2.26 AND 3.13
1. Brandon Brooks, Guard, Miami (6-5, 343): Brooks is a big, strong player who has some lateral quickness for his size but needs some technique work. Nevertheless, he's got some upside and can win consistently in both the run and pass game and looks like an NFL starter in an angle scheme. He's got experience playing left tackle and both guard spots, but his body type says guard when it comes to a career in the NFL.
2. Ben Jones, Center, Georgia (6-3, 316): Jones improved his ability to snap and step and quickly get into contact this year as a run guy, which allowed him to play with more power on contact. He's a coordinated athlete on the move, can mirror through contact and looks like an NFL starter with a little time. Jones isn't what you would call an "elite" center prospect, but he sets quickly in the pass game and does a much better job playing with an anchor vs. the bull rush.
DAY 3 CENTER/GUARD OPTONS AT 4.4, 4.26, 5.26, 6.26 AND 7.26
1. Brandon Washington, Guard, Miami (6-4, 320): The talent is there for Washington to mature into a guard you can win inside with consistently at the next level. He needs to improve his pad level in the in-line game and tighten up his footwork in all areas. However, with a year of seasoning he certainly should mature into an above-average guard in the NFL with the talent to start at right tackle. Washington extends his arms well into contact in the passing game and once he gains leverage he can sink his hips and anchor with consistency inside.
2. Jeff Allen, Guard, Illinois (6-5, 315): He's not an overpowering run blocker, but Allen can bend, gain leverage and seal inside. He's smooth and coordinated in pass protection, can keep his base down and warrants a higher grade because of it. Needs to play inside at the next level, but looks like a guy who can start in the league.