- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Houston Texans did the sensible thing and took Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick, landing the best pass-rusher to come out of college in more than a decade and pairing him with J.J. Watt to have one of the best pass-rushing duos in the league.
But what if they hadn’t?
What if they had taken quarterback Blake Bortles instead? Tony Pauline of TFYDraftInsiders.com wrote this week that the Texans’ choice came down to Clowney and Bortles and the team had draft cards with both of their names written on it before finally settling on Clowney.
That would have significantly impacted the AFC South.
It might not have altered the rest of the Texans’ draft plans. They took guard Xavier Su'a-Filo with the first pick of the second round, and it’s logical to assume they would have stayed with that pick to help protect their new franchise quarterback.
Same with the third-round selection of tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. It only makes sense to add additional weapons for a young quarterback, and Fiedorowicz caught 75 passes in his final two seasons at Iowa. He’s also a solid blocker who should help in the run game.
The Texans’ other third-round pick was defensive tackle Louis Nix III, who will be a big piece of defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s hybrid 3-4 scheme. General manager Rick Smith likely wouldn’t have changed his strategy there.
But he certainly wouldn’t have taken quarterback Tom Savage with the 35th pick in the fourth round. Who might he have drafted? Mammoth Stanford offensive tackle Cameron Fleming (6-foot-5, 323 pounds), Florida State outside linebacker Telvin Smith, LSU outside linebacker Lamin Barrow, and San Jose State cornerback Bene Benwikere are possibilities. All would have addressed a need.
Certainly the Texans wouldn’t have ended up with a defensive player that could make the kind of impact that Clowney can had they taken Bortles, but they might have fixed perhaps the biggest reason for the team’s disastrous 2013 season.
It’s hard to argue with the Clowney pick, though, because he and Watt will be terrorizing quarterbacks for years.
If they had taken Bortles, though, that would have forced the Jacksonville Jaguars to drastically alter their draft plan.
It has been widely reported that the Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons had agreed to a trade in principal that would have allowed the Falcons to move up to No. 3. Jaguars GM David Caldwell called Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff on the day before the first round to tell him that he was going to stay put and take the player he wanted, which only a few people knew was Bortles.
Had the Texans taken Bortles, Caldwell would have tried to rekindle the trade. The Falcons really wanted Clowney, and it’s likely he would have still been available at No. 3 because the St. Louis Rams were intent on shoring up their offensive line for quarterback Sam Bradford. Offensive tackle was their No. 1 need, which is why they took Greg Robinson with the No. 2 overall pick, and it likely wouldn’t have changed if Clowney were available.
The Jaguars and Falcons would have swapped picks, allowing Dimitroff to take Clowney. At No. 6, the Jaguars would not have gone quarterback. It would have been offensive tackle Luke Matthews, whom the team really liked, or receiver Mike Evans.
Derek Carr was the No. 2 quarterback on the Jaguars’ board, but they might have missed out on him, as well, because Oakland selected him with the fourth pick of the second round -- three spots ahead of the Jaguars. The Falcons’ first pick in the second round was No. 5, so even if the Jaguars had gotten that pick as part of the trade they would have been unable to get Carr -- unless they worked another trade.
That probably would not have happened. The Jaguars tried to work out a trade to move up higher into the second round to get receiver Marqise Lee, but couldn’t get anything done. Lee ended up falling to the Jaguars at No. 39 anyway, but would he have been the pick had they taken Evans in the first round?
The bulk of the Texans’ draft might not have changed significantly had they chosen Bortles with the No. 1 pick, but it would have certainly altered the Jaguars’ draft.