Houston Texans: Top 10 Prospects

Brian Cushing (Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Scout.com's Chris Steuber continues the top 10 prospects series, and starts his breakdown of the AFC South by profiling the Houston Texans. In this series, an NFL prospect is classified as a player entering their third year in the NFL or under 25 years of age. Find out who the Texans top 10 prospects are entering the 2010 season.

Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
LB
6-3
260
2
23

There was never a doubt that Brian Cushing was a talented player at USC, but injuries stalled his progress of becoming the dominant performer many envisioned. And, when the Houston Texans selected Cushing with the 15th overall pick in 2009, there were some skeptics, but Cushing quickly silenced those critics. A starter in all 16 games last year, Cushing earned the Defensive Rookie of the Year award after he recorded 133 tackles, four sacks and four interceptions. However, this offseason, it was revealed that Cushing tested positive for a performance enhancing drug (hCg) last September that has resulted into a suspension for this year, where he will miss the first four games of the 2010 season.

Drafted by Houston in the 1st Round (2009).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
DE
6-4
254
2
23

A versatile player that played offense and defense during his collegiate career at Cincinnati, Connor Barwin moved to defensive end as a senior and erupted for a Big East leading 12 sacks. That production to go along with a standout offseason leading up to the '09 draft ultimately elevated him into the second round. As a rookie, Barwin played in all 16 games for the Texans, mostly on special teams and as a situational pass rusher, and in limited action he amassed 18 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Barwin is likely to serve in a similar role this season, but will receive increased reps at defensive end.

Drafted by Houston in the 2nd Round (2009).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
DT
6-2
315
4
22

It's easy to forget how young Amobi Okoye is. The Nigerian-born Okoye enrolled at the University of Louisville when he was just 15 years old and graduated and was drafted into the NFL at 19. Since his rookie year in 2007 when he recorded 5.5 sacks, Okoye has struggled to adjust, and over the last two years, he's recorded 62 tackles and just 2.5 sacks. Okoye has been a durable performer and has only missed two games during his career. Entering his fourth year in the league at just 22 years old (he turns 23 on June 10th), Okoye is still learning and could be on the verge of a breakout year in 2010. The amazing fact about him is that he will qualify as a prospect in next years series as well.

Drafted by Houston in the 1st Round (2007).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
CB
5-10
196
R
22

The departure of Dunta Robinson during the offseason made drafting a cornerback in the first round a high priority for the Texans, and the selection of Alabama's Kareem Jackson fits the Texans aggressive style perfectly. Jackson decided to forego his senior season after he had 49 tackles and an interception this past year. There's a good chance that Jackson will become a starter this year, but he will have to beat out second year surprises Glover Quin and Brice McCain. If Quin and McCain are the starters, Jackson will then compete with veteran Jacques Reeves to be the team’s nickel corner.

Drafted by Houston in the 1st Round (2010).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
OT
6-4
315
3
24

A surprise first round pick two years ago, Duane Brown has been a solid blind side protector for Matt Schaub and has started every game since being drafted. Brown is an outstanding athlete and possesses great footwork and hand placement. He has the ability to be a quality left tackle, and if he continues to get stronger, he will be a Pro Bowl caliber player in the future.

Drafted by Houston in the 1st Round (2008).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
RB
5-9
215
3
24

Steve Slaton got off to a great start in the NFL when he rushed for 1,282 yards on 268 carries and nine touchdowns during his rookie campaign in 2008. But, inconsistent play and a tendency to fumble the ball last season led to him being benched, and a shoulder injury limited him to playing in just 11 games. Slaton has added bulk to his frame over the last two years to help with his durability, and while he had a disappointing second year, he's projected to be the starting running back in Houston this season.

Drafted by Houston in the 3rd Round (2008).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
RB
5-11
220
R
21

Even though Slaton is projected to be the starter in the backfield, the Texans sent Slaton a message in this year’s draft by selecting Ben Tate in the second round. Tate had a sensational senior season for Auburn last year totaling career highs in carries (268), rushing yards (1,362) and touchdowns (10). The Texans have an interesting depth chart at running back with Slaton, Tate, Ryan Moats and Arian Foster all battling for three positions. It's possible that Moats will be the odd man out, but it seems as though Tate has the inside track at being Slaton's backup.

Drafted by Houston in the 2nd Round (2010).
Glover Quin
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
CB
6-0
205
2
24

The biggest surprise of the Texans 2009 draft class had to be the play of fourth round cornerback Glover Quin. Due to injuries, Quin played a vital role on defense playing in 15 games, starting 12 and recording 68 tackles. He didn't collect an interception, but he defended 11 passes. His aggressive style fit in well with the Texans and he's currently listed as a starter entering the 2010 season.

Drafted by Houston in the 4th Round (2009).
Brice McCain
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
CB
5-9
185
2
23

An off-the-radar prospect entering the 2009 draft process, Brice McCain stood out to scouts during Utah's Pro Day when he ran a 4.33 in the 40 and sparkled during individual drills. As a rookie, McCain primarily played on special teams in the 16 games that he played in, but he also made one start at cornerback and finished the year with 15 tackles and an interception. McCain will contend for a starting job this preseason, but his size could be an issue, and it may force him to being the team’s nickel corner.

Drafted by Houston in the 6th Round (2009).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
C
6-3
305
2
24

The Texans third round pick in the '09 draft, Antoine Caldwell had an outstanding career as a four-year starter at Alabama. He primarily played center for the Crimson Tide, but he also had experience playing guard, which is where he played as a rookie with the Texans. Caldwell played in 11 games, started three, and did a good job when he was in the lineup. Where he fits moving forward is anyone's guess; Caldwell gives Houston versatility up front and can play center and either guard position. He will challenge for a starting job, but it will be up to the coaching staff to position him where he fits best.

Drafted by Houston in the 3rd Round (2009).


For more on the Texans, check out Battle Red Nation.


A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: csteuber@scout.com. You can also now follow Chris Steuber on Twitter.

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