Texans fill needs with eight-man 2012 draft class

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After drafting Illinois outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus in the first round, the Texans focused on offense with most of their remaining picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.

The Texans drafted two wide receivers (Ohio State's DeVier Posey, Michigan State's Keshawn Martin), three offensive linemen (Miami (Ohio) guard Brandon Brooks, Georgia center Ben Jones, Purdue tackle Nick Mondek), a defensive end (Nebraska's Jared Crick) and, for the first time ever, a kicker (Texas A&M's Randy Bullock) over the draft's final two days on Friday and Saturday.

"We were hopeful that we would be able to come out of the weekend and feel like we've improved our football team," Texans general manager Rick Smith said. "We certainly feel that way. I look at our class and I think it accomplished several things that we were attempting to accomplish. We were able to add some players that can impact our team like we talked about, both offensively and defensively… (and) even on special teams with a kicker. We were able to fill some needs. I'm very pleased with what we were able to get accomplished over the last few days."

Coming off a 10-6 season and their first-ever AFC South title, the Texans did not feel like they had any glaring needs entering the draft. They did need depth at outside linebacker, wide receiver and offensive line, and they addressed those positions with each of their first five picks.

"I feel very good about our draft class, not only adding quality talent to our football team, but a lot of passion," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. "I think our team is about a group of guys that play very hard week in and week out. When you look at this group, that's the first thing that stands out to me. I'm very excited to get started with them, and I feel very good coming out of today."

Mercilus (6-4, 261), the 26th overall pick, will form a formidable outside linebacker rotation with Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. Barwin and Reed played almost every snap last season after Mario Williams suffered a season-ending injury in Week 5, and the Texans needed a third edge rusher with Williams leaving in free agency for the Buffalo Bills.

The Texans were so high on Mercilus, who had 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles last season at Illinois, that they thought about trading up to get him.

"We think he can play a lot of places for us," Kubiak said. "Obviously, he's outside. He can put his hand down on third down. He just finds a way to make big plays. Very sharp young man, plays with great effort. We think he's just touched the surface. People talk about him being a one-year player, but we think it's just the first year of many great ones to come."

The Texans had the 58th overall pick in the second round. Smith traded it to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers along with a seventh-round pick (No. 233 overall) in exchange for a third- (68) and fourth-round pick (99). It was his eighth draft-day trade as Texans general manager, and the sixth time he has traded back to acquire more picks.

"It just felt like sitting there in the second round that if we backed up a little bit, we had a number of players that we felt good about and felt like if we were to back up and maybe pick up some extra picks, maybe we could do what we ended up doing," Smith said.

With the 68th pick, the Texans drafted Posey (6-2, 209), who started 29 games at Ohio State. Posey was suspended for 10 games in 2011 but had 113 catches for 1,676 yards in his sophomore and junior seasons combined. He ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"I think that he's a quality young man," Smith said. "He made a mistake. One of the things that was impressive to me is I thought he took a difficult set of circumstances and handled it about as well as he could. In his suspension, he continued to go to practice and continued to be a good teammate. He continued to be a leader on that football team in the capacity that he was capable of doing not playing... And he's a talented football player. He's got a skill set. He's good-sized. He has good speed. He's a very good route runner, good hands. He's got range around his body and a catching radius that we like."

Brooks (6-5, 353) was the Texans' next pick at No. 76 overall, a pick acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles in March as part of the DeMeco Ryans trade. He was a four-year starter in college and ran a 4.98-second 40-yard dash at his pro day.

The Texans started the third day of the draft by picking Jones (6-3, 304) at No. 99 overall. A four-year starter and three-time team captain at Georgia, he was singled out by Kubiak in his post-draft press conference as a player from the draft class to watch.

"Heck of a football player, plays with a great effort," Kubiak said. "He's going to give us a lot of versatility going into game day when we're suiting seven guys. I think he's got a bright future, and I really like his football IQ, so I'm very excited about him. I think you're going to see great things from him for a long time."

Martin (5-11, 190), the 121st overall pick in the fourth round, was an all-purpose threat at Michigan State. He scored a touchdown rushing, receiving, passing and as a punt and kick returner. He was an All-Big Ten returner and had 66 catches for 776 yards in 2011. He could make an immediate impact as a slot receiver and on returns.

Crick (6-4, 280) was the Texans' third pick of the fourth round at No. 126 overall. After recording 19 sacks combined in 2009 and 2010, he could have been drafted much higher if not for a torn pectoral muscle that sidelined him for most of his senior season. Crick was tabbed by Smith as a player to watch after the draft.

"I think he'll come in and get into a rotation, and I think he's a hard-nosed football player," Smith said. "He plays hard. Football is important to him, and I think you'll see him fit right in with our group and contribute to our team."

In the fifth round, the Texans drafted a kicker for the first time ever in Bullock (5-9, 205). Bullock won the Lou Groza Award in 2011 as the nation's top kicker after going 29-of-33 on field goals at Texas A&M, Kubiak's alma mater.

"I think the thing that really sold us on Randy (was) our local workouts that we have here with the players," Kubiak said. "He walked in here in front of our whole staff, all of our coaches, all our scouts and he put on a show that day. He was tremendous. He's kicked in a big environment, week in and week out. We liked his maturity when we visited with him."

The Texans wrapped up the draft with Mondek (6-5, 307) in the sixth round at No. 195 overall. Kubiak likened Mondek, who ran a 4.84 40-yard dash, to 2011 seventh-round pick Derek Newton, a bit of a project who developed into the Texans' swing tackle by the end of last season.

With the draft complete, the Texans will round out their roster with undrafted free agents. Among the undrafted players they have signed in recent years are Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster, punter Brett Hartmann and guard Mike Brisiel.

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