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Texans NFL Draft Shocker

NFL Draft shocker: The Texans will surprise you with this guaranteed pick

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DeAndre Hopkins
Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith isn't going to tell you what he thinks of DeAndre Hopkins — or anyone else in the NFL Draft. DeAndre Hopkins Courtesy of Clemson
005, Children's Museum gala, October 2012, Tiffany Smith, Rick Smith
Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith (shown here with his wife Tiffany at a gala benefit) isn't above some pomp and circumstance. Unless it comes to the NFL Draft. Tiffany Smith, Rick Smith Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
J.J. Watt excited Texans
No one expected the Texans to take J.J. Watt with the 11th pick in 2011. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Andre Johnson low catch
Just know that Texans general manager Rick Smith's pick will not be a reach — like this Andre Johnson catch. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
DeAndre Hopkins
005, Children's Museum gala, October 2012, Tiffany Smith, Rick Smith
J.J. Watt excited Texans
Andre Johnson low catch
News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

Rick Smith is the nicest stonewaller you'll ever meet.

The Houston Texans general manager is engaging. He'll deliver an outstanding soundbite — as long as you ask him the right thing. Which is anything but anything that could lead to some actual knowledge.

He'll talk to you about University of Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden's remarkable comeback from a life-threatening injury, call him "my hero." He'll throw your first name on the end of his response, make you feel acknowledged. Heck, Smith will probably plan your next family vacation to Legoland if you want.

He just won't tell you anything of any substance about the Texans plans in the NFL Draft.

When it comes to this time of year, Smith's time of the year, the Texans GM can almost make Gary Kubiak seem as open as Rex Ryan by comparison. Smith should be auditioning for a role on The Americans and spying with Keri Russell.

 Everyone's an insider with Rick Smith after the fact. During The Process as Smith calls it? Think again. 

Smith comes out of his draft cocoon to do one interview session before the draft — a mass affair held in the eighth floor press box of Reliant Stadium. That's it. He doesn't talk about individual players. He even balked at comparing position groups or commenting on the overall quality of the draft field in this year's session Tuesday.

This is why anyone who tells you the Super Bowl hunting Texans will take a wide receiver for sure in Thursday night's first round carries about as much legitimacy as a tweet from an AP hacker. No one knows what the Texans will do with any certainty.

Logic dictated that the Texans should have taken a wide receiver last year. News flash: Andre Johnson didn't have much more help in 2011 than he did last season. This receiver issue isn't something that's just recently fallen on Houston.

And what did Smith do last April? He looked at his painstakingly put-together board and picked linebacker Whitney Mercilus when Houston's first round pick came around. None of the mock drafts had the Texans nabbing Mercilus. Just like no one knew the Texans would be focused on J.J. Watt with the 11th pick the spring before.

NFL Draft Smokescreens

Oh, there are reporters who will tell you now that they really knew the Texans would be taking Mercilus all along. They apparently just chose not to share it and opted for putting out a false mock draft. Or something like that.

Everyone's an insider with Rick Smith after the fact. During The Process as Smith calls it? Think again.

"Just depending on the way that the board falls, there may be a player that we’ve got a certain value on that’s all of the sudden available and we may want to go up and get him," Smith says. "Correspondingly, there are teams that want to come up and grab players where we are."

 Smith is clearly the best general manager in Houston and yet he's also by far the least quoted. 

In other words, the Texans may move up from the 27th pick or they may move down. Any questions? Oh, don't bother . . .

"I will say this: I try to exercise good discipline in this process because I’m not only looking at next year," Smith says. "My job is to be forward thinking and I’ve got a big-picture view of not only next year, but the year after that and the year after that.

"I’ve got to manage the salary cap that way. I’ve got to manage the roster that way." 

Using plenty of words to say nothing seems to be part of The Process for Smith as well. It's hard to argue with his success (trust me, I've tried). Smith's talent evaluating schemes and team (he's quick to credit the scouting department and even the coaches) is responsible for getting Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed and Ben Tate (who still might be a valuable trade chip yet) in the second round and signing Arian Foster as an undrafted free agent. 

Not to mention J.J. Watt, who somehow looms as a bigger and bigger steal despite his Top 11 status.

Smith is clearly the best general manager in Houston and yet he's also by far the least quoted. If Smith got on Twitter, he probably could be a Daryl Morey sized personality. He's one of the top general managers in the NFL. He certainly has the wit and outside interests to dominate the medium. He can talk analytics if you want to go that route.

There'd be magazine and New York Times features waiting for him.

He could do interviews every day like the Houston Astros Jeff Luhnow and find no shortage of eager takers.

But there's no indication Smith is interested in much of that. He has his Process. He has his draft board which was finalized on Monday.

You can be sure he won't reach. The Texans' first pick likely won't be Keenan Allen or DeAndre Hopkins or Robert Woods or any of the other names you've heard. It probably won't even be a wide receiver at all.

Here's your 2013 Texans NFL Draft guarantee: Rick Smith will surprise everyone. He's one of the few who always does. 

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