HOUSTON – Texans general manager Rick Smith and coach Gary Kubiak were satisfied with their haul from the NFL draft, which included a half-dozen players to improve one of the league's worst defenses.
Both also agreed on the player they're most excited to see when training camp begins — Idaho safety Shiloh Keo.
The Texans drafted the 5-foot-11, 219-pound Keo with the first of two fifth-round picks on Saturday. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was impressed when he coached Keo in the East-West Shrine game in January, and Smith and Kubiak got the same opinion when they studied him.
"I love this guy's football IQ when I watch him play," Kubiak said. "Great hands — if the ball's close he's going to make the play. He has the ability to take it back to the house, makes big hits in games that are difference-makers for football teams."
Keo intercepted 11 passes and made 358 tackles in 55 career games at Idaho. He also returned kicks in college, and set a school record with 585 punt-return yards.
"He's one of those players you talk about as a diamond in the rough," Smith said. "He doesn't have great measurables. But what he has intangible-wise, and what he adds from a physical standpoint, he's the type of guy that you look for in those rounds and we really feel like he can come in and really help our team."
Also Saturday, the Texans selected Virginia Tech cornerback Rashad Carmichael in the fourth round (127th overall), North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates in the fifth round (152nd overall), Arkansas State offensive tackle Derek Newton in the seventh round (214th overall) and Rice defensive end Cheta Ozougwu with the 254th and final overall pick.
Houston took three defensive players in the first two rounds — Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt, Arizona defensive end/linebacker Brooks Reed and Miami cornerback Brandon Harris.
The Texans used their first four draft picks on defensive players for the first time since 2004, when they used their first seven for defense.
"One of the things you notice about all the players we took is that they are all high-motor, high-character guys," Smith said. "They're tough-minded, disciplined players. That's going to benefit our team as a whole."
Last season, Houston's defense ranked last against the pass and 30th overall. Coordinator Frank Bush was fired and replaced by Phillips, who will install a 3-4 alignment.
Carmichael deflected 16 passes and intercepted nine in his college career. He's the 10th cornerback drafted by the Texans and the sixth taken by the Texans in the last three years.
"I'm excited," Carmichael said. "I can't even think straight right now."
The Texans started the final day of the draft by trading their initial fourth-round (105th overall) and sixth-round (178th overall) picks to Washington for the Redskins' fourth-round (127th overall) and two fifth-round picks (144th and 152nd overall).
Houston was surprised that Carmichael was still available at No. 127.
"We actually had second- or third-round grades on him," Smith said. "Very competitive player at the position and has some skill. We moved back in the fourth round and were still able to pick him up and acquire those two extra picks in the fifth."
The 6-4, 220-pound Yates is the sixth quarterback drafted by Houston and the first since Alex Brink was taken in the seventh round in 2008. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and Kubiak both said Yates reminds them of current starter Matt Schaub.
The Texans had the league's top passing offense in 2009 (291 yards per game) and the No. 4 passing offense last season (259 yards per game). Kubiak says Yates guided an almost identical system in Chapel Hill, another attractive quality.
"This kid is a fine player and had a very solid career in college," Kubiak said. "Nowadays, we look at some players who have one-year careers. This kid had a nice four-year career and played his best as a senior. I like everything he stands for. We're very fortunate."
The 6-6, 314-pound Newton started all 12 games for the Red Wolves last season and was a first-team All-Sun Belt selection.
Kubiak said the 6-2, 255-pound Ozougwu will play linebacker. He'll graduate from Rice in May with an economics degree, and Kubiak said his intelligence was one of the main traits that caught Houston's attention.
"He can rush the passer, very smart young man," Kubiak said. "He'll play four different positions for us on defense and be a heck of a special-teams player. He, like a bunch of these players, has a high football IQ and a high motor. We think he'll find a way to make it in this league."