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O'Brien: Howard to be one of Watson's 'bodyguards'

The Houston Texans owned a glaring need along the offensive line. The glow was so bright it could be seen on Titan II.

The telegraphed need led to the Philadelphia Eagles leaping over Houston with a trade to grab offensive tackle Andre Dillard.

The Texans followed up by snagging Alabama State tackle Tytus Howard at No. 23 during the 2019 NFL Draft.

The pick came as a surprise to many -- NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah had him as the No. 50 overall player on his top 100 prospects list -- but Houston GM Brain Gaine insists the team loves the OT.

"He passed each test -- in terms of the process of scouting -- with flying colors," Gaine said, via the team's official website. "What I mean by that is if you just think back to the fall season, how he played during the fall, had starts both on the left side and the right side, goes to the Senior Bowl and plays well. ... We felt like he checked all the boxes."

Howard played both tackle spots at Alabama State and could shift inside to guard if needed. Playing at a lower level in college could be cause for some concern, but Howard held his own against Auburn. It might take time for the 6-foot-5, 322-pound lineman to develop into a top-shelf tackle, but Howard has the physical traits to be a staple in Houston.

The Texans desperately needed help to bolster a horrific offensive line in front of Deshaun Watson. The quarterback was sacked 62 times in 2018, most in the NFL -- tied for fifth-most sacks taken by a QB in a single season in NFL history. The Texans ranked last (2018) and 31st (2017) in sacks allowed over the last two seasons.

During a conversation with Howard in the Texans draft room before making the pick, coach Bill O'Brien told the offensive lineman he's there to keep Watson upright.

"We have to have guys that can be bodyguards for Deshaun Watson, man, and you're going to be that guy," O'Brien said. "Tough, smart, dependable, that's what you are and that's what you have to bring in here."

With a pair of second-rounders and a third-round selection on Friday, Gaine shouldn't be done bolstering one of the worst O-lines in the NFL.

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