*This article is part of our 2011 Path to the Draft coverage presented by Warehouse Pool Supply.
INDIANAPOLIS –It's not exactly a given that the Texans will take a defensive player with the 11th pick in the draft, but it's also no secret that they're intent on fixing a defense that ranked 30th in the league in 2010.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine that his team "had big problems on that side of the ball last year, and we made a big commitment to (defensive coordinator) Wade (Phillips) to come in and get our defensive football team going very quickly. We've got a lot of improvements to make in that area."
Kubiak said that the discussion of where the Texans need to improve defensively "probably starts with corner and outside linebacker." The top cornerbacks in this year's draft met with the media on Sunday.
LSU's Patrick Peterson, the top corner in the draft, attracted the biggest crowd at the interview podium. Another popular player was Nebraska's Prince Amukamara, who's widely viewed as the second-best corner this year.
Should the Texans target a cornerback with their first pick, Amukamara could be a candidate if available. He's the complete package at 6-0, 206, and said that he plans to quell questions about his speed with a strong showing in the 40-yard dash.
Amukamara isn't sure if he'll meet with the Texans at the Combine – he's scheduled to meet with 20 teams – but said that he hopes to. Wherever he lands, he plans to make an immediate impact in the NFL, similar to his Nebraska teammate Ndamukong Suh in 2010.
"That is my plan," Amukamara said. "I'm definitely not trying to redshirt in the NFL."
Another potential first-rounder is Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, a first-team All-Big 12 selection last season. Smith has rare size (6-2, 211) for a top corner prospect and came off as extremely confident on Sunday.
Smith said that he prides himself on his "great hands," which he gleaned while playing wide receiver in high school. He even went so far as to say that he had better ball skills than Raiders All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
"I feel like the sky's the limit for me as long as I do what I know I can do out there at this Combine," Smith said, referring to where he might go in the draft.
Miami cornerback Brandon Harris (5-9, 191), a projected first- or second-rounder, said that it'd "mean a lot" to play for the Texans with fellow Hurricanes like Andre Johnson and Darryl Sharpton.
"I would love to play for any team, but when it comes to playing with University of Miami guys, it's just a different kind of chemistry and a different kind of atmosphere," Harris said. "Those guys, they mean so much to us and they're like older brothers to us. We've been watching (some of) them since we were eight and nine years old."
Demarcus Van Dyke, another Miami cornerback, said that he met with the Texans on Saturday. Van Dyke is an interesting later-round prospect. Tall and lean at 6-1, 175, he ran track at Miami for three years. Van Dyke competed in the 60-, 100-, 200- and 4x100-meter dashes and said Sunday that he his personal bests are 6.81 seconds in the 60 and 10.43 in the 100.
Van Dyke is close friends with Sharpton, whom the Texans drafted last year in the fourth round.
"Me and him are boys, man," Van Dyke said. "I talked to Darryl two weeks ago about the whole Combine the whole draft process. He told me to take it in, soak it in and that it's a blessing. He's a good guy."
In a draft that Mike Mayock of NFL Network calls a "bad, bad safety year," UCLA free safety Rahim Moore (6-0, 202) is the cream of the crop.
Moore is an underclassman who led the nation with 10 interceptions as a sophomore in 2009. He said that he hopes to meet with the Texans, who recently released starting free safety Eugene Wilson, before the end of the Combine.
"I heard they're in safety need, so I can't wait for that to come," he said. "I know a lot about the Texans. I'm a good friend of Kareem Jackson. He's come out to Florida where I was training and he taught me some things that helped me out as far as footwork-type stuff. I would love to put on a Texans uniform."