Texans Draft: QB or pass rusher?

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
11:19
AM ET
Neither declaration was a surprise.

First, on Wednesday, the University of Louisville announced that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater would leave school early to declare for the NFL draft.

Then, during his on-air interview following a win in the Capital One Bowl, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was asked if that was his last college game. "Yes sir," Clowney said.

Both play positions of need for the Texans. But what would be the smarter play?

Here are five arguments for taking a pass-rusher first overall and five for taking a quarterback.

For a pass-rusher, perhaps Clowney:

1. Despite having arguably the best pass-rusher in the NFL, the Texans struggled to affect quarterbacks without blitzing. Only the Chicago Bears allowed a higher opponent passer rating than the Texans did with four or fewer rushers. Only the Falcons and Raiders had fewer sacks than the Texans did (16) with four or fewer rushers.

2. Losing Antonio Smith, which could happen in free agency this season, would create a major hole in an area the Texans were already lacking.

3. The Texans' secondary will improve with the return of safety Danieal Manning, who finished the season on injured reserve, but without pressure up front from their teammates, they'll still struggle. It's no coincidence that the Texans allowed a league-worst 4.14 touchdown-to-interception ratio while also having only 32 sacks, ranking them 29th in the NFL. They're tied there with the Atlanta Falcons. Only the Jaguars and Bears had fewer.

4. It's not necessary to take a quarterback in the first round for him to be good enough to reverse a dismal season, especially if the team's defense is dominant. San Francisco and Seattle succeeded with rookie non-first round quarterbacks last season and have done well this season also. There are questions about their offenses, but their defenses can carry them. The Texans could take a second-round quarterback, sign a veteran in free agency, let them compete and still be in a much better position than they are now.

5. Do you really want to pass on this?

Five arguments for a quarterback:

1. The quarterback is the most important position on the field and the Texans need a better one. Case Keenum finished with a passer rating ranked 27th in the NFL. If you look at a sample size starting in Week 10, as Keenum struggled more as the season went on, he dropped to 32nd. His passer rating was 66.1 and his Total QBR was 22.8. More troubling was that he regressed quickly. It's possible he learns and improves, but because that is no sure thing, the Texans need another option.

2. Since 1998, when Peyton Manning was the No. 1 overall selection, this has overwhelmingly been the position taken first overall -- 12 No. 1 overall picks have been quarterbacks. There are notable busts in that list, like Tim Couch, David Carr and JaMarcus Russell, but smart drafting can avoid that.

3. The potential boon of doing so is much higher than the risk. You're no longer committing an astronomical financial sum to a rookie taken first overall, which gives more flexibility if he doesn't work out. On the other hand, there are enough quarterback-needy teams drafting high that waiting too long can mean losing out on a player who could help.

4. No matter how good the defense becomes, without a capable quarterback it is very difficult to win in today's NFL and nearly impossible to win a Super Bowl. The last 10 Super Bowls have been won by Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco. With the exception of Eli Manning and Flacco, those are all unquestionably elite.

5. A good quarterback can act as a buffer. He can make the rest of the offense look better and his play can forgive mistakes at other positions.

Tania Ganguli

ESPN Houston Texans reporter

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