The team has a wealth of options as they head to a deep draft looking to quickly rebuild from last year's disastrous 2-14 record. The growing consensus is the team will select South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick, adding one of the most talented players coming out of college in a decade.
But there's still a need for a franchise quarterback for new coach Bill O'Brien to work with. Plugged-in beat writer John McClain of the Houston Chronicle wrote Tuesday that the Texans still have Johnny Manziel under consideration for the top pick as a result.
"Everybody knows the Texans are going to draft a quarterback. The question is when," wrote McClain. "As it stands, I believe the Texans are trying to decide between defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and quarterback Johnny Manziel with the first overall pick."
Talk has heated up the past week that Houston will trade down if they get an acceptable offer, possibly to get Manziel at a better value in the first round. That is in line with what NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt has heard, noting the Texans could select Clowney and trade him to a team who selects the quarterback they want.
Manziel, the draft's top quarterback according to NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock, was a college star just an hour away from Houston at Texas A&M. While Clowney would give the team a dangerous front seven to contain division rival Andrew Luck, the club could take a hit on the public-relations front if they end up bypassing the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.
"If the Texans select Clowney, he'll never live up to expectations and will suffer the same criticism that dogged Mario Williams for six seasons. Averaging 10 or 11 sacks per season won't be enough for fans angry the Texans bypassed Johnny Football," McClain added. "Selecting Clowney means they'd have to draft a quarterback and give him time to develop, perhaps a season. If the Texans choose Manziel and he helps make them a playoff team, they'll cut into the Cowboys' popularity for the first time."
The issue the Texans might have if they do explore trading back is who might be available for them to take. According to NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport, Clowney, Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins and Greg Robinson are widely considered to be the four elite prospects in this year's draft. Moving back to Atlanta's spot in the first round (sixth overall) would put them outside the range to draft any of those four and could prevent the team from landing Manziel if the Browns draft him fourth overall.
Thus the conundrum for Smith and company. Between a trade, Johnny and Jadeveon, the team will at least have plenty of options when the draft rolls around next week.
Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.