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Smith: Texans looking for "best player available" in draft

Wide receiver is widely perceived to be the Texans' top need in the 2013 NFL Draft. Inside linebacker, offensive tackle and safety are probably next on the list, depending on who you ask.

That's not how the Texans organize their draft strategy.

"It always is best player available," general manager Rick Smith said Tuesday at his annual pre-draft press conference at Reliant Stadium. "It's vitally important, in my opinion, to the success of consistent drafting to distinguish between need and value. I think when you set your board, you set your board according to value and where you see it, players' abilities and capabilities to perform. If you can get a player at a corresponding value in a round that's a position of need… that's the ideal scenario and situation.

"If you go into the situation trying to rank and value your players based on need, I think that just opens you up for the potential of making mistakes."

'Best player available' is a common refrain among NFL personnel types who don't want to tip their hand before the draft. But it's not just lip service from Smith, as his recent draft history shows.

In 2012, the Texans were widely expected to draft a receiver or offensive lineman in the first round. They picked outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, even though they already had established starters in Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. They waited until the third round to draft a wide receiver and lineman.

In 2011, the Texans' top needs were pegged as nose tackle and cornerback. They drafted defensive end J.J. Watt. They didn't draft a nose tackle at all, and they waited until their second pick of the second round and a fourth-round pick to address cornerback.

"We try to differentiate need and how we run this process," Smith said. "I don't know if any team is quote-end-quote 'one player away.' I try to exercise good discipline in this process because I'm not only looking at next year."

Smith admitted Tuesday that the Texans have a need at receiver, but he was encouraged by DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin as rookies in 2012. He said they need help at other positions, too.

"I think we could use some help at the wide receiver position," he said. "I was very impressed last year with the progress of DeVier Posey late. Obviously, unfortunately he had the (Achilles) injury, but I do think that his rehab process is going well. I liked what I saw in Keshawn's development. So we've got some good young receivers. I think we can add a player there.

"We lost James Casey in free agency, so (tight end) could be a potential spot as well. I think you can always add depth on your offensive and defensive lines. I just think that's something you always have to do when you talk about not just next year, but thinking long-term.

"There are plenty of areas on our football team where we can add good football players, and that's why I think you have to always exercise the discipline in taking the right player at the corresponding value because at some point, that player will help your team win."

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