The 6-foot-5, 290-pound Watt made 43 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including 11.5 sacks, in 26 games last season. A former tight end, Watt transferred to Wisconsin after playing one season at Central Michigan. He entered the draft after two seasons with the Badgers.
Houston ranked last in pass defense and 30th in total defense last season. The Texans ranked 23rd in interceptions (13) and sacks (30) in 2010, and Phillips replaced Frank Bush as defensive coordinator.
"He gives us a lot of versatility," Phillips said. "This guy can play the right end for you, and that gives us versatility for what you want to do with Mario. That was a big key point for us."
Watt led the Badgers with seven sacks in 2010, and he also broke up eight passes, a statistic that caught Phillips' attention. He ranked second on the team with 62 tackles, intercepted a pass and blocked three kicks in 2010.
"Passes defensed and tackles for a defensive lineman at that position are rare," Phillips said. "This guy makes a lot of plays."
Houston has the 42nd overall pick in the second round, and the 73rd overall selection in the third round. General manager Rick Smith said this week that he was open to trading picks to move up in the draft order, but Phillips said the right scenario never materialized.
Phillips hinted that the Texans will continue to look for defensive players over the remainder of the draft.
"We still need some more defensive players," Phillips said. "I think everybody is clear -- we need a lot of defense in this draft."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press