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Kubiak, Smith build team through draft


General manager Rick Smith and head coach Gary Kubiak are preparing for their second draft together with the Texans, as they continue to build the team in the post-Dom Capers/Charley Casserly era and usher in an era of their own.

There have been significant personnel changes since Smith and Kubiak came to Houston, including the acquisition of quarterback Matt Schaub. And there are only seven players under contract on the team who were selected by the Texans in the draft before 2006: Chester Pitts (2002), Demarcus Faggins (2002), Andre Johnson (2003), Dunta Robinson (2004), Glenn Earl (2004), Travis Johnson (2005) and C.C. Brown (2005).

"Naturally, when somebody new comes in, you try to find people who fit to your system," Kubiak said. "You try to find kids who are doing it the right way and the way you want it done, and, naturally, that usually means there's some turnover. I think that's just part of the business, but I feel very good about our program and the kids who are here doing it. We've just got to get better."

Kubiak and Smith plan to do just that in this weekend's NFL draft. Both think the team filled several key needs during free agency, especially with the acquisitions of cornerback Jacques Reeves (Dallas Cowboys) and center Chris Myers (Denver Broncos), who has been pegged a starter.

Still, Kubiak and Smith know they need young talent, players who can make immediate contributions to make the Texans a playoff contender.

"We did a good job of assessing our team, trying to figure out exactly what we needed to do and where we felt like we needed to improve and (we've) gone out and done some things in free agency," Smith said. "I just feel like at the end of the day on Sunday, I'm going to feel pretty good about our team and about how we go into the fall.

"I'm more comfortable in the position, in the whole process. I think we have been very successful at evaluating this draft class and really drilling down into specifics about how these guys can come in and help our team."

Smith accomplished that last year by drafting defensive tackle Amobi Okoye (10th overall), wide receiver Jacoby Jones (73rd) and cornerback Fred Bennett (123rd). Okoye set a team rookie record with 5.5 sacks. Jones tied for seventh in the NFL with a 9.5-yard average on punt returns. Bennett, meanwhile, started the final eight games of the season, leading the team with three interceptions and 14 passes defensed.

{QUOTE}This year, Smith would like to improve the overall athleticism of the team, which could mean selecting the best player available on the draft board regardless of need. However, the Texans have been focusing on three areas in particular: cornerback, running back and left tackle.

"I think what we did is when we assessed our team at the end of the season, I think those were some areas that we felt like we needed to improve on," Smith said. "We do feel good about the depth in this draft. I think that all the draft pundits and the people who have studied these types of things have talked about the fact that this draft is very rich at the offensive tackle position, and that's something that you don't see very often. And so we certainly hope that at some point in this process (we) find a guy that can come in and help us on the offensive line."

Smith is open to trading down to make sure he gets the best player for his team, and said his scouts have been eying several linebackers and defensive ends who could make significant contributions as rookies.

"I think what happens is as the board starts to fall and you start to evaluate the players that are on the board, if there is a player that you feel like can make a significant difference with your club, I think you've got to take (him)," Smith said. "If that's not the case, I think you have to entertain moving back."

Currently, the Texans have only five draft choices because of trades for Schaub (for the second-round pick) and Myers (sixth), so Smith knows he can't afford to make mistakes. This weekend's draft will be the most important for him to date.

"I think it's the most important one because it's the one that we're in right now," Smith said. "That's just the way I live. I think you've got to take advantage of your opportunities when you have them and we have an opportunity this weekend to add value to our club, and we're going to do that."

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