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Casserly: Texans have easier choice now than in 2006 draft

The Houston Texans will be sending an armada of front-office staff to South Carolina's pro day Wednesday as they go through the process of determining whom they'll pick at No. 1 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft.

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The team is facing quite a dilemma despite holding the prized pick. They have a big need at quarterback, but defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is sitting there as the best player in a great draft. And you can't have too many pass rushers in today's NFL.

It reminds some of the last time the franchise had the top pick in the draft, in 2006, and drafted North Carolina State DE Mario Williams over USC RB Reggie Bush and Texas QB Vince Young. But the man who turned in the card eight years ago joined "Path to the Draft" on Tuesday and said there's a big difference between now and then.

"First of all, the climate is radically different," said NFL Media analyst Charley Casserly, who was the Texans' general manager from 2000 to 2006. "The people in Houston right now will accept Clowney. They'll accept Manziel. Back then, it was Vince Young No. 1. You had half a million alumni from the University of Texas there. There were three full-page ads the week of the draft with a big-time sponsor (saying) people should cancel their season tickets if they don't take Vince Young.

"Then you had Reggie Bush. Heisman Trophy winner, high-profile guy, the fan favorite."

Thinking back nearly a decade, it's easy to remember how much the Texans were chided by some analysts for passing over Bush and Young to take Williams. Those two offensive players were, after all, coming off stellar careers and had just played in the highest-rated BCS national championship game at the time.

Hindsight is certainly 20-20 when it comes to judging if either Young or Bush were actually worth the top pick then. The chief justification for Williams, chasing after quarterbacks like then-division rival Peyton Manning, was sound but still left Texans fans questioning the team's front office for years to come.

Being right at the center of that drama gives Casserly added perspective on what the team is doing in the run-up to this year's draft. And make no mistake, he thinks Rick Smith, Bill O'Brien and others have it much easier this time around than he did.

"Mario Williams versus Jadeveon Clowney, if you're looking at it from that perspective," Casserly said. "For two years now, all we've heard about is that (Clowney) should be the first pick in the draft. Two weeks before the draft, I had to alert the media that we might be thinking about Mario Williams. They were still in shock after we took him."

There remains a chance the Texans could also go with a quarterback such as Blake Bortles with the No. 1 overall pick, but no matter whom they wind up with, there's bound to be celebration -- not consternation -- in Houston once the commissioner announces who the selection is.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.

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