What seemed at first to be a strong group of pass-rushers in this year's NFL draft has been thinned in recent weeks for various reasons.
That means for the Houston Texans to take one with their first pick in the draft, the right one would have to fall to them. Kentucky's Bud Dupree isn't likely to fall, but I could absolutely see the Texans taking him if he does.
And if they did, it would fit a trend.
Dupree was a college defensive end. The Texans have taken college defensive ends with three of their last four first-round selections. According to ESPN Stats and Info, that is the highest number since 2011 of any team in the NFL.
In 2011 they took Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt. In 2012 they took Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus. The anomaly came in 2013, when the Texans took Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the first round. Then last year they reverted back, taking South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Only Watt remained a defensive end (however non-traditional) in the NFL. Mercilus and Clowney were both converted to outside linebackers, from where teams in base 3-4 schemes typically get most of their pass rush. For the Texans, though, the pass rush has mostly come from Watt, who accounted for more than 53 percent of their sacks last season. Both of these players' futures with the Texans are a bit uncertain. The Texans have until Sunday to pick up Mercilus' fifth-year option. Clowney, meanwhile, is nearly six months removed from microfracture surgery, undergoing a rehab process that has the Texans encouraged.
There are two other pass-rushers whose play on the field would make them attractive to the Texans but who come with off-the-field concerns: Missouri's Shane Ray and Nebraska's Randy Gregory. It's especially concerning for both that they've made missteps so close to the draft, at such a critical time in their lives. Gregory failed a drug test at the NFL scouting combine, while Ray was cited for marijuana possession earlier this week.
Though the Texans won't dismiss a player for a single marijuana issue, the timing in both cases adds weight.
For all these reasons, a pass-rusher might not be in the cards for the Texans this year. Taking another player would mark a shift away from the trend.