The Texans are getting a head start on spring practices and a first-hand look at prospective new players in their three-day rookie mini-camp that started Friday.
Fifty-six players are participating in the mini-camp at the Methodist Training Center. Among them are nine draft picks, 23 undrafted rookies, seven first-year players who were already on the team and 17 players who are in for tryouts.
"You look at those nine draft choices that come in, so you're kind of looking at them initially," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "I thought we got a heck of a group. Our scouts put together a heck of a group of free agents and tryout kids.
"We've got a lot of spots to fill from the standpoint of young guys helping our football team this year, so it gives us a three-day head start."
Four of the Texans' draft picks could start as rookies. First-round wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is likely to start opposite Andre Johnson. Second-round safety D.J. Swearinger will essentially be a starter as the third safety and could get more playing time if there are any unforeseen complications with Ed Reed's recovery from hip surgery.
Third-rounder Brennan Williams will compete for the starting right tackle spot. Sixth-rounder David Quessenberry also could be in the mix along with Williams, injured 2012 starter Derek Newton and Ryan Harris. Third-rounder Sam Montgomery or fourth-rounder Trevardo Williams could start at outside linebacker, which would allow the Texans to move Brooks Reed inside. And sixth-round receiver Alan Bonner could vie for kick return duties.
For all of the newest Texans, the rookie mini-camp practices are, as Houston Chronicle columnist Jerome Solomon phrased it to Kubiak on Friday, practice for practice for practice.
"That's exactly what it is," Kubiak said. "They learn how we practice, how we meet, what we expect, how to finish. Now, when we come to work with everybody on Monday, vets and all, they know what's going on and it doesn't take three or four more days."
Last offseason, the Texans tried out four players at their mandatory team mini-camp in June. They signed two of them, fullback Moran Norris and defensive end Keith Browner. Kubiak said he doesn't know how many players the Texans might sign out of this year's group.
"Obviously, after your nine and the guys that you've signed, you've got to look at all these guys that are on a tryout basis and (decide) if you think enough of them you can't let them out the building because they're going to end up somewhere else," Kubiak said. "But we've got some tough decisions to make over a short period."