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Texans Notebook: Cecil Shorts, Ben Jones, Brandon Brooks, The Draft and Looking at Free Agency

Houston Texans notebook on potential free agents, Rick Smith's thoughts on the NFL Draft and Bill O'Brien looking at how to improve the team.

Cecil Shorts III to Stay

There were thoughts that the Texans could possibly move on from wide receiver Cecil Shorts III. With the light wide receiver free agent market, some depth questions regarding the receiver group in the draft, and now the legal issues of Jaelen Strong, the Texans cannot afford to lose 40% of their wide receivers with Nate Washington not set to return in 2016. 

Shorts led the Texans in yards after the catch but injuries slowed him down in 2015, missing games for a shoulder and soft tissue injuries. 

He will remain the starting slot wide receiver but with so many three to four wide receiver sets, the Texans will need to improve the depth once again in 2016. 

Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks - Top Priorities for the Texans

Coach Bill O’Brien is settling in to figure out what direction the team needs to go before free agency opens up next week. O’Brien made it clear that the orgnaizaiotn wants their own players back, starting with keeping their offensive line together. 

“The number one thing is trying to get your own guys back, your own free agents,” said O’Brien. “I think that is important. Some of these guys that are free agents for us, like Brandon Brooks, like Ben Jones, guys like that, we would love to have those guys back.”

According to reports, the Texans opened dialogue with both Jones and Brooks’ agents at the NFL Combine. Brooks’ representatives would be exchanging numbers with the Texans in the coming days to see if they could come to an agreement before free agency officially opens.  

Rick Smith Talks Strengths Of the NFL Draft

With the Houston Texans doing their due diligence for the NFL Draft, interviewing prospects and shuffling through film, there is a landscape forming on where the strengths and weaknesses are in this class. 

General manager, Rick Smith, gave his assessment on what he likes about the 2016 NFL draft class. 

“I do think that there are some wide receivers in this draft class,” explained Smith.

Also with this being one of the deepest defensive line classes in recent draft history, Smith realizes that there is some talent in the trenches. 

‘Defensively, there are some guys who can rush the passer a little bit. You are always looking for that,” he stated. “I also think the safety group looks good as well.” 

With quarterbacks like Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch, Connor Cook, and Christian Hackenberg available in the 2016 draft, Smith is most impressed with what the quarterback group has to offer. 

“The quarterback group through the various rounds. I like the the groups of quarterback in this draft,” said Smith. 

He continued on the quarterbacks, “There is volume. There is versatility. There are different kinds of quarterbacks. I think that is probably the most attractive thing.”

The Texans have been and continue to scrutinize the quarterbacks of the draft, meeting with the potential top five options at the position, interviewing them at the NFL Combine. The Texans also met with Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott at the Senior Bowl and Nate Sudfeld of Indiana at the NFL Combine.  

Using Both Free Agency and the Draft 

The Texans are working to balance what they need to do during the off-season to improve the roster the most efficient way possible. Coach Bill O’Brien discussed the process for the Texans, starting with their own roster. 

“We look at the players with the pro scouting department with Rick (Smith) and Brian Gaine,” explained O’Brien. “We try to determine, after evaluating our own team, what are the needs of our own team. We try to evaluate who in free agency who can help us.”

O’Brien continued on how the Texans will use the trends in both free agency and the NFL draft to improve the roster.  

“Also evaluating what is out there. Does that fit your need,” said O’Brien of players and prospects who will be available. “Is there a surplus of that position in the draft and so maybe you don’t need to chase that in free agency or vice versa. There are not many of the guys in the draft so you might think about going that route in free agency.”

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