*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)
Wide receiver is widely perceived to be the Texans' top priority in the 2012 draft. The Texans have made no bones about the fact that they are looking to add talent – namely, more speed – at the position this offseason.
With five-time Pro Bowler Andre Johnson missing nine games last season and quarterback Matt Schaub missing the final six, the Texans' leading receivers were tight end Owen Daniels (677 yards) and running back Arian Foster (617). Wide receiver Kevin Walter had 39 catches for 474 yards, while Jacoby Jones had 31 for 512.
"I've got a lot of confidence in Kevin," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said at the NFL Scouting Combine in late February. "I think he's a solid two in this league and has been for me since I've been in Houston. And I think Jacoby made some strides last year as well. You're always trying to get better, and hopefully we'll continue to do that at that position.''
The Texans have not re-signed wide receiver Bryant Johnson. Their depth at the position consists of youngsters Jeff Maehl, Trindon Holliday, Juaquin Igelsias and Lestar Jean, a promising undrafted rookie in 2011 who is coming off a season-ending shoulder injury.
Johnson and Walter will both be 31 this season, so a highly-drafted receiver could pay dividends in both the Texans' immediate and long-term future.
National Football Post Analysis (@WesBunting, @JoeFortenbaugh for HoustonTexans.com)
With one of the league's nastiest shutdown defenses and Pro Bowl offensive talent like Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, the Texans have the luxury of entering the 2012 draft lacking desperation to fill any glaring holes on the roster. But the organization could certainly benefit from having a legitimate No. 2 wideout to play opposite Johnson in order to add some more firepower to the team's passing attack.
DAY 1 WIDE RECEIVER OPTIONS AT 1.26
1. Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech (6-2, 206):Don't be fooled by Hill's 2011 stat line (28-820-5), because you have to remember that the Yellow Jackets love to run the football. A big-play wideout who averaged a staggering 25.5 yards per reception during his three-year tenure at Georgia Tech, Hill is a tall, long legged receiver who has a decent get-off burst for his size. The 20-year-old builds up speed as he goes down the field and the further down the field he gets, the tougher he is to run with. In addition, Hill showcases good body control when asked to track the football.
2. Rueben Randle, LSU (6-4, 208): Randle is coming off a career-high 2011 collegiate campaign that resulted in 53 receptions for 917 yards and eight scores on a Tigers offense that dealt with inconsistencies at the quarterback position. He's a taller receiver who, despite his height/weight numbers, looks a little thick and more compact than his size would suggest. Showcases an average initial burst off the line when asked to eat up the cushion and is more of a strider then two-stepper. Randle is still developing his game vs. press coverage, but exhibits some savvy and uses his length well to keep himself somewhat clean when trying to release outside and get down the field.
DAY 2 WIDE RECEIVER OPTIONS AT 2.26 AND 3.13
1. Joe Adams, Arkansas (5-11, 190): A speedster who rolled up 104 receptions and scored nine touchdowns over his final two years at Arkansas, Adams could be a nice option for the Texans when Houston hits the clock late in the second round. The 22-year-old looks smaller and thinner on tape than his numbers indicate, but he's a good athlete who has some wiggle off the line getting into his routes. Adams sets up his routes well from the slot and does a nice job changing gears, selling the shoulder fake and displays the balance/fluidity to sharply get out of his breaks with a burst.
2. Jarius Wright, Arkansas (5-10, 180): Adams' teammate at Arkansas, Wright hauled in 66 receptions for 1,117 yards and 12 scores last season with the Razorbacks. He's an undersized, shifty little receiver with good balance and footwork as a route runner both from the outside and from the slot. While Wright exhibits the ability to adjust and pluck throws off his frame, he looks content to simply trap passes against his chest when throws are on target.
DAY 3 WIDE RECEIVER OPTONS AT 4.4, 4.26, 5.26, 6.26 AND 7.26
1. Juron Criner, Arizona (6-4, 215): With 50 game appearances under his belt during a four-year stint with the Wildcats, Criner certainly doesn't lack experience. He rolled up a whopping 157 receptions for 2,189 yards and 22 touchdowns over the last two years at Arizona playing with quarterback Nick Foles. Criner's got talent, there's no doubt about that. However, the key in determining his draft stock is where he's at mentally and physically. If he checks out in both areas, Criner could develop into a starting caliber wideout. But looks more like a sub-package guy.
2. Marvin Jones, California (6-3, 202): Jones appeared in 38 games over the last three seasons and is coming off his best statistical season that happened to include 62 receptions for 846 yards and three touchdowns for the Golden Bears. He possesses good size, good body control and hand eye coordination, and for his size is a pretty fluid athlete as well. Jones isn't a dynamic athlete, but should be able to find a way to make and earn playing time on an NFL roster.