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Texans add versatile group in '09 draft

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Versatility was the theme of the Texans' 2009 draft, with the team selecting several players who can line up at multiple positions. Five of the Texans' eight draft picks – including the first two – were spent on defensive players, which should go a long way in improving a unit that was 22nd in the league in yards allowed last year.

"We just wrapped up what we consider to be a couple of productive days," general manager Rick Smith said. "We're very pleased with the additions to our football team.

"We have added some very good football players and good men that are going to fit into our locker room, which is something that we always talk about and think about. These guys are going to add toughness (and) athleticism to our team both offensively and defensively."

First-round pick Brian Cushing (6-3, 243), the USC linebacker whom the Texans targeted early on in the draft process, can line up at all three linebacker positions. Texans coaches love his intensity and expect him to immediately vie for the starting strongside linebacker spot.

Cincinnati defensive end Connor Barwin (6-4, 245), the Texans' second-round pick, is a tremendous athlete who also played tight end, special teams and even basketball at Cincinnati. He'll line up at defensive end for the Texans, giving them the ability to move Antonio Smith inside in pass-rushing situations and further fortify the defense.

"We (got) more athletic, tougher on that side of the ball, more physical on that side of the ball," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "Obviously, that's what we tried to do with the draft, looking for impact players. We think (Cushing and Barwin) can make big-time impacts very quickly.

"You never know what's going to happen, but we're going to put these guys to work real fast. Our track record proves we're going to play these guys very quickly, and these guys won't be any different. We expect them to contribute."

Third-rounder Antoine Caldwell (6-3, 307) played every offensive line position at Alabama except for left tackle. The Texans will count on him to serve as a swing player behind center Chris Myers and guards Chester Pitts and Mike Brisiel.

{QUOTE}New Mexico cornerback Glover Quin (5-11, 200), who also could project as a free safety, will come in as a nickel corner and be expected to contribute right away. The first of the Texans' two fourth-round selections has a 4.5 40-yard dash time, a 38-inch vertical jump and can squat 500 pounds.

With their second fourth-round pick, the Texans got North Carolina State tight end Anthony Hill (6-6, 265), who played at Clear Brook High School in Houston. Arguably the best run-blocking tight end in the draft, Hill fills a need that was created by Mark Bruener's retirement.

In the fifth round, the Texans pulled a surprise move by drafting another tight end, Rice's James Casey (6-3, 243). They hadn't expected he would be available that late in the draft.

"We had this guy rated a heck of a lot higher on our board," Smith said. "The conversation then turns to, 'We have the opportunity to get an outstanding football player.' Do you continue to address your needs or do you stop and say, 'Hey, this guy has way too much value to pass up on?'

"We just felt like we could add so much to our football team, and that's why we decided to make the pick."

Kubiak said that the Texans plan to try Casey at tight end, fullback, long snapper and on special teams. He also has the ability to play quarterback in a "Wildcat" offense.

Sixth-round pick Brice McCain (5-9, 182), a cornerback from Utah, runs the 40 in 4.3 and has kick return experience. Seventh-round pick Troy Nolan (6-2, 207) of Arizona State is a safety with a nose for the ball, as evidenced by his 10 interceptions in two seasons at ASU.

One position that the Texans surprisingly didn't address in the draft was a running back to complement Steve Slaton. The Texans considered Iowa running back Shonn Greene and Alabama running back Glen Coffee in the third round, but both came off the board before the Texans' pick.

As Smith explained after the draft, the Texans felt there was better value for players at other positions. And the Texans reportedly have signed two undrafted free agent running backs: Oregon's Jeremiah Johnson (5-9, 209) and Tennessee's Arian Foster (6-1, 226).

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