- Tania Ganguli, ESPN Staff Writer
Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.
So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.
Some argued before the start of last season that the player the Houston Texans could least afford to lose was quarterback Matt Schaub. In a sense, the Texans did lose him during the 2013 season. They lost the version of Schaub that helped keep the offense stable enough for back-to-back division titles and instead went 2-14 with the worst record in the NFL.
But so much else went wrong last season that it’s difficult to pin that on just the quarterback position. Further, nobody would argue that Schaub was the team’s MVP. Another player’s loss would be even more devastating to the Texans: defensive end J.J. Watt.
This past season was proof that Watt’s impact can’t cover up every other problem on the Texans' defense, but he was disruptive even when his havoc wasn’t reflected on the stat sheet. Watt notched six batted passes and 10.5 sacks in 2013, and was one of the most disruptive players in the NFL on a per-dropback basis.
The problem for the Texans is in their insurance for Watt.
For the past three seasons, he’s played opposite defensive end Antonio Smith, a talented pass-rusher whose contract expires in March.
The Texans didn’t have Smith in their 2013 season opener as he served a suspension for an on-field confrontation with former Dolphins guard Richie Incognito. In Smith’s absence, second-year defensive lineman Jared Crick started. He played solidly, but with Smith’s potential departure in free agency, defensive end is a role the Texans need to bolster.