Texans aimed for speed, versatility with draft

If there was an underlying theme for the Texans 2016 draft class, it would be speed and versatility.

It was a strategy that head coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith embarked upon before the start of this year's free agency and the draft evaluation process.

"I think one of the things we identified while we were evaluating our team was how can we become a little faster, a little bit more athletic in certain areas," O'Brien said Saturday. "I think that's a goal that we have, but that's not the only goal."

The Texans filled their need for speed early and often, drafting four offensive players in the first four rounds, a franchise first since the inaugural 2002 season. Houston's offense became faster, adding some explosive weapons for quarterback Brock Osweiler with a pair of young wide receivers in Will Fuller and Braxton Miller.

"We were fortunate to be in multiple positions where we had guys that we really liked at the corresponding values," Smith said. "We were able to take those guys and they spoke to the intent that we were looking for with respect with trying to get faster. That's really what it's about. It was something that we were wanting to try to add to our football team and were fortunate that at those places were we took those players that they were available."

The Texans also continued to add players with versatility, addressing the need for kick returner on Day 3 with running back Tyler Ervin out of San Jose State. A multi-faceted player, Ervin has played running back, slot receiver, return specialist, cornerback, and special teams defender during his five seasons at San Jose State.

"He is a very versatile player, a young man that has some return ability, but actually dual-return ability in the sense that he could do some punts and maybe even kickoff, so he'll be in that mix of guys that will be competing for that as well," Smith said. "The versatility aspect of what he adds was what was attractive to us for him."

K.J. Dillon, fifth-round selection, added depth at safety and also was a special teams contributor at West Virginia. D.J. Reader, Houston's final draft selection at No. 166, may be used as a nose tackle at 6-3, 327 pounds, but he's a defensive lineman who can line up anywhere he's asked to play.

"I've played anywhere on the defensive line, anywhere from the zero to the five," Reader said. "In Clemson's scheme we play every position on the defensive line depending on what package we're in, so I've played everywhere out there."

Versatility has been one of O'Brien's key objectives since the day he arrived in Houston. "The more you can do" motto was one that he wanted players to embrace for their best chance at making the final roster.

"That's one thing that you guys know that we talk about all the time on the 53-man roster and really eventually looking towards the 46-man roster on game day - which we're way away from that - but you have to have guys that have versatility, because if you have one-hole players at a number of positions, that's a difficult thing if somebody were to get injured or there was something that you had to make a move during the game," O'Brien said. "The versatile player is somebody that really helps you out a lot whether it's a receiver or a defensive lineman or an offensive lineman or so on and so forth, so versatility with a number of these positions is important to us."

The Texans finished their 2016 NFL Draft with six selections: one in each round from one to four and two picks in Round 5.

Round Overall Player Position  School
1 21 Will Fuller WR Notre Dame
2 50 Nick Martin C Notre Dame
3 85 Braxton Miller WR Ohio State
4 119 Tyler Ervin RB San Jose St.
5 159 K.J. Dillon S West Virginia
5 166 D.J. Reader NT Clemson

To see more of the Texans draft coverage, watch "Texans All Access: 2016 Draft" airing Sunday night 11 p.m. on ABC-13.

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