The Houston Texans have the first pick in the draft on May 8, and team executives insist they haven't decided on what position they'll take, much less who the candidates are.
When they met the media on the second day of the combine, coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith pointed out there's 2 1/2 months left in the evaluation process.
"It's a team process, and we're always going to do what's best for the organization," said O'Brien, attending his first combine as a head coach. "We're only a month and a half into this process, and I think that's important.
"People need to understand it takes a long time. These are a lot of discussions, meetings, communication between Rick and myself, the coaching staff, Rick's staff, the scouts and all those things that go into this decision."
Still, it's no secret the Texans are desperate for a new quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles are the highest-rated quarterbacks.
"When you play quarterback, there are so many different things that go into playing that position," O'Brien said. "Knowledge of your own offense, knowledge of your teammates, knowledge of defense, how much you've won in the past, if you come from a winning program, high school, college -- all the way through."
Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M - about 1 hour, 20 minutes from Houston - is the fan favorite.
Although the Texans won't admit it, they're desperate for a new quarterback. Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates and Case Keenum played last season when they lost 14 consecutive games after a 2-0 start.
After finishing with an NFL-worst 2-14 record, owner Bob McNair said he expects his team to do what Indianapolis and Kansas City did the last two seasons.
The Colts and Chiefs finished with league-worst records, hired new coaches, acquired new quarterbacks and made the playoffs the following season.
Smith, approaching his eighth draft with the Texans, can't afford to miss on the first pick. He's excited to have the first pick in every round going into the draft.
"It's not only important to get that pick right, but it's also important to understand this is a unique situation," he said. "You get a chance to really set your board three different times and pick the best player on the board three separate times the way the draft is set up.
"You get to do that Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You have a chance to pick the best player or, if another team values a guy, maybe have the chance to acquire more picks. It's the way that you manage this entire draft.
"Our scouts have done an excellent job so far. We introduced this class last week to our coaches, and they've started to formulate their opinions as well. But we've got to do a good job throughout this entire draft process."
Besides quarterback, the Texans' most pressing needs are right offensive tackle, outside linebacker, defensive end and running back. When it comes to filling needs, they're open to all possibilities.
"We haven't even narrowed it down to the group of guys that we're considering, so I don't think you box yourself in, anyway," Smith said. "You give yourself the right chance to manage the process the right way."
--General manager Rick Smith said the Texans don't expect to use the franchise tag on one of their players.
--New defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is a proponent of a two-gap 3-4 scheme. The Texans played a 3-4 under Wade Phillips, and it was closer to a 4-3 because the players were supposed to get off the ball and get up the field.
A two-gap requires three large linemen who are supposed to protect two gaps, grab, read and shed. That's not J.J. Watt's strengths. He's best at getting off the ball, penetrating and making plays.
"We've talked about a lot of different things," coach Bill O'Brien said. "Our defense will be very multiple. People always try to maybe put your defense in a box and label it.
"The majority of the games played in the NFL are now played in nickel defense or dime. We know in J.J. Watt we have a fantastic player.
"I've had a chance to sit down and talk with him. He's a really good guy the people in Houston know. We're looking forward to working with him on the field and we're looking forward to seeing what he brings to our defense. I think he'll fit in really well in our schemes."
--The Texans are scouting every prospect they believe is worthy of being the top pick, including South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
"I've watched Jadeveon on film," coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's obviously a very good player, and I think he played very well this year. But there are a lot of good players in this draft.
"When I sit down and evaluate the players in this draft, I see a lot of talent, a lot of exciting players, guys that bring different skillsets to the table. Jadeveon's one of those guys."
--Quarterback Blake Bortles is a candidate to be the top pick. He threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns to help Central Florida beat Bill O'Brien and Penn State this season.
Bortles was coached by one of O'Brien's mentors, George O'Leary.
"He played well," O'Brien said. "They beat us, and I thought he threw the ball well that night. Obviously, I have a connection with George O'Leary, and their coaching staff thinks very highly of him.
"He's a big guy (6-5, 232). He's athletic. He's a competitive guy. So it's been fun to watch him play on tape, and it'll be good to watch him work out here."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Scheduled to be unrestricted in March
--RB Ben Tate: They can't afford to re-sign him.
--TE Garrett Graham: They must re-sign him because new coach Bill O'Brien likes to use multiple tight ends, and he had 49 catches and five touchdowns.
--LG Wade Smith: He won't be re-signed.
--DE Antonio Smith: They'll re-sign him if he takes close to the minimum, but he's looking for more.
--NT Earl Mitchell: They want to re-sign him.
--ILB Darryl Sharpton: Played his best season but won't be back unless he takes the minimum.
--ILB Joe Mays: He's not expected to return.
--OT Ryan Harris: He's not expected to return.
--FB Greg Jones: He's not expected to return.
--OT Andrew Gardner: He might be re-signed for the minimum.
--RB Deji Karim: He won't be re-signed.
--CB Elbert Mack: He won't be re-signed.
QUARTERBACK: They have the first pick in the draft, and they have a desperate need at this position. They can't afford to blow this opportunity.
RIGHT TACKLE: This has been a position of need for two seasons because Derek Newton just isn't the answer. Brennan Williams might solve the problem.
RUNNING BACK: With Arian Foster coming off back surgery, they must find a competent replacement for Ben Tate, who'll leave in free agency.
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