HOUSTON (AP) - The Houston Texans have a major need at quarterback. In the end, it didn’t matter.
They chose Jadeveon Clowney with the top overall pick in Thursday’s NFL draft, deciding the defensive end was too rare a talent to pass up. He will join 2012 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt to create one of the fiercest pass-rushing duos in the NFL on a defense led by a new coordinator in Romeo Crennel and a new coach in Bill O’Brien.
“Obviously when you talk about a creative mind like Romeo, his defenses historically and how he utilizes personnel, it really gives us an opportunity to get after the quarterback,” Houston general manager Rick Smith said.
Watt called Clowney soon after he was drafted to welcome him to the team. Clowney is itching to play with Watt.
“I’ve been watching him since I was in college and to get to play beside him is going to make it even better for me, help me improve my game to where I want to be, take my game to the next level and I’m just looking forward to getting that knowledge from him,” Clowney said.
Some questioned Clowney’s work ethic during the weeks leading up to the draft. The Texans were not among those people.
“Did he play with his hair on fire every snap of the game? No, he didn’t,” Smith said. “But did we worry about his work ethic? Not at all. We think this guy will come in and ... work. This guy is motivated. He is extremely motivated. When you talk to him, he wants to be great.”
Clowney knows about the criticism and is prepared to show everyone that he is a hard worker.
“I think I have a lot to prove to people,” Clowney said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to, proving a lot of people wrong.”
Smith said the Texans were open to trading the pick, but no one offered them enough to give up the chance to select Clowney.
Clowney had 130 tackles, 24 sacks, 47 tackles for losses and 20 quarterback pressures in a three-year career at South Carolina. He also caused a school-record nine fumbles and deflected seven passes. The 21-year-old also set a South Carolina record with 13 sacks in 2012.
Now Houston has to figure out what it’s going to do about the quarterback situation. The Texans traded Matt Schaub, their starter since 2007, in the offseason after a terrible year in which he was benched after six games. Case Keenum took over after that, but he wasn’t the answer either and the Texans tied the worst record in franchise history at 2-14 after making their first two playoff appearances in the previous two seasons.
The Texans signed veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick in the offseason, but he probably isn’t the long-term solution to their quarterback woes.
Houston passed on top quarterback prospects Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles of Central Florida and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M in favor of Clowney.
Houston’s next selection in the draft is the 33rd pick overall on Friday.
Clowney becomes the third No. 1 overall pick in Texans’ history and the second straight defensive end they’ve taken with the top choice, joining 2002 top pick, quarterback David Carr and defensive end Mario Williams, who was chosen first in 2006.
Clowney is the first defensive player taken first overall since Williams, who now plays for Buffalo.
Smith said he’ll play outside linebacker in Houston’s 3-4 defensive scheme.
“He will start in the two-point stance,” Smith said. “Any time we go into any kind of package, whether it’s a third-down package or it’s a package predicated on personnel, down and distance, all those things give Romeo the ability to have him put his hand in the dirt and go get the passer.”
The 6-foot-5, 266-pound Clowney is open to whatever plan the Texans have for him.
“I feel like I can play either one,” he said. “Standing up or playing down. I’m pretty athletic and I know I can play anywhere.”