NFL offseason shopping season is upon us! Free agency will begin in about a week, and after that, we have a month and change until the NFL Draft. The first real step of the draft process has already begun, with next season's rookies already rolling into Indianapolis over the past few days for the NFL Combine.
The workouts begin, in earnest, on Friday morning — at least the parts that we can watch on the NFL Network. (And let's be real — who doesn't get fired up over watching cone drills and quarterbacks throwing against air? That's a slice of Americana, baby!)
For Texans fans, this combine (and draft) might be the most anticipated one since, easily, the 2014 draft when they had the first pick, and maybe the most anticipated one of the "Rick Smith as GM" era, since Houston is expected to shop in the upper tier of the quarterback market after last season's disastrous Brock Osweiler signing.
There are other needs, though, for the Texans. You don't build a 9-7 ceiling solely with horrific QB play (although that's the main ingredient in the brick and mortar). Offensive line, a playmaking running back to complement Lamar Miller, and some "best available" sort of help on the defensive side of the ball are needed as well.
So with that in mind, here are a dozen players to watch over the weekend, if you have a keen interest in the Houston Texans, including video of each one playing an opponent with NFL-type talent...
FRIDAY, MARCH 3 (Offensive linemen, running backs)
GARETT BOLLES, T, Utah (6-5, 296, 4.97)
Bolles is getting some "first tackle taken" kind of buzz of late, so whether he will be around when the Texans are picking at No. 25 is debatable. He was a brick wall on the left side for a pretty good Utah team this past season. He's 25 years old, so he's taken a circuitous (and at times, off the field, bumpy) route to where he is now, but he would be a great pick to plunk down opposite Duane Brown, and to eventually take over for Brown.
Bolles Video, 2016 vs USC:
FORREST LAMP, G/T, Western Kentucky (6-3, 302, 5.12)
Lamp was an under-recruited late bloomer who thrived at Western Kentucky. The Alabama players said he was the best blocker they faced last season, which is saying something (what with Bama being in the SEC and all). He played tackle at WKU, but is probably more of a guard type in the NFL. At the very least, the tease of playing multiple positions has to intoxicate Bill O'Brien, who is addicted to versatility.
Lamp Video, 2016 vs Alabama:
CAM ROBINSON, T, Alabama (6-5, 327, 5.28)
Robinson is a gigantic specimen with the long arms that scouts love. As long as he can answer the questions about some of his off-the-field peccadilloes, the Texans would be wise to give him serious consideration if he lasts until the 25th pick.
Robinson Video: 2016 vs Texas A&M (Myles Garrett)
CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY, RB/RS, Stanford (6-0, 202, 4.48)
McCaffrey isn't a guy whom many have linked to the Texans, but he has a skill set that they can absolutely use, both as a complement to Lamar Miller — they MUST upgrade RB2 from Alfred Blue next season — and as a receiver out of the backfield along with a kick returner. There are probably bigger needs with the 25th pick, but if the board fell a certain way, or McCaffrey fell to the second round, I'd take him.
McCaffrey Video, 2016 vs USC:
SATURDAY, MARCH 4 (Quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends)
DESHAUN WATSON, QB, Clemson (6-2, 215, 4.64)
The most decorated, by far, of all the quarterbacks will try to answer questions about his accuracy, as best he can, by completing passes against air on Saturday morning. If I'm Watson, I just walk in and plunk down the two tapes of his games against Alabama in the last two national title games, in which he was the best player on the field BOTH times.
Watson Video, 2016 national semifinal vs Ohio State:
PAT MAHOMES, QB, Texas Tech (6-2, 229, 4.84)
Mahomes has quickly become a darling of Texans fans, as he is thought to be the one upper-tier QB who has the best chance of being available at No. 25. Mahomes is trying to shatter the "air raid" stereotypes of Texas Tech quarterbacks from years gone by.
Mahomes Video, 2016 vs Oklahoma:
DeSHONE KIZER, QB, Notre Dame (6-4, 230, 4.84)
I watched every snap of Kizer's collegiate career, and there is no doubt he has an NFL skill set. But goddamn, he should have to answer for days about a 4-8 record for his team last season. His turnovers, some of which were unforgivable, were a huge reason the Irish were such a train wreck last season.
Kizer Video, 2016 Fiesta Bowl vs Ohio State:
O.J. HOWARD, TE, Alabama (6-6, 249, 4.57)
With Ryan Griffin possibly leaving in free agency, and C.J. Fiedorowicz entering the last year of his rookie deal, fortifying tight end with the most dynamic player at the position would be a great move, if Howard finds his way down to the 25th pick. A tight end combination of Howard and CJF, both of whom can block and catch, would give O'Brien some wrinkles that Texans fans have long been waiting for from his "system."
Howard Video, 2015 national title game vs Clemson:
SUNDAY, MARCH 5 (Defensive linemen, linebackers)
JABRILL PEPPERS, OLB/SS, Michigan (6-0, 208, 4.48)
The Texans could use a playmaker in the middle of the field on defense, and Peppers's versatility, with his linebacker AND safety skills, would seem to resonate with Romeo Crennel and Mike Vrabel.
Peppers Video, 2016 vs Ohio State:
T.J. WATT, OLB, Wisconsin (6-4, 243, 4.79)
I have no idea where the Texans have J.J.'s younger brother on their board, but the purpose of this post is to point out prospects that Texans fans would be interested in...and considering that Texans fans seem interested anytime J.J. Watt uses the restroom, I'm guessing that y'all are interested in how Baby Watt works out.
Watt Video, 2016 vs LSU:
MONDAY, MARCH 6 (Secondary)
MARLON HUMPHREY, CB, Alabama (6-1, 198, 4.53)
Much like another Alabama cornerback with whom the Texans have had some success (hi, Kareem!), Humphrey is a physical, solid tackler. Also, he's got good genes, as his pops is former NFL running back Bobby Humphrey.
Humphrey Video, 2016 title game vs Clemson:
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
BUDDA BAKER, S, Washington (5-10, 192, 4.52)
If Quintin Demps gets an offer of anything slightly more than the minimum, the Texans should let him take it and look to backfill his spot with a guy like Baker.
Baker Video, 2016 national semifinal vs Alabama:
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.