O'Brien said the Texans are "a long way from a decision" on how to use the selection, adding that he has yet to begin evaluating Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and other top prospects.
"I think I've only seen him on TV twice, but I think he's a very exciting player, one of the better college players to come along in a long time, and I'm looking forward to studying him as a player," O'Brien said in an interview with ESPN that was subsequently transcribed by the Houston Chronicle.
There are two fundamental questions facing O'Brien, whether he believes a franchise signal-caller is necessary for success. If the answer is yes, then it comes down to whether Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Blake Bortles of UCF, or Derek Carr of Fresno State meet those qualifications.
If the Texans do go with a quarterback, history would seem to be against Manziel. O'Brien favored the conventional approach in his time at Penn State, best exemplified by freshman Christian Hackenberg, a prototypical pocket passer at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. And no one would ever mistake Brady for the often frenetic, always exciting Manziel.
But Manziel might be better suited to operate O'Brien's offense than his freewheeling style might suggest. Manziel attempted the highest percentage of passes covering 20 yards or longer among the consensus top four quarterback prospects, a whopping 18.69 percent of his throws, according to Greg Peshek of Rotoworld.
Manziel completed 55.84 percent of those shot plays, also the top mark and better than Bridgewater, Bortles and Carr.
Whether O'Brien agrees with that assessment will determine how the draft shakes out.