- Tania Ganguli, ESPN Houston Texans reporter
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So much attention is paid to the draft process that sometimes it's easy to forget not every important piece on a football team comes from the top three rounds of the draft. Talent can sometimes take a bit of development. Other times, evaluators are just wrong.
That's not to say you don't have to get lucky to hit on someone so many people missed -- but sometimes you do.
Training camp is when players really have a chance to prove they're worth a starting spot or sometimes merely a roster spot. Today we'll look at five players who I think will be positive developments for the Houston Texans. And I know I'll get yelled at for the first one.
1. Right tackle Derek Newton: Newton was rightfully maligned often during last season. His pass protection wasn't good. He was decent in run blocking, but because Newton's bad plays were so bad that was easy to dismiss. The Texans weren't as ready to give up on him as many fans, though. They didn't take a tackle in the draft or seek one during free agency. I believe he'll be better as the Texans' starting right tackle in 2014 for these reasons: He acknowledges last season wasn't good and his coaches are focusing very heavily on his technique. He was a seventh-round pick in 2011, which isn't a place you usually get starters, but Texans' coach Bill O'Brien is confident he can be one.
2. Defensive end Jared Crick: Perhaps this one won't be too much of a surprise to those who have paid close attention to the Texans' defensive line situation. Crick backed up Antonio Smith last season, playing in his place when Smith was suspended for the season opener. He's quick and strong. Of course, you learn more with pads on than when guys at these positions are practicing in shorts and t-shirts. Crick was a fourth-round draft pick by the Texans in 2012.
3. Cornerback A.J. Bouye: Undrafted rookies love to point to Arian Foster's chance with the Houston Texans as a reason for optimism. The truth is, any staff will keep you if you've proven you deserve it. Bouye did it last season, but wound up on injured reserve midway through. He's looked good in coverage drills during OTAs and minicamp, where he's gotten significant playing time because of Johnathan Joseph's absence as he recovers from his January surgery.
4. Receiver Alan Bonner: Bonner was a sixth-round pick for the Texans last season, but spent all season on injured reserve. He's 5-10, 191, but plays bigger than that. He's been working in the slot, he said, and involved in the competition to return for the Texans. Here's good news for Bonner: At the start of minicamp, O'Brien included Bonner among a group of second-year players who he believed had shown improvement.
5. Outside linebacker Ricky Sapp: Now on the third team of his career, Sapp feels like he might have finally found a football home with the Texans. The Jets waived Sapp last season and the Texans claimed him of waivers. They liked him enough to re-sign him after that and Sapp has certainly caught the attention of coaches. There was plenty of opportunity for outside linebackers during OTAs and minicamp with Brooks Reed practicing at inside linebacker most of the time and Sapp, who played five games for the Texans last season, has taken advantage of it.
So much attention is paid to the draft process that sometimes it's easy to forget not every important piece on a football team comes from the top three rounds of the draft.