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Houston Texans' draft needs: Jadeveon Clowney a no-brainer

Roster weaknesses: Every team has them, and the draft is often the best way to address them. With the 2014 NFL Draft fast approaching, NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah will be taking an up-close look at the main areas of weakness -- and the prospects who could fix them -- for all 32 squads in the league. Be sure to catch "Path to the Draft" on NFL Network at 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday for more in-depth analysis.

The 2014 NFL Draft is -- really, I promise -- almost here. On Thursday, the world will finally learn, after months of hype and anticipation, exactly what the Houston Texans have decided to do with the No. 1 overall pick. Of course, that still remains a mystery for now, but I do know one thing: The team absolutely must nail this selection.

Houston has to do some serious building if it wants to keep up with Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. After capturing back-to-back AFC South titles, the Texans faltered badly in 2013, sputtering to a 2-14 record -- and, thus, possession of this pick. While they might like to trade down -- perhaps to solve their pressing quarterback issue -- I think they'll have a hard time finding a partner, meaning they'll likely have to make a choice at No. 1.

Of course, there are more issues on this roster than one pick can fix. Here are four positions of need for the Texans -- and some prospects who could fill them:

1) Quarterback

After seven years with Matt Schaub atop the depth chart, Houston needs to find a new quarterback. Schaub is in Oakland, having been traded to the Raiders following a dismal 2013 campaign, and the rest of the signal-callers on the roster (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates) are really backup types. I don't see a quarterback prospect who would merit being drafted first overall, but the Texans could trade down for either Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) or Blake Bortles (UCF). Bortles is probably a better match for coach Bill O'Brien, but Manziel is a better prospect.

Alternately, Houston might want to wait until the top of the second round. Pittsburgh's Tom Savage and LSU's Zach Mettenberger are two traditional drop-back quarterbacks who would fit well in O'Brien's system.

2) Outside linebacker



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Former first-round pick Whitney Mercilus is a promising young player, but the Texans still lack a premier pass-rushing outside linebacker to complement all-world defensive end J.J. Watt. South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney is the top player in the draft and should be taken at No. 1 by Houston. The team should not be distracted by buzzy Buffalo product Khalil Mack; yes, Mack is better in coverage, but that isn't a good reason to pass on Clowney, who is simply too special as a pass-rusher.

Should the Texans choose to trade down and take a quarterback in Round 1 instead, Marcus Smith (Louisville) would be a great fit on their defense.

3) Defensive line

If Houston wants to boost the talent level and depth on the defensive line, Princeton's Caraun Reid and Alabama's Ed Stinson would be good mid-round options. Reid would offer a bit more upfield pass-rush ability, while Stinson is stouter against the run.

4) Right tackle

The Texans must address this position in the draft, and Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio -- provided he checks out medically -- would be a great pick at No. 33. Kouandjio has the strength to dominate in the run game, and he's athletic enough to hold up in pass protection.

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Projections

So what will the Texans do with their first-round pick (No. 1 overall)? Here's what NFL Media's analysts see happening, according to their mock draft projections (click here for Mock Draft Central):

Daniel Jeremiah: Jadeveon Clowney
Bucky Brooks: Jadeveon Clowney
Charles Davis: Jadeveon Clowney
Matt Smith: Jadeveon Clowney
Chase Goodbread: Jadeveon Clowney

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.

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